5 Tips for Effective Leadership in the Workplace

Written by Sean

January 26, 2023

The moment you stop listening to your team, is the moment that you lose their support. Regardless of whether or not you agree with what they are saying it’s critically important that each team member feels heard.

Whether you’ve been in leadership roles for years, or your tenure as the boss is brand new, you’ve likely realized that it can be very lonely at the top. 

As a leader, you will undoubtedly be resented, scrutinized and vilified. You’ll be blamed for failures that aren’t your fault, and you’ll rarely get the credit that you are due when things go well.

You’ll be forced to simultaneously take on the roles of babysitter, therapist, and vice principal.

Maybe you knew exactly what you were signing up for, or maybe you’re figuring it all out on the fly. Either way, it’s easy to start second guessing yourself when you run into adversity.

The old cliché that it’s “lonely at the top” exists for a reason. It’s likely that you will have subordinates be upset with you for no reason other than you expect them to fulfill their basic job duties. 

It can be tough to distinguish between haters hating and the areas where you need to improve as a leader. Unfortunately, the longer you’re in charge, the easier it becomes to dismiss constructive criticism as unwarranted whining—which can potentially create blindspots for you in the areas that you can improve yourself.

If you’re in a position of power and you’re looking to improve your game, the following tips are areas where leaders commonly miss the mark, whether they realize it or not.

Listen to your subordinates intently

The moment you stop listening to your team, is the moment that you lose their support. Regardless of whether or not you agree with what they are saying it’s critically important that each team member feels heard. 

Beyond listening, it’s important that you’re not just waiting for your turn to talk. 

One technique you can use to show your team that you’re truly listening is to repeat their concerns back to them to affirm that you understand what they are saying and that you’re taking their point of view into consideration. 

For example:

“What I’m hearing is that you feel like our editing process would be more efficient if we utilized a different project management software? Is that correct?”

If you don’t agree with the feedback, give specifics as to why. If you don’t feel like you have enough information to make a decision, give them that feedback and tell them what you need in order to make an informed decision.

You don’t need to placate your employees, but you do need to make sure that you consider their concerns. Failure to do so is certain to lead to low morale, decreased productivity, and adversarial relationships with your subordinates. The less your team members feel heard, the less they’ll bring to your attention.

Share the credit

When you’re the one giving orders and managing talent, it might feel like you’re the one responsible for the success of the team. And maybe that’s partially true, but failing to give credit where credit is due is a quick way to create resentment among the ranks.

When you have success as a team, make sure to identify employees by name and recognize their specific contribution regardless of how small of a role they played.

Accepting the credit for a team effort whether in public or private will erode trust and could potentially create a scenario where your employees aren’t as helpful as they could be in the future. Or worse yet, they might even sabotage projects so that it will reflect poorly on you.

Sharing the credit goes beyond stroking the ego of your employees however. It also shows your superiors that you’re humble, team oriented, and capable of managing a cohesive unit. 

Accept the blame

As important as it is to share the credit, it’s equally important to accept blame. 

If something goes wrong and it was your subordinate’s fault, accepting responsibility is often the right move. By taking the blame you’ll immediately build trust and rapport with that employee. 

Additionally, by accepting responsibility you’re showing your superiors that you don’t make excuses. Mistakes are bound to happen and the most powerful thing you can do is own it, give a timetable for the solution and an assurance it won’t happen again.

This doesn’t mean your employees get a free pass to mess up, slack off or be careless. You can still coach your employees on what your expectations are moving forward to ensure the ball doesn’t get dropped again. 

But at the end of the day, the responsibility starts and stops with you, and you have little to gain by throwing someone under the bus.

Eliminate guesswork

A lot of leaders are very particular and detail oriented, and that’s a big part of what helps people ascend to positions of power. 

Being a perfectionist can be both a strength and a weakness because if you like things a very particular way but are not well versed in communicating how you want things done, it can lead to major turmoil on your team. 

In the age of emails, text messages, and remote work, a lot of context gets lost in translation. As a leader, you need to make sure that you’re not leaving room for guesswork. Everytime you give direction, make sure that you are providing all of the necessary context for a person to be successful with that particular project, and make sure that you’re welcoming questions for clarification. 

If you find yourself constantly unhappy with what your team is producing and you’re repeatedly sending them back to the drawing board, you may need to examine whether or not you’re giving clear enough direction—or if you’re expecting them to read your mind and are unhappy when they are unable to do so.

Give thoughtful feedback

Feedback can be tricky business. If you’re too harsh, you’ll immediately alienate a person. But if you keep quiet you’ll inhibit their growth.

You owe it to your employees to give honest and direct feedback so that they can improve in their role and progress in their career—but your delivery is crucial.

You want to be direct, without being cold. If you are too blunt with your delivery, it can hurt morale and cause your employee to disengage. 

On the other hand, if you sugarcoat things too much, you run the risk of not being clear with your expectations.

A method made popular by 13-time NBA Champion Phil Jackson is to give two compliments for every criticism. Lead with the positives of their performance and ease into the area where they need improvement.

A final word on leadership

Leadership can be lonely, but there are a number of techniques that you can use to make things run smoother on your watch.

Even the most skilled leaders steer the boat into the rocks sometimes. What’s important is that you continue to improve as a leader and learn from your mistakes.

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