What makes employee experience such a fascinating yet complex subject, is the sheer number of contributing factors that together deliver a unique experience. From the operations and structure of a business to the virtual and physical environments in which we work, to the tools, technology, and data we are provided with to actually do our jobs – each are vital and can have a profound impact on an experience. When done well, the results can be positive, enabling and motivating.
There is, however, one key factor that has the greatest single impact on the employee experience – leadership.
Leadership for many organisations remains almost an enigma. All recognise that it is important, but few can say they have achieved world class status.
Why excellent leadership is difficult to achieve:
1. Lack of experience
Marshall Goldsmith best sums this up in his book What got you here won’t get you there. More often than not, leaders find themselves trying to lead others with little or no experience to speak of. Having achieved recognition for becoming successful practitioners in their chosen fields, they are thrust into a position where they are expected to motivate and inspire others. The reality is, new leaders need new skills. They cannot hide because all too quickly they will be found out.
2. Fear of vulnerability
New leaders worry that asking for help will be an admission of failure or a sign of weakness. It is, in fact, the complete opposite. A leader that asks for help and is prepared to be vulnerable is a leader seeking to succeed, and a demonstration of strength. A leader that never asks for help, or shows weakness is potentially arrogant and dangerous. Great leaders identify their weaknesses and seek support to better themselves from both within their organisations and from outside.
3. Lack of strategic skills (decision making capability)
Having coached a number of senior executives, I find this to be a recurring theme. How can leaders acquire strategic skills if they’ve never had to think strategically? And once strategic decisions are made, how do leaders catalyse action. All too often leaders get sucked into stewardship and operations either because they do not trust those responsible for work, or because this is where they feel safe. Building high trust teams and effective delegation are crucial for new leaders to ensure they can focus more in the strategic space.
4. Poor communication
Unfortunately, this is all too common. Leaders typically rely on one particular way to communicate, rather than learning how to inspire, motivate and to engage their people. Communication is a skill and must be practiced. Good leaders seek and accept support to grow their competence – hiding from the problem only inflates the problem.
5. Failing to develop connections
Being a leader of people is a human endeavor. Developing and improving relationship skills is critical for successful leaders. When meaningful connections are developed, people feel compelled to follow and are intrinsically motivated to contribute. Take the time to ask questions, be interested, listen generously and seek to grow others.
Great leaders make a deliberate, conscious decision to improve. They acknowledge their weaknesses and proactively seek out the best support to develop.
Only then can truly great employee experiences be achieved.