Leadership tips to help build a thriving workforce
By Sarah-Jayne, COO of ILIXIUM
As a leader, empowering my employees is my top priority, and I’m constantly finding new ways to motivate the team to reach their full potential. Some of these approaches I’ve learned from my own mentors, others I’ve had to establish myself while on the path less trodden as a woman in tech. With the focus on employee wellbeing becoming more and more critical for businesses looking to attract and retain talent, some traditional styles of leadership are finally succumbing to pressure. It’s exciting to be a part of this revolution and observe how leaders are adapting to cultivate thriving teams in today’s climate.
Here are five of my own top tips for leading a modern, motivated workforce.
A new way of recruiting
Talent and skills shouldn’t be the only measures of suitability when looking to expand your team. I’ve loved seeing the rise of ‘culture fit’ style interviews, which place more onus on how that person interacts with existing colleagues and clients. In fact, it’s a tactic I’ve been using for a while; specifically, I like to look for that extra element of passion during the recruitment process. For me, passion is just as important as aptitude, and acknowledging that spark will ensure that new hires have a dedication to the company mission that others may not possess.
Embracing soft skills
Everyone deserves access to a knowledgeable mentor who can help them with task-orientated problems, however, I don’t believe the support should stop there. As I touched upon earlier, I’ve been in this industry long enough to know that intelligence can only get you so far; at a certain level, you and your peers always become equally matched. That’s why I like to work with my team on developing their soft skills to really excel in the workplace. Exemplary communication, teamwork, and time management are just a few of the skills that can help set employees apart from their colleagues and unlock their own leadership potential.
Every worker, regardless of their seniority, needs a manager who will listen to their specific goals and tailor a plan for them. That being said, simply assigning concrete steps removes all employee agency, and this can sometimes lead to them losing interest. To really maintain engagement, I tend to set a broad 2–5-year plan for my mentees, but will ultimately give them more control over the finer details of their progression, and ask them what they think is required of them to reach that next level. If awarded this agency, I find employees are often more motivated, and will end up coming to me with proactive ideas about how they can advance not only their role, but the business as a whole.
Communicating the purpose
Transparency is key for all aspects of leadership, but one often overlooked area is transparent communication around the wider business purpose. Employees need that inspiration to understand just how fundamental their role is in driving the business forward – and sometimes this wider strategy needs to be shown, not told. Showing mentees other parts of the company that are directly impacted by their day-to-day tasks can be extremely motivating to maintain a high quality of work. This is particularly important when dealing with remote team members, who may not be aware of how they feed into other areas of the business. Finding time to set up and lead virtual meetings between sub-teams can help overcome silos and encourage collaboration on the wider business purpose.
Leading with empathy
Empathy is a trait which has only recently emerged as powerful leadership tool. As a woman, I’ve always found it to be more intrinsic to my natural management style, although sadly, some industries still view it as a sign of weakness. Throughout my career, I’ve learned to turn my empathy into a superpower, and it’s been transformational to how I lead. By really getting to know my employees and understanding who they are at their core – what drives them, inspires them, makes them tick – I’ve managed to build relationships based on honesty and trust. I know they’ll come to me in good times and bad, and I’m proud to be that person for employees at all levels. In the end, I believe that leading with empathy helps me get the most out of my team, and sets them on course for success.
These are the tips that have helped shape who I am as a leader, but they can’t be applied with a broad-brush stroke; in my experience, the best leaders are those who take a tailored approach to each and every employee. If I could summarise my advice into one word: listen. Listen to the individual needs, feedback, and goals of your team, and use that to fuel your decisions. It really makes all the difference.