The pandemic has hit leaders hard and forced plenty of them to look inward. Executives have learned to shift, become more transparent and, dare I say, more human!
As mental-health challenges in the workplace increase, empathy and compassion are the new emotional currency. Understanding each team members' unique experiences, challenges, and opportunities for improved success will greatly increase their engagement.
To that end, here are three ways to consciously engage your employees in a way that will benefit them and your business.
1. Be humble and seek feedback.
Many managers view feedback as a threat to their power, self-worth, and position, which explains why they are opposed to it and often react fearfully and defensively to feedback.
Great leaders, on the other hand, view feedback as a gift to improve their leadership so they can serve others and their mission better. They value truth and honesty and diverse perspectives for improving the lives and well-being of their people. Even when feedback is negative, it prompts an exercise in curious exploration to find out where things went wrong so that it doesn't happen again.
Taking it a step further, Kirsten Allegri Williams, chief marketing officer of Optimizely, advises executives to "carve out time with your teams to check in with them individually, to show that you value wellness and connection." In her experience, this can start meaningful conversations with employees with similar values, creating new forums for talking about and incorporating key values into work.
2. Get rid of the fear.
Research by Amy Edmondson of Harvard indicates that when leaders foster a culture of safety -- where employees are free to speak up, experiment, give feedback, and ask for help -- it leads to better learning and performance outcomes.
When psychological safety is absent, fear is present. And fear is detrimental to achieving a company's full potential. We just can't be engaged or innovative when we are afraid. Some subscribe to the notion that fear is a motivator in the short-term, but what fear does is kill trust -- the ultimate demotivator.
3. Lead with love and care.
There, I said it, and it's absolutely true. Love, in this case, is not linked to romance, sex, family, or religion. It's a verb packed with action and positive intent to help people flourish and businesses profit.
For Brian Paradis, author of Lead with Imagination and former president of Florida Hospital's (now Advent Health) Central Region, a $4 billion company with more than 25,000 employees, love was one of the guiding forces he saw transform the interactions within his teams.
"Love is powerful and when you infuse it into anything, that thing gets better," Paradis told me in an interview. He added that while love is often viewed as a soft skill in the often harsh, transactional business environment, "the concept should be hard-wired in day-to-day interactions and strategy meetings."
Barbara Fredrickson, renowned University of North Carolina psychology professor and author of Love 2.0, did an extensive study on human emotions and found that a person's engagement at work is established and fueled by feelings of love. Fredrickson told Fast Company:
When people are made to feel cared for, nurtured, and growing, that will serve the organization well. Because those feelings drive commitment and loyalty just like it would in any relationship. If you feel uniquely seen, understood, valued and appreciated, then that will hook you into being committed to that team, leader and organization. This is how positive emotions work.
By leading with actionable love and care, leaders set the tone of engagement within their businesses. Try it and be convinced.