Creating workplace conditions – in difficult times

My clients know that managers are responsible for creating twelve supportive, positive office conditions which reflect what employees expect from their workplace. If these conditions are present they ensure that it is very likely that you have emotionally-engaged employees – and a well-functioning organisation.

It will still take many months of tough times before life gets better for many – although signs are that the South African economy has turned the corner of the recession for the better.

A certain type of leadership is vitally important in tough times.

The Gallup Organization’s extensive research established that followers/employees have four basic needs:

1. Trust
Employees must be able to trust your promises. Make promises and do not follow up and you are sending the message that your word is not worth much.

Integrity and honesty is part of trust. If employees cannot trust you the chances of them being emotionally-engaged at work are 1 out of 12. If they trust your leadership the chances improves to 1 out of 2 – a six-fold increase.

Trust also increases the speed and the efficiency of the work place.

Respect, integrity and honesty are the outcomes of strong relationships built on trust.

2. Compassion
Most leaders are hesitant to show compassion for the people they lead.
Caring, friendship, happiness and love were frequently mentioned words followers used when asked what leaders contributed to their lives.

3. Stability
Followers want leaders who provide a solid foundation.
They want to always count on their leaders in times of need. Those surveyed used the words such as security, strength, support, and peace.

Core values need to be stable. State and live your core values. If you do not, your staff will become cynical.

Your employees want to know what is expected and what to expect. The workplace must offer stability and confidence.

Employees who have a high confidence in their company’s financial future are nine times as likely to be engaged in their jobs when compared to those who have lower confidence about their company’s financial future.

Nothing creates stability as quickly as transparency. People need a basic sense of confidence about where their careers are headed and how the organisation is doing financially. It is wise to provide data on progress towards achieving organisational objectives.

This gives stability and confidence and clears the way to rapid growth.

4. Hope
Hope is a higher level need and it poses an interesting challenge: Followers want stability in the moment and hope for the future. Followers use the words direction, faith, and guidance when describing this need. The single most important question that researchers asked employees is whether the organisation’s leadership made them “feel enthusiastic about the future?”

Hope gives employees something to look forward to, and it helps them see a way through chaos and complexity. When hope is absent, people lose confidence, disengage, and often feel helpless.

This makes the role of the leader even more vital during difficult times.

Yet the vast majority of leaders did not spend enough time deliberately creating more hope and optimism for the future. Instead executives spend almost all of their time to reacting and responding to the needs of the day instead of initiating for the future.

Researchers provided leaders with several scenarios to prioritize, and in most cases, the leaders did not choose the one option that involved initiating. Instead their priorities were always dominated by a need to respond.

It seems most leaders cannot help but being reactive. Whether you realise it or not, when you react you are not in charge or in control but are being tossed about by the demands of the moment. When you choose to initiate, the very act can create hope for the future.

Know the difference between important and urgent and make room for the important – about 20% of your day.  Do quick reviews of the month’s and week’s objectives, give appreciation for excellent work, motivate your staff, and be upbeat and positive – as opposed to being stressed, anxious and even curt. In tough times it is even more important to focus on the important.

One challenge is that our ability to progress in our careers is often determined by our effectiveness in responding to near-term needs. This creates a culture in which leaders and followers spend little or no time thinking about what could be done. They focus on simply what needs to be done.

While solving difficult problems is an essential part of effective leadership, identifying opportunities for the future play a much more important role in creating hope and optimism.

Before jumping into the daily business of doing, people need purpose.

One of the greatest challenges for leaders is to put time aside, think and initiate new efforts that will create organisational growth.

If as a leader, you are not creating hope and helping people see the way forward, chances are no one else is either.

Tough times need leaders who give really close attention to their intangible assets, their people.



2 Responses

  1. Hi Albert – I like these four things – nice news letter. I am intrigued to know about the other eight that your clients know about. Stephen

  2. Stephen, the four needs are in addition to the 12 conditions which The Gallup Organization arrived at after having surveyed at the turn of the century more than 3 million employees and 200 000 managers.

    The 12 conditions are very specific and each condition can be purposefully turned into an optimal condition. Interestingly enough, they exist by default in all organisations and the problem is that this intangible organisation capital is usually neglected, as leaders and managers tend to focus on products and services and on tangible busy work.

    Many thanks for commenting!

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