6 Ways Leaders Unknowingly Undervalue Their Employees05/27/2015 12:00AM
By Glenn Llopis
Leaders often find themselves getting lost within the growing demands of the workplace and losing sight of what matters most to their employees. As such, they fail to realize the negative repercussions that the lack of strategic focus can have on their ability to deepen relationships with employees, which is important to understanding their specific needs for success. As a consequence, employees begin to lose trust in leaders that they perceive as self-absorbed, complacent and only concerned about their own well-being – rather than interested in advancing the people they are responsible for leading.
A leader’s responsibility is to continuously provide their employees with the tools and resources to be successful. The best leaders are also those that can course correct before marketplace relevancy passes them by; they can anticipate crisis and manage change as they begin to see the requirements for success through a different lens. When employees notice inconsistent effort and/or a lack of maturity and professional reinvention from their leaders, they grow frustrated and in many cases their enthusiasm to contribute in meaningful ways may shut down – as they find themselves just going through the motions to get through each day.
Leadership in the 21st century is about realizing that the old ways of doing things aren’t as effective anymore – and that employees in particular need their leaders to step-up their game. Employees want leaders that will always have their backs because they pay attention to the dynamics in the workplace and can navigate the politics. Employees have grown tired of leaders that have become so complacent that the only thing that matters to them is the advancement of their own agendas.
Leadership requires a high level of self-awareness of your own style and approach, but equally an awareness of your employees natural characteristics and tendencies. How can you be a great leader if you are not mindful of your employees’ necessities, their strengths and how to best use them, and the manner in which they want to be led? Think of it this way: if you are not managing your personal brand as a leader – then someone else is. And when you fall into this trap, it becomes impossible to optimally lead those around you.
To relieve you of unproductive habits and help you see and lead with broadened observation, here are six ways leaders can tell if they are unknowingly undervaluing their employees at work every day.
1. Failure to Embrace Differences
When leaders are not interested in what matters most to their employees, they minimize their value and disregard the unique perspectives that they bring to the table. When leaders don’t embrace differences, they are at risk of becoming extinct. Diversity of thought is the new normal and when employees feel that their leaders aren’t creating a safe environment for them to speak up, they often feel forced to shut down.
Leaders must open their minds to embrace the valuable differences that a multi-generational, cross-cultural and diverse workforce can bring. When leaders see differences as opposition instead of opportunity, it’s time for them to refocus their perspective before they become increasingly irrelevant and the marketplace forces their exit.
2. Unaware of Their Strengths
The most valuable skills employees possess oftentimes remain dormant because they have a leader that doesn’t take the time to discover and/or enable their strengths. Recognizing the unique skills and capabilities of an employee is leadership 101. A leader’s primary responsibility is to discover the full potential in others.
Employees often have unique skill-sets beyond their job descriptions – skills that if given the opportunity to showcase they could perhaps use to improve their job function and deliver better results. When leaders can’t see beyond the obvious, they are doing themselves, their employees, and their organization a big disservice. They are unknowingly undervaluing their employees and the opportunities before them.
3. Refuse to Seek Their Counsel
Leaders are most vulnerable when they are resistant to change – and to the fresh perspectives, know-how and insights of their employees. This explains those leaders who rudely interrupt others trying to present new ideas during a meeting. When this happens over and again, it becomes evident that the leader is not willing to seek the counsel of his or her employees; ego gets in the way of what is in the best interests of the organization. Moreover, their employees feel undervalued and disrespected.
When leaders get insecure, they can feel their command slipping away and so they start hiding behind their title. They may develop negative attitudes and seldom appear to be listening because they are only concerned with one thing: regaining control. But the wise leader will take this moment of vulnerability to earn the respect of their employees by seeking and valuing their counsel.
4. Make No Effort to Invest in the Relationship
Leadership success comes most to those who are surrounded by people who want their success to continue. This is only possible when leaders invest in their employees and value these relationships like family.
Failing to invest in employee relationships is a sign that their leader does not value them enough. Lack of reciprocity in the relationship is a sign that leaders are taking their employees for granted; they are becoming complacent rather than being a great listener who finds creative ways to continuously add value to their employee relationships.
Inconsistent investment in relationships can mean that employees are working for a conditional leader who uses their relationships for his or her own benefit. This delivers the wrong message and unknowingly creates tension with employees who begin to think that their leader doesn’t value them for themselves. Leaders must always show a genuine intent and interest to build upon their employee relationships for the betterment of a healthier whole.
5. Provide Little if Any Feedback
Leaders that do not hold themselves accountable to provide their employees constructive feedback are leaders that are not valuing or trusting their employees enough. Employees want feedback from their leaders. They demand it and value it as a requirement for their own growth and development.
When leaders are not accessible to their employees and always seem to have an excuse not to meet and discuss their performance, employees rightfully begin to feel slighted and underappreciated. By withholding constructive feedback, leaders miss an opportunity to build trust and show that they value the relationship.
Leaders must become more aware of what their employees expect and need from their leaders – and deliver it unconditionally every day – for their ultimate success. This is what the best leaders always do.
6. Micromanage to Distraction
When leaders micromanage too much, it sends a message of uncertainty about their confidence in their employees’ ability to perform. When leaders don’t give their employees space to grow through both success and failure, they are limiting their ability to stretch their employees’ capabilities and trust in themselves and in the process are unknowingly undervaluing them and their contributions.
Micromanagement can lead to self-doubt and to employees that become overly concerned about satisfying their leader instead of the demands of the job. Unique skill-sets and capabilities lie dormant and their career goes down a path of dissatisfaction and resentment because they are continuously bypassed for the next promotion. When this happens, you are not just sending a message that you do not value them enough – you are spreading that message to their colleagues and leaders in other departments.
When even one employee feels undervalued, you are failing as a leader. A leader’s responsibility is to make every employee feel valued and also to be accountable for helping them increase their value. Everyone has something of value to offer, so instead of being a micromanager, be an investor in employee relationships and build trust by providing feedback whenever appropriate and seeking their advice when you are the one that needs feedback. Above all, play to their strengths and work with the differences – generational, cultural and otherwise – that make us all unique and valuable.
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