At what point is moving the needle and progressing as a team more important than your teammates themselves? This is something many executives and leaders, especially in high-stress industries, have to ask themselves. There is, undoubtedly, a fine balance between getting things done, getting them done well, and burning everyone out in the process.
So how do you find that balance? There are a few ways that executives can manage this tenuous reality, and it starts with empathy, education, ethics, and employee-centric motivations.
Empathy for Your Employees
Were you always an executive? Odds are you worked from entry level up. Remember the work you put in, what you had to deal with at each level on the way, and how hard you worked. Aren’t your employees and teammates going through the same things you did on your way up?
Focusing on empathy (and understanding) for your coworkers and employees goes a long way in alleviating stress from overload. It also prevents you from having unrealistic expectations of outcomes.
Education in Emotional Intelligence
What do you know about EQ? Emotional intelligence is considered the ability to understand your own and others’ emotions, which makes for a smoother and more respectful workplace. EQ also makes 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 feel (and maybe a few EQ aptitude tests), you place yourself as an executive in higher standing. 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
Sure, you abide by the labor laws and company overtime policies, but are you truly working within ethical standards? Do you have a lot of tension in your group? Are your employees frequently concerned about being overworked or underpaid? 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, equal practices, your team is not going to be productive or happy.
While some ethical concerns go deeper than just one team, having an executive stand up for them can be empowering to employees. They will feel safer and more willing to work for you, and the work they produce will be free from pressures not related to the project.
(Disclaimer: this is probably the hardest change to institute, and one that goes well into company culture — a discussion for another day.)
So often in today’s world, companies see employees as expendable. But as you — an executive — know, your company is made up of hardworking people that move the needle towards progress every single day. Why not give a little appreciation?
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
So really, by understanding your employees as people, you’re ensuring the success of your company on a larger level. What have you got to lose?
The Link Between Realistic Expectations and Productivity
It’s so hard to lose sight of the small pieces in play when you’re looking at the big picture. You have to have deadlines and expectations, and sometimes you have to push your employees to work a little harder to meet them.
But when you are empathetic, emotional, ethical, and employee-centric, you send a message to your employees: “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 is saying, “You’re not doing enough.”