What makes a great leader at work? I guess if you ask an open-ended question like this, you’d get a range of different views. After all, we all (hopefully) have experiences of working with people who we might consider to have great leadership skills. Among some of the most common traits mentioned when you ask people what a makes a great leader include the ability to motivate, inspire and empower a team. But what specific skills can you work on, as a leader, to improve your ability to do this? Here are my top 7 ways to improve your leadership skills:
1. Engage your team regularly
A good leader is an effective communicator. I talked in detail in my last blog post about the ways to increase social connection at work. The more you can engage your team, the more they will trust you and the more effective their output will be. In addition, regularly engaging with your team enables you to see some of the team dynamics at work and be able to address any issues that may arise quickly and effectively. Never assume that everyone is ‘on the same page’. Teams that can discuss and agree on what their goals are, are much more likely to hold each other accountable and foster a positive and supportive environment. So take the time to engage your team, ask for their input and lead by example.
2. Further develop your emotional intelligence
Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognise, manage and express your own emotions and manage interpersonal relationships at work with a high degree of empathy. Sometimes known as EQ, developing your emotional intelligence underpins our ability to work effectively with others, to make effective decisions and manage stress. Essentially this means being able to put yourself in the shoes of your team member, understand how a situation may affect them and offer meaningful advice and direction based on those thoughts and feelings. This is undoubtedly one of the top ways to improve your leadership skills.
3. Apply the principles of ‘reasonable management action’
In the world of human resources, what is deemed to be ‘reasonable management action’ has changed significantly over the years. While this is less about developing your soft skills, it is still imperative that, as a leader, you stay up to date on current legislation and guidance regarding what is considered to be appropriate. There are too many examples of cases taken to the Fair Work Commission where management behaviour has been misconstrued as ‘bullying’ and it’s vital to know how this impacts areas such as performance feedback.
4. Deliver effective performance feedback
This is sometimes an area that many managers and leaders struggle with and is linked in some ways to the previous point. Delivering effective performance feedback is definitely a skill that can be nurtured and perfected. Delivering negative feedback, for example, can be difficult and it’s important to recognise and understand how your team member might feel and react to this so you can support them both to improve the situation and avoid unnecessary stress. A good leader facilitates the growth and improvement of their team members but must also be able to recognise when something isn’t working and act on this effectively but with empathy. Practising this ability will certainly help to improve your leadership skills.
5. Develop a ‘mentally healthy’ workplace
Stress and anxiety are sadly commonplace at work and some roles and workplaces are naturally more stressful environments than others. In fact, almost half of us will suffer from mental ill health at some point in our lives. According to beyondblue’s report: State Of Workplace Mental Health In Australia, one in five Australians have taken time off work in the last 12 months because they felt stressed, anxious, depressed or mentally unhealthy.
However, this doesn’t mean that you should just accept this is the norm. There are strategies that you can adopt as a leader that help you recognise stress in your team and determine the most appropriate response to support them, including a workplace peer support program. If you are an employer recognising that good mental health is just as important as good physical health and adopting a policy and system for providing proactive support for your team could make a world of difference.
6. Deal with workplace conflict effectively
Not everyone is going to get along well all of the time. As a leader or manager, it’s important to be close enough to your teams to recognise when this is happening , not allow it to escalate and address conflict swiftly and proactively.
A good leader is able to act as a mediator and, depending on the situation, address the sources of conflict in an open group discussion or have confidential one on one conversations with their team members. It’s important to give people the opportunity to air their grievances so long as there’s a plan for resolution. Remember it all comes down to trust and communication and investing time in this will definitely help to improve your leadership skills.
7. Manage underperformance effectively
While few leaders relish addressing issues of underperformance, developing people-focused leadership skills means that you are better able to empathise and therefore anticipate how someone may react to your message. Armed with this knowledge, you will be better able to manage these situations to achieve positive outcomes for all involved, even if this means having to deliver feedback that will be potentially be perceived as negative.
Being a good leader is so much than being a good ‘task’ manager. It requires a huge range of both hard and soft skills and a not insignificant amount of empathy.
The good news is that at Head Strong Workplaces we have been supporting managers in all aspects of their leadership development journey. If you are looking to improve your leadership skills, our Mind Leaders workshop series covers every theme I have covered. Whether you elect to do just one workshop or, as many of my clients have done, the whole series, there is no doubt that you will be equipped with strategies that will help to improve your leadership skills and build a mentally-healthy workplace.
If you would like further support in your organisation to develop a better connected, healthier, happier workforce, give the team at Head Strong Workplaces a call today on 0438 770 850 or email us at email@example.com.