One leadership “soft factor” can make a business future-proof
The best thing a leader can do is to be super clear with employees about expectations: Managers who successfully give their teams purpose “will have their business units outperform, and there’ll be less attrition because employees will be more engaged. It automatically translates to better performance and business results.”
Words by Stephen J Bronner
Illustration by Jordan Bogash
As a leadership consultant and author, Harrison Monarth has gained notoriety for his work on the emotional side of management: Learning to be uncomfortable, bringing passion to work, and dealing with imposter syndrome. They’re all areas where he is a recognized leader. But today, he’s talking with The Workback about something else.
Today, Monarth is drawing a line from inspiration to the results.
Of course, “people want to be cared for and developed—they want purpose,” Monarth says. But in his interview in the Future of Work issue, Monarth draws a line from inspiration to productivity.
Monarth says that managers who successfully give their teams purpose “will have their business units outperform, and there’ll be less attrition because employees will be more engaged. It automatically translates to better performance and business results.”
The author of Executive Presence, a 2019 guide on becoming “the kind of leader everyone trusts to do the right thing at the right time,” says the most critical factor for achieving business results is clarity of communication.
Being connected to your team is vital to keeping them connected to their work. Spectrum, an Asana customer, uses Asana to do just that.
“As a leader, Asana helps me create experiences that build connections with my team members and helps them become better connected to their work,” Drew Chin, Senior Manager of Leadership Development at Spectrum, previously told Asana in an interview.
As an example of clarity across teams about an organization’s mission, Monarth offers The Workback this scenario: Suppose you are randomly woken up in the middle of the night and asked about the mission of your company and your boss’s vision for your project. Without missing a beat, you offer an accurate, detailed answer. It’s an impressive feat for you, of course. But it is just as much a win for your leader at work. Few leaders are those sort of perfect, inspirational communicators, Monarth says.
Monarth points to research conducted by professional services firm Zenger Folkman, which found that employees rated the power to inspire and motivate the highest ranked of 16 leadership categories. On the other hand, the research also revealed it’s the competency where leaders are often the worst-performing.
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“Most leaders are unclear about what they can do to be inspiring,” Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman write in Financial Executive. “Many leaders assume that inspiration is an inborn trait or a natural ability, and if they don’t have it, they cannot develop it.
“Studying leaders who are highly effective at inspiring others reveals quite the opposite. This is a skill that can be developed.”
How can leaders inspire their teams to drive better business results? Monarth provides some insights below.
Why does inspiring a team matter more now for achieving business goals?
A manager’s relationship with an employee is one of the most significant factors in an employee’s happiness and engagement.
When leaders inspire, salespeople will make more calls, for example. Or engineers will be more motivated to fix bugs. Whatever their work, people will put more of themselves into it if they’re motivated.
What’s one way of putting this into practice?
During a video conference, remember your last conversation with the person. Whether it was a week ago, a month ago, or three months ago, maybe the person told you about a sick relative, an accomplishment at work they’re proud of, or their daughter got into a great school. Ask them about it.
This shows people that they’re important enough to remember, that you were listening and in the moment, and that you care. They weren’t just in one of a million conversations that you had.
A lot of people give 64% effort because they know at 63%, they’ll get fired. They give you just enough to skate by. But if you give them reasons to care about the work, you will achieve results beyond the bare minimum.
The person on the receiving end will think no matter how busy this person was. They remembered that last conversation and asked me about it, making me want to work harder and trust their leadership. This leads to better engagement and problem-solving. It frees up the person to work because it reduces uncertainty. They’ll be more motivated to do their tasks with enthusiasm, and that feeling will be contagious.
What are other ways executives can boost results within their organizations?
The other important thing to achieve results is to communicate clearly. That starts with leaders who have crystal-clear expectations. Many leaders make assumptions. They communicate in a sort of code. A lot of things need to be clarified in nuance and meaning. Studies have shown that misunderstandings and miscommunication lead to delays, bottlenecks, and lost productivity and money.
The best thing a leader can do for good business results is be super clear to the point where the employee could wake up in the middle of the night and recite exactly what the leader is expecting, with all the nuances. That requires conscious communication by the leader. The leader must also acknowledge the power differential and intimidation factor between bosses and employees.
What do leaders need to be especially mindful of in the years ahead?
Leaders need people to feel good about and know each other. Since many people are no longer working in an office all the time, leaders have to be a lot more intentional about how information is exchanged.
Everyone has a user manual about communicating with others and how they like their work structured. That will all be harder now because we are in different places. We can’t just walk by and have a chat.
Communication has to be scheduled. Executives must be more intentional about leading, motivating, inspiring, and communicating.
Will they do that? That’s the question.
This article includes Asana customers, partners, or employees. The Workback’s policy is to be fully transparent about the business relationships between our sources and Asana, Inc. We have identified those instances within the article as well.