The purpose of organizations is to achieve results! This is a universal law that cannot be argued with. So it’s hardly surprising that in the business world, much emphasis is placed on facts and figures. Goals are set, appropriate budgets are allocated, Key Performance Indicators are defined, the results charts are filled in and assessed every month, and at the end of the year the annual accounts are drawn up. And the following year the whole circus starts all over again, very often with the same goals being set to tighter schedules and higher targets so that the company’s growth forecasts can continue to be achieved.
In the middle of all this adulation for figures, where is the attention for the employee who has to actually do the work? And by attention I don’t necessarily mean the type expressed in facts and figures such as churn rate, recruitment costs, training expenses, etc. No, I’m talking about the genuine interest for the employee. Do you understand what I’m getting at? The best way to make this clear is by doing a quick test. Imagine a powerful, effective manager you have or have had and who you respect highly. Someone you value a lot and whose qualities you envy. What are his or her eight most important characteristics? Think about this and write your answers down before you read any further.
Characteristics of a powerful manager
Did you manage to identify eight characteristics? Here is my personal list, which I’m pretty sure will look very much like yours. In random order, these are the characteristics: he/she radiates pleasure and enthusiasm, gives me respect and trust, treats me as an equal, believes in me, listens to my opinion, creates a safe working environment in which I feel supported and he/she takes the time to really listen to me. Managers I coach or whose team I support also mention the majority of these eight characteristics. If I question them further about the impact this positivity-based approach has, they stress that it makes them feel special, valued and trusted. And that their belief in their own potential increases. Does that sound familiar too? In my opinion, these are feelings we all want to have.
If you want to incorporate these positivity-based characteristics into your organisation or team, how would you go about it? Well, one way would be to make all kinds of smart project plans, using your rational brain. As part of this project plan you could describe how a characteristic is defined, what behaviour is desired, when to put up humorous posters on the walls to support your message, when you will organise a workshop on the theme, etc. But will this rational approach actually be successful. After all, the characteristics we have described ultimately have an emotional origin and are more about people’s life and world view, and how they see and approach others. And that’s determined by the sum of all the experiences they have had and the resultant patterns they have acquired.
If you want people within your organisation or team to treat each other differently, it starts with you giving a good example. By approaching everybody with a positive attitude and incorporating the eight characteristics, independent of what you think of that person. The key question here is: are you prepared to analyse your own behaviour and to commit to taking actions to change if necessary? Are you prepared to take a good hard look at yourself in the mirror regarding how you treat other people and are you open for feedback and advice (requested and unrequested) from your colleagues on this subject? And, during this process, if you notice you find it difficult to deal with certain behaviour, do you seek the assistance of a colleague or coach to learn how to deal with such a situation more effectively? I strongly believe that asking for help in your learning process is not a sign of weakness (as some people claim) but actually a sign of strength! I’d like to give you a tip in this context: to remain motivated to work on your personal development, ask yourself the following question: ‘What would happen in my organisation or team if I were to structurally incorporate the positivity-based characteristics of powerful leadership?’
These characteristics have been categorised by Daniel Goleman as: Emotional Intelligence (EQ) He is referring here to the capacity to acknowledge our own feelings and that of others. And not just to acknowledge them but, even more importantly, to motivate ourselves to ‘manage’ these feelings with respect to ourselves but also with respect to others. And just as we can all assign our own IQ a number, we can also express EQ as a number. Additionally, he has studied the relative importance of both factors when carrying out your function. By comparing these factors with each other, we can gain key insights into our behaviour. For the majority of functions, it has been shown that 33% of the time is spent on IQ-related behaviour and actions, while the remaining 67% is spent on EQ-related behaviour and actions. But when we consider managers, the situation changes significantly. The ratio turns out to be 15% for IQ and 85% for EQ!
Focus on strong points
If you still have doubts about the importance of positivity within organisations, then I’ve got one last ‘trick up my sleeve’. In 2008, the American research agency Gallup conducted a study into the degree of motivation employees felt at work. They discovered that in a working environment in which the manager focuses on his employees’ strong points, and encourages them to implement these in their work, 73% of the employees said that they were motivated. By contrast, in an environment where the manager focused primarily on points that employees had to improve on, just 9% indicated that they were motivated. Where does your focus lie in terms of your employees?
In other words, make sure that you as a manager spend enough time and attention on positivity (the emotional side) as well as on the facts and figures (the rational side) of course. Finally, one last insight from the Gallup research: people leave their managers and not their companies!