In my line of work coaching and training leaders, I’m neck-deep in the research to find all the reasons for good leadership and high employee engagement.
More importantly, everything depends on making yourself a better leader–whatever it takes–whether you’re a line manager or the CEO. And raising your own bar only happens when common sense turns into common practice.
Meaning, when you actually put into practice what you know to be true about human nature–that people want to be recognized, that they want to grow, and that they want meaningful work, you begin to raise your capacity to lead.
That begs the question: What’s a good starting point to set the wheels in motion?
1 question you need to ask
Every day, you want to measure your success as a leader by holding up the mirror and asking one crucial question: Did I serve the needs of an employee today?
You think that’s just a bit too counterintuitive? Gary Vaynerchuk, chairman of VaynerX and CEO of VaynerMedia, is a firm believer in the foundational principle of servant leadership. He writes, “Understand that you work for your employees, they don’t work for you.”
According to Gary Vee, leaders have to have a deep understanding of what their employees want and be “constantly adapting to their needs and what they want from the organization.”
So training your brain to ask the question did I serve the needs of an employee today? becomes a useful reminder to be the best leader you can be for the people entrusted under your care.
It forces you to measure up against the high standards of leadership and to make an immediate impact on people. Remember, when you set them up for success by meeting their needs, they’ll deliver. The whole organization succeeds.
What serving others looks like in practice
To assess where you are against the high measure of the kind of leader Gary Vee talks about, put yourself up against these 3 best-in-class leadership behaviors:
1. Making your tribe feel safe.
Psychological safety helps increase the rate of speed in how they conduct work for one very important reason: They’re not worried about how to navigate a situation because leaders have given them entrepreneurial rights to think, innovate, and make decisions. What you’re left with are intrinsically-motivated employees who are collaborating and delivering results.
2. Helping your tribe grow.
In a recent episode of the Love in Action podcast, Julie Winkle Giulioni, co-author of Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go, shares what leaders and managers can do to make a difference for their employees and keep them longer. It begins with reviews being an ongoing, more holistic process. She thinks of career development moving from an annual event to a ‘subscription model.’ This moves toward a more agile team, which in turn helps create an agile company.
3. Managing the small interactions.
Douglas Conant, former CEO of the Campbell Soup Company and bestselling author of Touchpoints, shared with me that leaders have to be fluent in the micro-moments–small interactions that last anywhere from 30 seconds to 2 minutes–to become more effective. There process is simple: enter the moment with a “How can I help?” mentality and exit with a “How did it go?” mentality. You can process almost anything in one to two minutes, but be ready to talk when your people are ready to talk. People have to know you’re really listening, that you understand what they’re saying, and that you want to see them make progress.
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The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.