As the first month of the year rolls on, it's still not too late to make some self-improvements that ultimately will influence your company in positive ways. And while there are lots of targets to aim for, Aron Ain, author and CEO of Kronos, says there's one key realization you need to make if you really want to have a respect-filled following and genuine influence.

You really do have an effect on your team!


Most leaders, Ain says, grossly underestimate their reach.

"The first step to becoming a great manager is recognizing how much your everyday actions and inactions affect the people who report to you. Once I understood this seemingly simple concept, I began to work really hard each day at modeling what I believed to be great leadership behaviors. I'm passionate about the fact that it's truly a privilege to lead and manage people. You can't take it for granted, and you have to lead accordingly. It takes incredible courage to be a great manager and to have difficult conversations. But in the end, the results are magical: Great managers drive higher engagement, stronger retention, and better business outcomes."

And for Ain, three essential behaviors make the biggest difference for managers needing and wanting to do better.

  • Establish mutual trust. Being respectful and honest are pivotal here, but first, you have to trust the employees yourself. "You can't expect to earn trust if you don't give it," Ain insists. "Assume competence, judgment and good intentions. Set expectations around trust with your teams. Infuse trust into your benefits and policies. Believe it or not, you can institutionalize trust into your organization."

  • Communicate. Great communication naturally helps infuse foundational trust into your work relationships. "If you're starting from a place of trust, why can't you communicate clearly about what's on your mind and what's happening in your organization? In fact, great leaders over-communicate. They speak honestly and transparently, whether in an email to entire departments or one-on-one in casual hallway conversations--which may hold more hidden value than you realize."

  • Say what you think and truly listen. Good communication isn't just about clarity and the amount of information. It's also about sharing who you really are and giving others the chance to do so without fear of judgment or retaliation, too. "The combination of trust and overcommunicating will drive more enthusiasm, engagement and innovation at work while helping you and your team more easily bounce back from setbacks."

Once you've got these core behaviors down, Ain says to focus on being an 'un-leader'. That means demonstrating humility as you work.

"Put your employees first and your title last," Ain advises. "Admit when you don't know an answer. Gather feedback from everyone and whenever you can. Know when to step up and exert your influence and experience when you need to."

But maybe the most important ingredient? Just have some fun.

"Work doesn't have to be so serious. We spend far too much time together as coworkers to be miserable. Make a joke at your expense. Get the team together to celebrate a win or someone's personal milestone. Talk about the loved ones in your life. Be human. And, above all, don't forget to say thank you."

The summary is, from day one, you really do touch people. From day one, make it count.