It’s easy for a leader to assume that they have the respect of their employees simply because they hold the title of executive, boss, or manager. It may surprise most leaders to learn that respect isn’t automatic and that it must be earned just as it does with every other person. Whether you’ve worked with your team for a while, or are embarking on a new leadership position, it’s important to consider the things you can do as a leader to earn respect from your employees.
The good news is, there are a lot of things you can do. If you’re willing to do some introspection and make some changes, your employees will notice and you will find your team is much more productive and happy. Employees respect a leader who shows them that they also work hard, listen, have time to help solve problems, act with integrity, and communicate – all basic things that we expect from every team member.
So, if you’re concerned that there may be room for improvement, there are a few things you can do.
1. Do The Work
The first thing that makes employees lose respect for their leaders is when they feel as if they’re working harder than those above them. Even if you are, your employees may not be aware of that. One solution is to have regular meetings or communications that tie the employees’ work to the bigger picture (what you are working on) and sharing some of the overall challenges that you are facing and how their work is contributing to overcoming those challenges. Doing this creates not only a dialogue and openness, but also a learning opportunity for your staff and a chance for them to connect with you.
2. Be Authentic & Human
Employees want to work for a human being, not just a name on an office door. Be authentic with your employees and don’t be afraid to share some aspects of your life outside of work. Letting your employees know a bit about your family or your hobbies can provide another personal dimension beyond your work persona. Similarly, show interest in their lives outside of work, but definitely stop short of digging too deep. Take what is offered easily and leave it at that. Not everyone wants to share their private life in detail.
If you have an assistant, ask him or her to provide you with calendar reminders for any meaningful life moments your employees may have (marathon, new baby, wedding, etc.) so you can congratulate them with a handwritten note (still a classy custom) or chat with them in person. Your team will appreciate this more than you know.
3. Don’t Be A Bottleneck
Employees often feel that they don’t get timely feedback from their immediate superior. Most employees take pride in their work, try to be efficient and meet deadlines, and yet, the roadblock is often their boss who won’t provide clear direction or won’t make decisions in a judicious manner. For any leader, priority one should be to provide the troops with what they need to do their jobs. Failure to do that brings your entire organization to a grinding halt. Don’t be that boss.
4. Take Blame When You Make A Mistake
Great leaders accept responsibility. There is no shame in admitting to your team that a decision you made wasn’t the best one, or that you didn’t handle a situation in the best way. Have this conversation with your team when this occurs, and use it as a teaching moment. Talk about the issue, how it got resolved, and what you wish you had done differently. This not only allows your employees to learn from you, but it lets them know they can trust you to be honest.
It’s natural to not want to admit fault, but we are all human. Working with someone who is comfortable in accepting responsibility is preferable to having a boss who constantly blames others.
5. Thank Your Employees And Recognize Them
Give your employees credit where credit is due rather than taking credit for yourself. Your credit comes in the form of being recognized for selecting, training and managing the great team that was able to pull off the action that earned the credit they are being recognized for. If you and your team accomplished a notable goal, thank them in front of the board, the department, or tell them how you couldn’t have done it without them. Congratulate in public – criticize in private.
A great leader puts their team first and knows that without a happy and effective team, there is no direct path to success. Appreciation is a huge motivator for employees and more powerful than financial rewards (although financial awards obviously must be present). If the leader sets this example, it is more likely that the team will follow this example and assist in the establishment of a respectful culture where individuals value each other’s work. It’s a win-win situation.
Earning Respect Takes Time
Earning respect can sometimes be a slow process, but it’s a worthwhile process to undertake. Your employees may initially feel skeptical, especially if you make a sudden change in the way that you behave or if they had a bad boss prior to you. Be patient, and realize that your actions will eventually provide you with a great return on investment.
A team that respects their leader is an effective, happy team. You can eventually undo any damage caused by a prior situation through steady, predictable implementation of the ideas set out here.
Kathbern Management is a Toronto-based executive recruiter focused on working with organizations who are seeking to find and hire the key people who are critical for their success.
Contact us today for a free consultation about your key person search.