In the quest to crack the code on employee engagement, companies spend hundreds of thousands of dollars each year on wasted efforts to "develop their leaders."
Since leadership development is broad, it needs to be clearly defined for business outcomes. The common denominator is teaching managers the fine art of people skills. After all, leading an organization is still mostly about people -- its most important asset. Without mastering people skills, you simply cannot be a good leader.
But to do that, managers must have a basic understanding of human behavior. What science has already found is that positive emotions are at the root of human motivation. We are wired for it in our creation design.
Therefore, managers must acquire the knowledge of what makes people tick and what inspires human beings to perform at a high level.
1. People at work need to feel safe.
This is true especially as they start a new role or job. They need confidence boosters from their leaders. Emotionally intelligent leaders will build them up through encouragement, praise, and positive affirmation. They will show them hope for the future, ask them about their goals and interests, and give them assurance of a career path. Safety is a basic human need and the best employees want to know where they stand -- now and in the future. The best leaders give them that hope by speaking to their needs.
2. People at work need compliments.
"I don't like to be recognized," said no human being, ever. Managers have to get into the habit of praising and complimenting their people for their good qualities and work. The companies in Gallup's study with the highest engagement levels use recognition and praise as a powerful motivator to get their commitment. They found that employees who receive it on a regular basis increase their individual productivity, receive higher loyalty and satisfaction scores from customers, and are more likely to stay with their organization. How regular are we talking? Praise should be given once per week, according to Gallup.
3. People at work need to feel understood.
In Gallup research, the fifth-most common managerial mistake that results in turnover is the failure to listen and understand employees. When a manager doesn't solicit the opinions of his or her team, trust begins to erode. The best leaders listen to their people receptively and without judgment about their dreams, passions, fears, joys, goals, and aspirations -- making them feel validated and understood.
4. People want meaning and purpose in their work.
In Give and Take, Adam Grant says that when people find purpose in their work, it not only improves that person's happiness; it also boosts productivity. One way to give employees that purpose, according to Grant, is to have them meet the very people they are helping and serving, even if just for a few minutes. Managers giving their people access to customers so they can see firsthand the human impact their work makes is the greatest human motivator, says Grant.
5. People at work want to know what's going on.
According to Gallup research, the second-most common mistake that leads to turnover is lack of communication. Managers must provide their people with guidance and direction, give them regular feedback on their performance, and clarify goals and expectations, especially during change. Managers also need to replace the dinosaur known as the annual employee performance review with monthly one-on-ones to coach employees and evaluate their progress consistently so there are no surprises later. This is what Millennial high achievers crave and want to keep developing and building strengths.
6. People at work need to feel valued.
Managers must start believing and trusting in their people by maintaining a high view of them, by showing them the respect and dignity they deserve to do a good job. Great leaders show an interest in their people's jobs and career aspirations. They look into the future to create learning and development opportunities for their people. Lastly, they find out what motivates their best people by getting to know what desires will drive each team member. This is about emotional engagement.
7. And finally, people at work need love.
Employees are human, and therefore, wired for relationships. So bosses need to build community by promoting a sense of belonging and connection for all team members. University of North Carolina psychology professor Barbara Fredrickson, author of Love 2.0, did an extensive study on human emotions with profound results. She was asked if a person's engagement at work is established and fueled by feelings of love. Here's what she said in 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.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is love at work defined.