Never hold discussions with the monkey when the organ grinder is in the room – Winston Churchill
The early American Indians, as the story goes, had a unique practice of training young braves. On the night of a boy’s thirteenth birthday, after learning hunting, scouting, and fishing skills, was put to one final test. He was placed in a dense forest to spend the entire night alone. He was blindfolded and taken several miles away. When he took off the blindfold, he was in the middle of a thick woods and he was terrified.
Every time a twig snapped, he visualized a wild animal ready to pounce. After what seemed like an eternity, dawn broke and the first rays of sunlight entered the interior of the forest. Looking around, the boy saw flowers, trees, and the outline of a path. Then, to his utter astonishment, he beheld the figure of a man standing just a few feet away, armed with a bow and arrow. It was his father. He had been there all along.
Good leaders know a thing or two about protecting that which is important. The success of your business or organization is linked to the morale of its employees or volunteers. While everyone’s happiness is not the responsibility of the leader, it is in the best interest of the leader to see to it that strong morale in the work environment is maintained for maximum benefit.
Why does this matter to the leader and why should it be on his or her radar? Workplace morale seems to always be a challenge. The Daily News last year (http://nydn.us/1insfoc) cited a Gallup report showing that 70% of Americans polled either hate their job or are “disengaged” from their work, and even perks don’t work if they’re unhappy with management. Until you make the building and maintain of strong morale a priority it will continue to be a negative issue you contend with. Here are five ways you can work to protect it.
1.) Put others first.
This is a basic leadership principle but one that yields high returns when applied. System-wide, when people within your organization learn to put others first it sends the message that you are committed not only to your own success but to the success of those you work with. The all-in is a signal of your buy-in which makes coming to work much more pleasant. When you don’t have to question where others loyalties it’s like a breath of fresh air. You build and protect morale by putting others first.
2.) Have your people’s backs.
Nothing will promote strong morale among your people quicker than when they know you have their backs. You give your team the ability to excel and create when they know you support them and when they know you have their backs not just in the good times but in the down times. Loyalty cuts both ways and when you demonstrate it both in words and actions you are protecting your morale not just for today but for tomorrow. Having their backs is about trust and it is a much needed stabilizer when team members don’t have to second guess you.
3.) Keep your word.
Protecting morale is saying you will have their backs and then having it. Having the backs of your people is not giving them carte’ blanch for things that are not in keeping with your values and goals. But it is about you as the leader giving team members permission to use their creative powers to grow and produce. You keep your word by giving your support and equipping them with the necessary tools for their development. You keep your word by being their chief defender when they come under unfair attacks. Keep your word and you will protect morale. It’s an issue of respect.
4.) Be consistent
Nothing will undermine the morale in your office or organization quicker than the inconsistencies of the leadership. Sadly, petty turf wars, jealousies, and office politics can sabotage office morale when self-interests and the actions of a few create a climate that affects the whole. As the leader, this is on-going battle you must be on guard against. A strong leader will be consistent in their dealings with everyone.
5.) Effective communication
There is a difference between regular communication and effective communication. A smart leader will not take it for granted that just because they put forth information that it is enough. George Bernard Shaw said, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” Effective leaders communicate, and protect morale, not by edict but by relationship. The burden is on you, not your people, for how well you communicate. Don’t leave it to chance. Protect morale by strong communication skills.
What do you say?
© 2014 Doug Dickerson
If you enjoy reading Doug’s leadership insights you will especially enjoy his books, Leaders Without Borders & Great Leaders Wanted. Order them at www.dougsmanagementmoment.blogspot.com