At what point is moving the needle and progressing as a team more important than the people who are doing the work? This is something many executives and leaders, especially in high-stress businesses, have to ask themselves. There is a fine balance between getting things done, getting them done well and burning everyone out in the process.
So how do executives and leaders find that balance? There are a few ways that executives can manage this tenuous reality, and it starts with empathy for employees and peers.
Empathy for your employees
Were you always an executive? Of course not. Odds are, you started somewhere lower in the hierarchy of your current company or another one. Remember the work you put in, what you had to deal with at each level along the way and how hard you worked. Are your employees and teammates experiencing the same things you did?
Empathy and understanding for coworkers and employees goes a long way in reducing burnout, as leadership will more likely recognize unrealistic expectations and pull back on nonessential initiatives.
Education in emotional intelligence
Emotional intelligence (EQ) is considered the ability to understand your own and others’ emotions, which can make for a smoother and more respectful workplace. Using your EQ could make the difference between assuming your employees can handle the workload and knowing when they’re too stressed to function.
By taking the time to consider how your teammates or employees feel, you will be better able to gauge emotions in the office, address emotional reactions to projects and situations and create a more positive and productive environment.
Ethical work practices
Are you (or your organization as a whole) truly working within ethical standards? Is everyone on your team held to the same standards of integrity and accountability?
If you, as the leader, are not basing directives and expectations on ethical practices, your team is more likely to act similarly. Not a recipe for long-term success.
Most companies today see employees as expendable, and many employees do not feel a sense of loyalty to their employers. But as an executive, you know your company is made up of hardworking people that move the needle for the organization every day.
Numerous studies find that employees who feel respected, appreciated and valuable in their organization are more likely to:
- Stay longer than the average five-year span
- Be more committed to the outcomes of a project
- Recommend others to work there
- Retain customers
The link between realistic expectations and productivity
It’s so easy to lose sight of the small pieces in play when you’re looking at the big picture. Leaders need deadlines and expectations, and sometimes must push employees to work harder to meet organization goals.
But when you are empathetic, emotionally aware, ethical and employee-centric, you send a message to your employees that says: “You’re doing the hard work, and you’re appreciated.” You’d be surprised how much more work they can get done in an environment that is rooting for them, rather than one that seems stacked against them.