The Impact of Disconnected Leaders

The Impact of Disconnected Leaders

Leading and managing an organisation or team can be a difficult and stressful role that's very often under-appreciated by workers and family members alike. Holding down a management or executive role in organisations of any size frequently leads to stress, over-reaching and working long hours which all have a considerable impact on lifestyle.

What's more, often despite the best of intentions, roles of this nature often lead to a disconnection from colleagues and teams, which will ultimately impact on the performance and bottom-line profits of any business. Whether you're the CEO or team leader in a large organisation or an SME, building a great connection with the people in your organisation is essential for maintaining employee engagement and growing your company. 

What is a disconnected leader?

There can be no doubt that the strains of running a business and leading team of workers are intense. It's sad to say, though, that leaders often have a disconnect in the way they perceive themselves and their leadership abilities, when compared to the way in which others view them.

Research from McKinsey and Company in 2016 confirmed this fact. Their survey group involved more than 52,000 managers and 86% of these assessed themselves as great role models and inspirational leaders. In contrast, a 2016 engagement survey by Gallup highlighted that 82% of workers felt their managers and leaders were "fundamentally uninspiring".

Many workplace cultures feature an "us vs them" culture, leading to lack of employee involvement and eventually harbouring the sort of feelings of resentment that can truly impact on productivity and creativity. It is entirely possible to turn these sorts of cultures around, but it's important that you take the steps to identify the issues.

Indications of disconnected leadership include:

  • Leaders and managers who don't respond or listen to feedback and change behaviour accordingly

  • Team members indicating feelings of being stifled creatively or lacking direction during their working day due to management teams that don't provide leadership or guidance

  • Leaders and management teams that are unwilling to accept ideas or viewpoints which are contrary to their own or not in accordance with their own view of themselves

  • An employee culture that does not encourage workers to speak out or suggest changes and ideas

  • A workplace culture which is driven by rules and procedures, with no room for individuality

Just about every business leader and management executive would want employees to view them in the way that some of the world's greatest business leaders are viewed. But not all business leaders can inspire employees in the manner of Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos. Steve Jobs once said: "It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people, so they can tell us what to do". Getting your organisation’s culture to the stage where smart teams and individuals have the confidence and feel trusted enough to tell leaders what to do, means spending some serious time building those effective relationships that will help grow your business.

Managing from the top to provide effective leadership means building an impelling, inclusive and meaningful business culture which really creates employee motivation. In some ways, you might want to think of yourself as the Winston Churchill of the workplace. Whatever his flaws, you could actually learn quite a lot from his speeches and the way he managed to unite Britain during the second world war.

Five focus areas to improve your leadership and improve employee engagement

As noted above, it's a recognised fact that many employees view their company and business culture in a far more negative light than executives and leadership teams. It's all too often the case that leaders in every level of organisations believe that being "busy" is the same as being effective within their role. Constant preoccupation with an overflowing inbox or frequent attendance at non-essential meetings can make it difficult to make the time to connect effectively with teams and individual employees in a manner that makes a real impact. 

Building the inclusive and meaningful business culture you need means taking a hard look at your own leadership skills and management style first. Try focussing on these five areas as a starting point to develop your leadership skills and become more connected in the workplace:

  1. create the sort of environment that encourages employee involvement where team members are happy to speak up

  2. ensure appreciation is given when it's due and take essential steps to make individuals feel valued

  3. accept feedback from your team and be prepared to implement changes as a result

  4. give employees the autonomy needed to manage their own work, while ensuring guidance and support is always available when needed

  5. promote higher levels of sharing, connection and team spirit by enabling your team to carry out tasks and projects in groups and achieve results collectively

Organisational research in this arena shows that the only thing any business needs do to build a negative workplace culture is precisely nothing! And, unfortunately, that's the direction a lot of organisations go in. Building a positive and thriving workplace culture means encouraging co-operation, accountability and self-direction in all team members. Ultimately, it's down to all members of the leadership and supervisory teams to promote that positivity. 

Practical tips to build and strengthen your connections

If you constantly ignore opportunities to build a personal connection with team members, it will eventually impact on the engagement of your workforce. The following simple tips can help re-establish connections within your teams and in the wider organisational structure:

Create a set of worker expectations that can be expected from you

If you do sincerely wish to reconnect or deepen your connection with your team members, let them know the minimum they can expect from you and advise them that they can hold you accountable for meeting these standards.

Make your presence felt

Make a conscious effort to be visible within your department by walking the floor on a regular basis and seeking opportunities to interact with employees. Engaging regularly with team members helps build rapport and ensures you are perceived to be approachable. There's no benefit obtained when you constantly shut yourself away in your office, so scheduling daily walkabouts in your diary helps build the levels of connectivity you need.

Build a feedback culture

Actively encourage individual feedback and regularly ensure your team know just how much you appreciate their feedback and the work they do. Building levels of feedback is highly motivational for employees and is a way organisations can benefit from valuable ideas and suggestions that can really make a difference to the business.

Make changes to your own communication style

All people process information in different ways. If your typical communicative style is by way of email, you are missing valuable opportunities to share information in person at regular team meetings or catch ups. What's more, consciously meeting up with teams allows workers to feedback and comment on your proposals and can lead to an improvement to productivity or understanding. It's easy enough to distribute papers or instructions at scheduled catch ups and ensures all team members have actually received your correspondence. Constantly firing off email communications tends to maintain the distance that may have built up between you and your team.

Stay in touch with daily activities of employees and teams

One of the major drawbacks of working in senior leadership roles is losing touch with the activities of departments and individuals within the organisation. This can help increase your feelings of isolation and confirm team members’ belief that the organisation has a disconnected leadership team. For leaders at any level, it's important to discover the best ways for keeping in touch with all aspects of the organisation. That may be through meeting attendance, creating departmental engagement sessions or regular personal check-ins – find what works best for you and your team.  

Don’t forget to socialise

Keeping in touch with activities and social events organised out of hours and making time to go along can be a great way to build connections with team members. It can make connecting on a personal level easier, help show another side to your personality and add a little fun to the working day. 

Learning how to be a good leader and building real connections with team members takes time. Although it may be a little difficult at first, you will soon discover connecting with the workforce becomes second nature and adds variety and benefits to your own work life. While you are tweaking your habits and behaviour, keep in mind why you are making these changes and maintain honesty and authenticity in all your interactions.

First Ascent are specialists at maximising the performance of leaders and provide tailored development programmes that can inspire teams and organisations to greater heights. Our programmes incorporate contemporary and scientifically robust tools to help build higher levels of team engagement and a motivated workforce. Get in touch to discuss ways we can assist in developing your leaders and building the valuable connections needed to enhance productivity and creativity, and ultimately drive your organisation's performance.


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