As workplace dynamics continue to change at a faster and faster pace, there are real opportunities for growth opening up, as well. Communication between leaders and employees is an ongoing evolution, and interesting insights are emerging along this growth path.
For example, in recent conversations with various Human Resources clients, I noticed a common theme regarding employee advocacy. Leaders of Human Resources departments noted employees are still regularly adhering to traditional workplace paradigms – even though modern approaches and self-education tools are available.
In other words, they noticed employees still have a challenge with speaking up for themselves, and many opted to keep the “status quo” approach to intra-team communication.
You know what this tells me as a leader in workplace development? Access to simple tools and education around HOW to help employees feel comfortable with sharing their views is still minimal. So let’s see what we can do about changing that reality to empower employees and leaders alike!
An Honest Review of Employee and Leader Relationships
The relationship between employee and leader is often seen as one-sided due to the power dynamic that is often assumed, but not clarified. Yet, the success of each leader and employee is intertwined in terms of how they openly communicate, and how each party perceives their clear communication boundaries.
To break apart common communication roadblocks, it helps to see where things usually go off track:
- Employees need to spend time getting clear on what they want and understand if their skills, knowledge and desires match their role. They also need to feel safe to ask for help and specific types of support.
- Leaders have to create a safe space for consistent check-ins to help employees feel heard and acknowledged, while also providing personalized support specific to an individual’s performance and desired career path. In addition, they need to be good at guiding employees; explaining how to move forward along their path and sharing opportunities to improve their education, performance and job satisfaction.
These points highlight one of the most important parts of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs – “Love and Belonging”. Achieving deeper, more meaningful relationships at work or in our work, where we often spend most of our time, is essential to co-creating an environment of mutual support and respect for all.
For a simple approach to building new relationship dynamics at work, consider the Four Pillars of Self Development. Using this framework, employees and leaders can build a common understanding and path of shared communication, together.
The Four Pillars of Self Development for Employees
- Knowing Who You Are
- What’s important? What do you believe in? What are your short and long-term goals?
- Create a personal vision statement to influence your daily plan, and write it down
- Set SMART goals to help you go ahead with your plan (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound)
- Create specific goals or tasks that range from daily, monthly to yearly – and support your personal vision
- Knowing What You Do
- What are your behaviors and motivations for why you are in the role you are in, and why you enjoy staying in it?
- What brings you joy in your work and how do your current skills support your achievements and performance?
- Can you notice cues or triggers that influence negative behaviors in you and take away from your joy and effectiveness?
- What are some positive cues in your daily work that help you feel worthy, enjoy your role and help you meet your goals?
- Knowing What You Need to Learn
- Identify learning points or areas you want to learn/grow new skills
- Set up a specific learning plan with goals and timelines
- Note how your learning plan incorporates into your goal and vision statements
- How can you develop new competencies as your career progresses?
- In what ways can your team develop their competencies in similar ways?
- Using What You Know to Build Successful Habits
- Make a decision about what you want to create most, and put it in writing
- Visualize yourself being successful in a goal or task
- Resolve to persist, even when you want to give up
- Connect with an accountability partner to help keep you on track
- Reward yourself in small ways before focusing on a new goal
With these elements outlined, connect with your leader for an initial conversation to explore how to work together and make your plans into a workable reality.
A Few Thoughts for Leaders
Leaders can do their part to support the Four Pillars process by helping employees advocate for themselves more clearly and effectively, and do their part to make a few mindset changes of their own.
Start by releasing these WORN OUT workplace myths:
- There is simply not enough time to meet with each person and get into details
- If I don’t talk about it, they may not think about it, and the status quo will be safe
- Employees need to own their careers, it’s not my job
- Everyone wants more, bigger, or better: promotions, raises, prestige, power
- Development efforts are best concentrated on high potentials, many of whom already have plans in place
Many leaders and managers avoid career development conversations because they are afraid of answering questions an employee might ask. So, why not start asking important questions rather than waiting for an employee to ask you?
Then, do your best as a leader to:
- Listen without judgment
- Remove barriers to this person’s success based on what they say they want to achieve
- Point out opportunities that fit their scope of ability or what they want to learn, leverage, activate
When we build new, successful habits to support these pillars, what we are really doing is investing in ourselves as we continue to create a mutually beneficial environment in the workplace. Career development is nothing more than helping others grow, so let’s see how we can make work life better!
A quick side note – May is Mental Health Awareness Month – the perfect time to co-create a new way to engage as an employee and a leader.
Ready to Take the Next Step?!
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