After a decade of educating leaders and working with senior leaders and HR professionals to transform self-interested, egotistical (fear-driven) managers into Leaders who have the best interest of their people, teams and organisations at heart, I know a thing or two about the so-called 'soft-skills' of leadership.
Many a time, I meet with HR professionals who passionately tell me that their managers need to listen more, to create trust within their team, reduce conflict, build relationships in cross-functional teams and to connect with the purpose and goals of their organisations. They know that all of these so-called 'soft skills' will bring about organisation prosperity and sustainability.....yet their voices often go unheard and their frustration builds...
Why? Often they innately know the formula
for organisational prosperity but have been either stereo-typed into the
'touchy-feely' role of old fashioned personnel OR they have not been
able to adequately articulate the link between employee engagement (i.e.
good leadership) and organisational prosperity.
Just for the record here is what I've learned to be true about organisational prosperity. The CEO of the organisation passionately communicates a compelling vision, purpose and goals that are meaningful to its people (like spelling out the value to the customer) which provides the energy to do the work required to achieve the vision, goals, and purpose. The executive team also buy-in to the vision, purpose and goals and equally as passionately communicates this to the senior leadership team and so on and so on until the actual people doing the work 'get it' and direct their energy to a meaningful purpose.
We need meaning and purpose in our lives. Meaning and purpose gives us energy to do work that is sometimes boring and repetitive, bland and dull. Granted, some of us do work that in itself is meaningful because it connects to our values such as 'making a difference', 'continually improving', 'challenging', 'efficiency' etc. The HR people I have had the pleasure to work with know that organisational prosperity involves the leaders tapping into the energy of their people and taking the time to understand the personal values of their employees and connecting them to the work of the organisation.
Positive energy directed towards meaningful and defined goals equals an enormous amount of discretionary effort. More discretionary effort means more initiative, more creativity, more discipline, more of everything really!
To tap into this wealth of energy (that is often leaking into unproductive and self-centred activities such as finger-pointing, sucking up, being liked and micro-managing), our leaders must be educated away from self-interest and toward building their people's self-esteem and problem-solving ability; into uniting teams towards the achievement of meaningful goals; into developing humility where the accomplishment of their team is more rewarding than personal achievement.
An important part of the role of the human resources team is to work with managers to raise their conscious awareness of how to motivate (capture and direct energy) and build leadership capability. The HR team know this stuff.... but are not listened to as much as they could be.
My message to the executives of organisations is simply, open your ears and allow your HR team to speak of culture and leadership and how this will contribute to organisational prosperity.
My message to the HR team is to get better at articulating the link between strong selfless leadership and organisational prosperity and to keep going, even if you have not been heard the first dozen times or so.
This is the work of leadership.