What is conscious leadership (& why does it matter)?
Employee engagement is a bit of a buzz word these days - but why does it matter & how do we achieve it?
When staff are engaged with the work they do & the company they work for, it has a great influence on the overhead costs of a business - simply through lower levels of absenteeism & staff turnover (with recruiting & training costs alone taking up a huge chunk of budget).
When people are engaged & feel like their voices are heard, their commitment, enjoyment & fulfilment increases - subsequently raising morale & motivation. What’s the impact of a team of people who are fully on board, happy to be there & willing to do their best? It goes without saying - the better people are at their job, the better the company performs.
A Gallup study actually found that on this point alone, highly engaged teams show 21% greater profitability.
Aside from the management time you’ll be saving by not having to check in or check up on people (or re-visit mistakes made), according to Gallup data, companies with a high level of engagement report 22% higher productivity. So, more efficient working, higher output & people happy to do it? Wherever you are on the corporate latter, that’s reputation leverage that makes the company a lot more attractive to clients, investors and prospective employees.
By having people in your team who want to do better at their job & by giving them the opportunity to do so, you’re literally opening the doors for higher productivity & better quality - which makes everyone happy!
According to Forbes, employees who feel their voice is heard are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work. The more people have their voices heard, the more options you have & the more diverse (& stable) your business strategy can be.
The wider your ideas pool, the deeper your well of resources are as a company.
So how does engagement relate to leadership?
Engagement comes from employees trusting & believing in the company, feeling valued as human beings, knowing they have a purpose & that their delivery on that purpose is recognised.
People need to know that what they’re doing has purpose & meaning. According to Forbes, 89% of HR leaders agree that ongoing peer feedback and check-ins are key for successful outcomes.
Letting people know what they did well (as well as what they could do better on) is crucial to their improved performance - so getting past the awkward conversation to share honest communication is really valuable.
By creating a culture of respect, teamwork & positivity, teams can maintain a high level of engagement without much intervention from leadership, but it has to start at the top. The owner of the company is the foundation from whom all the values, behaviours & expectations come from - they have to lead by example otherwise they risk undermining everything they set out to achieve.
If you write out a culture & tell everyone to follow it, yet you don’t live & breathe it yourself, it becomes meaningless.
How can you be a conscious leader?
Treating people like people is the first step to conscious leadership - understanding & accepting that everyone is just like you in that they work to live, not live to work.
Starting at the top - if you’re the owner, the business may be your baby but remember that you started it up as something to feed your personal life (whether that was to fulfil a vision of a just cause, or to line your pockets without having to work so much, there's no judgement here!) - the business was born from your personal desires & goals. Everyone else who works for you has their own desires & goals too - the contract they sign with you is an exchange of money for services & skills, you’re not buying their soul.
Forbes magazine reports that 61% of employees are burned out on the job - that means high stress levels leading to poor physical health (fatigue, aches and pains, weight gain) and compromised mental health (depression, anxiety, anger).
All of these symptoms & conditions are so rife in our world today, but there’s a big taboo on the openly speaking about the cause. It's so common that people tend to assume it’s in their DNA, or "just one of those things" that comes with age - but so many studies show this link between these difficulties & discomforts to stress caused by work.
People don’t want to sign off sick with stress or physical ailments, people don’t use these things as excuses to get out of work until they get to the point where they can see it’s clearly been caused by work, & nobody at work cares. Then they stop caring - not before.
So what seems like better sense - having someone commit gladly to the objectives you set them, willingly contributing to the success of the company in exchange for the agreement of their contract... or somebody who tried to prove themselves by exceeding their contractual requirements, to burn out (& essentially waste a few months' salary that you’ll never get back), because they didn’t feel like they were treated humanely?
Your entire perspective on a situation can change when you show a little empathy.
By showing empathy - considering your colleague's perspective, taking time to try to understand why something may have happened or why they may have behaved the way they did or made a certain decision - you actually empower them to make better choices by offering support to guide them to a better path.
According to one study, 96% of employees believe showing empathy is an important way to advance employee retention - & interestingly, while 92% of CEOs feel their organization is empathetic, only 50% of their employees say their CEO is empathetic.
Empathy is the high road when you’re faced with a choice between pity & criticism. So before you decide the best way to share feedback on someone’s poor performance, or make excuses for them & overlook something that actually does impact the business, consider this approach: understanding, supporting & guiding from a place of objectivity.
Trust, communication & a team relationship.
Communication is a two-way street & actually, listening to your team is probably more important than what you tell them. When you listen to your team, you hear what they’ve understood from you, & you hear what they need from you. In reality, the only thing they’re going to be asking of you is ‘how do I do better’ - it doesn’t matter how they phrase it, what guise they present it under, whatever they’re asking for - more time, more opportunities, feedback, more training, time off - whatever they need will empower & support them to perform better for you.
On the other side of that, the more you communicate with your team, the more they'll feel they can trust you. Withhold information about company plans for growth or development & they’ll feel disrespected & under valued. Make them feel like they have nothing important to say & they won’t be on board, simple as that.
People want to feel part of the gang...let them in on the secrets that will make them feel connected to what you’re trying to achieve & they’ll do whatever they can to contribute.
Who is a leader?
While leadership cascades down from the owner or directors of a business, it never ends. So whether you have the word leader or manager in your title, whether you have line reports or not - know that everything you say & do has an impact on somebody else.
Everyone is a leader.
As you grow in your career, what will really change your status from average to exceptional is the mindset of really knowing who you are, what you want, & how to achieve that.
Conscious leadership is a part of this growth & enables you to set yourself up for wild success as you move along your path, making it much easier for you to focus on your priorities & excel in your role.
Know that you can empower the people around you to support & follow in your footsteps too, to create a genuine legacy of success & fulfilment.