As leaders, we recognize that we need to follow certain guidelines that align with changing protocols in the workplace. Even if we’ve been following the same management style for years, we sometimes need to transform our habits in order to keep our workforce happy, engaged, and productive.
Many male leaders tend to model themselves after the stereotypes the media and Hollywood have fed us over the years: run silent, show strength, give commands with confidence, never be indecisive, don’t consider workplace relationships, and above all, don’t express your true feelings.
In fact, you’ll find all of these stereotypical qualities in very few successful leaders.
The truth is that in today’s political and economic climate, successful male leaders have some of the exact opposite qualities: compassion, a strong moral compass, empathy, and a good deal of common sense mixed in with a professional demeanor. Here are some tips to help you become the leader you’d want to follow:
Maintain Professional Communications – Everywhere
As leaders, we tend to spend more time with our colleagues and employees than our own partners and families. There’s always the temptation to get to know the team on a more personal level – we’re human, after all – but there are boundaries that need to be respected.
When communicating with your team, make sure that they understand your message by using relatable language on relevant topics. There can’t be any ambiguity in your meanings or the possibility of misinterpretation.
When engaging with your team, steer clear from “trigger”-type conversations. Jokes or comments that you don’t find offensive might be interpreted differently by someone else. Physical contact also has to remain appropriate when engaging with colleagues. Shaking hands with your professional contacts, whether inside or out of the office, is recommended over hugs or other forms of contact. Use your professional judgement!
Maintaining decorum at work also extends to outside the office, such as going for drinks or dinner with colleagues, or corporate social events. No matter where you are with your colleagues, your demeanor must remain professional. This may be common sense, but after a few drinks, our perspective can change!
Use Positive Language in Negative Situations
We’ve all seen that one person who makes off-colour jokes or risqué comments, or acts inappropriately at the workplace or during a work event. As a leader, you should address this type of behaviour using language that doesn’t demean, but rather encourages open communication.
For example, don’t tell your staff what they “should’ve” done. “Should” creates blame, which in turn creates guilt, shame, and a decrease in morale.
Instead, try saying, “Here’s what you could do next time.” This type of supportive language will go a long way to keeping your staff motivated.
It sounds simple. But it’s often the simple things you put into practice that will create the biggest difference in the workplace.
Build and Maintain Trust
If there are issues at work, your team will need to trust you enough to tell you about them. They’ll also listen to your advice, be open to coaching, and more willing to develop a strategy with you.
Build trust by relating to them on a personal level (as appropriate) and being empathetic to their situation. When your staff sees you as trustworthy colleague, they will see you as a reliable source they can go to with a problem.
Acknowledge when you are late, wrong, or forgetful. Show that you’re willing to seek out help. In meetings, give them your complete attention by being in the “now”, turning off your cellphone and completely engaging with what they’re saying. Lead by example and your people will follow you.
Of course, building trust doesn’t mean sharing inappropriate information or gossiping with colleagues. It means disclosing relevant, appropriate information to a specific situation.
Use technology to help create behavioural change
As leaders, we want to help others create behavioural change, and model the type of behaviours we’d like others to emulate. Changing people’s behaviours can be difficult, especially if they’ve been doing things the same way for years.
You can use technology to develop simple ways to adjust your team’s behaviour to a way that’s aligned with the change you’d like to see, such as encouraging them to question their own actions every time they log on to their computer. For example, try using a series of screensavers with a short scenario and a question, such as:
- Is this legal?
- Does this follow organizational policy?
- Is this moral or ethical?
- How would my manager feel if they knew?
While these may sound like “common sense” questions, these scenarios and questions will engage your staff, get them thinking, and create interest in a policy or ethical question. To further feed their interest, link the content of the login screen to a place on your intranet that has more information about the particular issue.
You can also use a login screen to create a “What if?” scenario to increase policy or compliance awareness. For example, ask your staff to consider what could happen if there wasn’t a policy about using certain language or behaving inappropriately within the organization.
Not all leaders – male or female – are born great. Most need to learn the right skills and adopt habits that will earn them the trust and loyalty of their people. With these tips, you’ll be sure to succeed as a man and as an effective leader in 2019 and beyond.
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