According to a Gallup analysis, only one in three employees strongly agrees that they received recognition or praise for doing good work in the previous seven days. The study goes on to say that at any given company, it's not uncommon for employees to feel that their best efforts are routinely ignored.

Unfortunately, we all know firsthand what happens when we're not recognized or appreciated for our efforts. Motivation wanes and eventually we start looking elsewhere. For a CEO, this climate of low morale and outmigration of the best people is hard on the organization, catastrophic for culture and discouraging for individuals.

To fight it, as a leader, you need to rethink your title and think of yourself as the chief empowerment officer. Here are nine things you can start doing today to build a culture of empowerment and recognition:

1. Believe in your people.

The Gallup study finds that "the most effective recognition is honest, authentic and individualized." There are many powerful ways to show recognition--in a private meeting or as part of a larger gathering, in a personal note or card, or with a formalized award or recognition program. They key is to communicate your confidence in them, which in turn grows their self-confidence. commitment and motivation.

2. Listen to connect.

Time is short and it's likely you always have a million things to do, but as a CEO you have to make sure not only that your business is running right but also that your employees are happy. The best way to gauge that happiness and contribute to it is by taking the time to have conversations that aren't related to work. Listen to learn about people's circumstances, their thoughts, and their opinions. Attentive listening will always be the best way to show genuine interest.

3. Forgive their mistakes.

The best leaders know that mistakes happen to us all. If you blow employee mistakes out of proportion, you encourage a culture of mistrust and secrecy, one in which people feel they need to prioritize placing blame ahead of solving problems. The smartest thing you can do is to let your employees know they can make a mistake a two and that all you ask is they come and tell you before it ends up being bigger than it has to be. 

4. Don't try to fix their problems.

Instead, empower them by helping them navigate their way to a solution. Most leaders know exactly what needs to be done and when and how and where it need to get done. But too many think that means they should tell their employees exactly how to fix the problem, The best leaders instead lead people toward solutions, creating a learning experience and sometimes opening up new possibilities. I talk extensively about this in my new book, The Leadership Gap. Great leaders are navigators; they know that to empower others, you need to coach through a solution instead of fixing the problem.

5. Supply autonomy.

The most important form of empowerment a leader can provide to their employees is the autonomy to do things on their own. Don't micromanage--it's among the strongest killers of motivation. Give people the freedom that they need and allow them in return to show you want they can accomplish.

6. Give trust to gain trust.

Have you ever worked for someone who made you work for their trust? Leaders from this school of thought are famous for putting you through the wringer and telling you "I can't trust you until you earn it." The best leaders, on the other hand, are quick to give trust. Their message is "I believe in you," and they give employees the confidence they need to be accountable. When you give trust, you get trust. 

7. Invest personal time.

There are lots of ways you can spend time with your employees--in meetings, in one-on-one conversations, in quick hallway catch-ups. But when you go out of your way and spend personal time with members of your team, whether it's a coffee hour or dinner or a group outing to a local attraction or sporting event, you can really connect.

8. Respect doesn't cost a penny.

If you've ever heard the late comic Rodney Dangerfield wail "I get no respect," it's hard to forget. When employees feel they aren't getting the respect they deserve, it can be hard for them to stay motivated. Smart leaders know that respect is the greatest form of praise. It makes all the long hours and exhausting work worthwhile in a way that few things can.

9. To receive, first give.

The most successful people give to others without thinking about getting anything in return. And no leader can truly empower others without a generous spirit. The payback, though, is vast.

CEOs--and leaders at every other level--have numerous tools to show their appreciation. Practice these nine, and everyone around you will benefit greatly.

Published on: Mar 22, 2018
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