Every company wants to drive sustainable high performance from employees. But many leaders make the mistake of not starting with themselves.
As a leader, what is say is important. But it's what you do that is mirrored by your employees. If you want your employees to perform at a high level and not burn out, you better take on sustainable work behavior on the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual level.
The sad truth is that many bosses practice unsustainable work behavior--leading to stressed and unhappy employees who are distracted by their search for their next job. According to a Harvard Business Review study, only 25 percent of 19,000 employees from around the world said their leaders model sustainable work practices.
The good news? Those 4,750 employees were 55 percent more engaged, 77 percent percent more satisfied at work--and 1.15 times more likely to stay at the company, Tony Schwartz, the president and CEO of The Energy Project, and Christine Porath, an associate professor at Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business, write in HBR. The icing on the cake is that those employees also reported more than twice the level of trust in their leaders.
This shouldn't be surprising. Schwartz and Porath point to anthropologist Lionel Tiger's study that found the average baboon looks at the alpha male every 20 to 30 seconds for guidance. "In a classic study, the anthropologist Lionel Tiger found that the average baboon looks at the alpha male once every 20 to 30 seconds, for guidance. Human beings aren’t much different. We look to those with the most power in any given situation for cues about what is acceptable behavior and what is not," the duo writes.
Check out more results from the study below and find out what other behaviors you should be modeling.
Encourage vacation. Take one yourself.
Do you encourage your employees to take lunch out of the office, take short breaks, and go on vacation? You need to do all of those things, too. It's not just so they work harder, more efficiently, and line your company's pockets with more revenue. It's to ensure they are less likely to quit. "Sure enough, employees in our study were 1.1 times more likely to stay with an organization if they had bosses who actively encouraged them to take breaks during the workday and use their vacation days, and if they modeled these behaviors themselves," Schwartz and Porath write.
Don't email over the weekend.
If you email late at night and over the weekend, what kind of message do you think that sends to your employees? Even if you say explicitly "I don't expect a reply over the weekend," what do you think someone under your employ is going to do? "But once again, their behavior speaks louder than their words. When leaders feel compelled to write emails at all hours, we encourage them to park them in their draft folders and push the send button during working hours," Schwartz and Porath write. During office hours do you expect an automatic reply? It's important for everyone to have some time to concentrate on their work without distraction. "Sure enough, only 21 percent of our respondents said they were regularly able to focus on one thing at a time and only 18 percent said they allocated sacrosanct time to creative and strategic thinking."
Employees have emotional needs that need to be met at work. If you do not recognize and appreciate your subordinates, they'll leave you and get it somewhere else. "Our findings strongly confirmed the adage that 'people don't leave organizations, they leave leaders.' When employees in our study felt valued by their leaders, for example, they were 1.3 times more likely to stay with the company," the duo writes.
Communicate your company's mission and purpose.
Is all this work for nothing other than to buy you and your family a beach house? Schwartz and Porath found that leaders need to fulfill employee's spiritual level too. Only 36 percent of the duo's respondents said they felt their work had meaning and significance. But those who did were three times as likely to stay with their companies. "Only 22 percent reported having a leader who 'communicates a vision that is clear, consistent, and inspiring. Those who did, however, reported 65 percent higher engagement, 82 percent higher job satisfaction, and a 1.3 times greater likelihood to stay with the organization," they write.