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To Be a Great Leader, Be a Builder

For a team that goes above and beyond the requirements, you need to build a strong foundation.

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Engaging leaders are builders--builders of people and of results. To become an engaging leader, you should constantly be building connections and confidence in your team members. Accomplish this, and you'll see an increase in effort and satisfaction levels among employees. Here's how. 

Build Connections to the Bigger Picture 

When you actively connect today's tasks and toils to a better tomorrow, it translates into a sense of purpose for employees. For example, Cheryl Johnson is a client and a corporate leader with ULTA Beauty, a rapidly growing retailer of beauty products and services. During one particular discussion, Cheryl was reflecting on one of her first jobs as a dishwasher in a hospital. Interestingly, she didn't see her job as that of only a dishwasher. That's because, on the first day of work, her boss told Cheryl that her job was "to help ensure a clean, healthy environment so patients could heal as fast as possible and go home to their families." Wouldn't you be more passionate about washing dishes if that was your purpose? Connecting a job to its higher purpose can ignite a passion for people to go the extra mile.

Build Bridges Between Team Members

The desire to belong is a core emotional need. When employees form close connections, they become more passionate about their workAccording to one Gallup study, those who responded that they work with a close friend were also more likely to be engaged in their jobs. They are those employees who go above and beyond what is expected--for each other and for the team.

Not long ago, I was walking near the receiving dock at the back of a store location for a national retailer. I watched as an entry-level clerk in his early 20s abruptly stopped an empty truck before it left the loading dock. Quickly grabbing a broom, he hopped into the back of the truck, gave it a good once-over with the broom, and then motioned for the driver to go ahead. After the truck pulled away, I walked past him and jokingly said, "Nice jump back there."

He replied, "Well, I'm done with my shift, but I wanted to make sure the truck was cleaned up. It saves Jeff time back at the warehouse when he picks up another load. Jeff's on my service team, and he's had a pretty hectic schedule this week. I just wanted to help him out so he could get home to his family earlier. No big deal."

Now, that's the power of a connected team!  People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care. Caring not only strengthens bonds--it also ignites discretionary performance from your team.

Build Confidence in Employees

William James, the father of modern psychology, asserted that the human need to be appreciated is also one of the most significant emotional needs.  And it's true: We all love a nice compliment, and we do more for those who appreciate us.

A separate Gallup study found that workgroups with at least a 3-to-1 ratio of positive-to-negative interactions were significantly more productive than those with a ratio below 3-to-1. In other words, more productive teams had at least three positive interactions for every one negative interaction. So don't just let your employees know that you appreciate them--create a culture of appreciation that your entire team participates in. The positive interactions and reinforcement will build confidence, which is the holy grail for a competitive team.

When you see your role as a leader as that of a builder, it will help you create the connections and confidence your team needs to succeed. Follow these steps and you'll find that seemingly soft connections will predictably yield hard results.

View sample pages from the author's book, Engaging the Hearts and Minds of All Your Employees, and take a free self-assessment to find out your engagement style.

Last updated: Sep 12, 2013

LEE COLAN is founder of The L Group, a consulting firm that equips and inspires leaders at every level. He is a leadership adviser and presenter of practical ideas, and a Thinkers 50 nominee for Top Management Thinker of 2013. Colan has also written 12 books, including the best-selling Engaging the Hearts and Minds of All Your Employees. His latest book is Stick With It: Mastering the Art of Adherence.
@LeeColan




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