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Humanising Leadership: Tips for Success

It’s very easy to set up a company. It is the work of a few minutes to get a name, some template statutory documents and a directorship. However, this doesn’t make it a living, breathing entity powered by human endeavour.

In his latest blog, Director Jonathan Booth explores how a healthy organisation is built on trust, collaboration and empathy. It is also about getting the team to work for a higher purpose than just getting paid.

When you walk into an energised start up or established business, the buzz is almost physical. The usual tropes of “forming-storming-norming” in terms of how a start up team evolves into full functioning entities have never aged.

The key ingredient of all successful business growth trajectories is “the human touch” – for leaders this is known as “humanising Leadership”

And in large corporations, the challenge of keeping that energy buzzing becomes ever greater, especially over multi-site and virtual workspaces.

Leaders may view stemming the flow of email, multi-tasking or finding time to deal with issues that can’t wait till tomorrow as a major daily win, although none of this helps win the trust of team members.

And when technology and reduced travel budgets start to dictate that the “human dynamic” of face to face meetings are reducing, then it becomes crucial that we make time to compensate and become more “human”.

So what does this mean in the workplace?

When a team is energized around a goal and the team members trust one another and their leaders, it’s easier to hit goals. The work is more fun. The day goes faster and we spend more of our time in the zone.

To achieve this state,  leaders have to get out of the mechanical mindset, learn to soften and be more human. Whilst this can be a slow process it is important to take the time to humanise the organisational culture to keep the right focus and attract and retain great people.

Ten Top Tips for Humanising your Leadership Style

1. Be Open, Friendly and Approachable

It seems obvious but start by being nice to people – “do unto others” etc.  This means making eye contact and speaking to your co-workers as you arrive and leave work and as you pass them during the day. Take a second and say “How‘s it going?

2. Welcome new staff

There are often people that pass us in our workplace that we haven’t properly met, stopped and said hello to. Many of us are like ships that pass in the night. Why? Is it time pressure? Is it from some archaic fear of seniority? Leaders need to demonstrate these are non-issues and proactively reach out to new team members and say “I’ve seen you around but we haven’t been introduced. I’m XXX. What’s your name?

3. Humanise your communications

Stop and look at your standard business correspondence. Take a second to add a human touch to your email and voicemail messages. Just a quick personal greeting, thank you or dash of human warmth in a message goes a long way toward building trust and community

4. Recognise that everyone’s response to pressure is different.

Humans are unique sets of genes and chemicals. We respond in different ways and we must be aware of this. Mental well-being has sadly only recently been recognised as a prime driver of workplace effectiveness. Leaders need to be inclusive and mindful of this. Ask if there’s anything you can do when one of your teammates is overwhelmed.

5. Make sure everyone in a team or group project are heard and feel involved.

Collaboration is the key. And this means from all levels with every valid opinion taken into account. If everyone has a say in the shape of the project they will buy into it, feel proud of the results and defend it when it goes through a sticky patch.

6. Think carefully about the human reaction to difficult news

When you have something potentially sticky to share with a colleague or your boss, strategize before you share your question or observation. Think about how your message will be heard, and work to communicate as compassionately as you can. If your teammate is missing deadlines, ask them “How can I help? Should we check in with each other more often, or what other ideas can we brainstorm to stay in sync?

7. Build a Community

Grab every opportunity you can to let employees talk together and build community. Every meeting is a trust-building opportunity, if it’s led that way. Whenever employees are together face or face or virtually, it’s a chance to build relationships.

8. Make company policies more Human

Suggest revising your department’s policy manual to make your procedures friendlier and more intuitive. As your culture becomes more human you will begin to eliminate fifty-year-old policies that address employees like wayward children or criminals.

9. Think before you Act

When you are upset or frustrated at work, take a deep breath before you speak – and especially before you fire off an angry email message.

10. Make a Difference Every Day

Every day at work, ask yourself “How can I grow that buzz today?” This could be helping someone learn a new task. Maybe you’ll do it by acknowledging someone who doesn’t get a lot of praise. What can you do to humanize the energy within your teams today?

Taking the Time to Change

These aren’t overnight fixes and some may be resistant to this change. It’s also important that you don’t treat this as this month’s fad and that it is part of a conscious transformation that you apply to yourself as a leader and also seek to encourage through your management team. This can be through trying new methods of information cascade, team time, water cooler moments – small simple increments that add up to a greater whole.

In our experience, whilst the leaders of some organisations set out with good intentions, they find it hard to fully involve employees given the time pressures to deliver quick results. This is where Journey4 comes in.  We have the skills and experience to find the balance between the need to maintaining business as usual with generating employee buy-in and ownership to ensure culture improvements made are sustained.

For more information on our approach, contact us on 01823 451 199 or complete an enquiry form for a confidential discussion.