Not only are leaders responsible for the performance of a specific department, but they're also in charge of the employee experience. To some extent, you can hand off the customer experience to employees, but who's managing the experience your employees are having?
If you're doing things right, you are. But even then, you may be sabotaging your own efforts to lead a highly impactful team. Mishandling conversations or overlooking details might feel like temporary setbacks, but in your teammates' eyes, they can be permanent.
To make the most of the talent you have, you have to nail the "people part" of leadership. Without that, anything you get right on the technical side is a distraction -- it won't actually propel your company forward without a stellar team backing it.
Here are four ways you might be letting your talent become less than it could.
1. Creating a psychologically unsafe environment.
Cisco Systems in a study analyzed 297 teams and determined that teams that felt psychologically safe were more effective, which lines up with a Google study too. In fact, The Predictive Index's 2019 People Management Report found a direct relationship between psychological safety and turnover intent. Across 1,038 participants, this research determined those who felt psychologically safe were less likely to quit.
Employees who feel their ideas or contributions will be criticized won't speak up. That translates to less innovation, decreased employee development and a "yes man" environment. Your nervous employees won't increase their skill sets or take risks, and you won't, either, because you won't ever get pushback or advice from people who think differently.
2. Focusing on performance management solely.
Performance management ensures that employees know where they stand in terms of their work. Performance management tools are often used to bring metrics to the table regarding volume, quality and speed. But Gallup found that 70 percent of team engagement variance has to do with managers, regardless of how great a company's performance management software is. By focusing solely on numbers, you miss the forest for the trees. I've noticed when working with high-growth companies that the ones that focus on numbers alone have a higher employee turnover.
Why? Because focusing on performance management alone negates two-way involvement. There are real people and motivations behind those numbers. Alison Davis, the founder and CEO of Davis & Company, explains that performance management has to be a dialogue. "The more you engage team members in performance discussions, the greater their commitment will be," she writes. "You and your team members share responsibility for goal setting and development planning, which means that you need to involve employees in the discussions."
3. Failing to assemble the parts to make something whole.
The 2019 People Management Report also found that nearly 30 percent of employees felt their bosses were lacking team-building skills. Having 80 great employees is great, but if they operate like 80 separate entities, your company will suffer. Sports coverage is rife with "dream teams" full of superstars that couldn't win championships because they didn't play well together.
Don't just focus on building your own relationship with your employees -- be deliberate about creating a team bond. Host team lunches that aren't working lunches. Team-building activities like bowling, scavenger hunts or volunteering can help people find topics outside work to discuss. Point out teammates' strengths to others. Motivate people to be thoughtful toward their co-workers. Give people reasons to like each other.
4. Living in a bubble.
One common struggle for leaders is "insider's eyes"--the tendency to see things through the lens in which you've always seen them. It's necessary for leaders to receive insight and inspiration from outside sources. This can provoke thoughts around what you can do better in your organization.
Get to know other leaders via networking opportunities. Set up a support network for yourself where you can exchange ideas with others in your position. Some like mastermind sessions; others like happy hours -- set up whatever kind of structure will allow you to learn from others. You can also go beyond your regional bubble, too, by attending conferences.
At the end of the day, how you lead your team is important. Make sure you're not sabotaging your efforts by avoiding these four common mistakes.