Dramatic change has descended upon leaders and the workforce due to the social media revolution. The warp speed shift of workplace communications, interaction and information exchange is causing chaos, mistrust and poor face-to-face communications. This change is forcing leadership to think and interact differently with their workforce in order to engage, encourage and increase their performance.
The John Quincy Adams quote, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader,” lays the accountability foundation for leadership in the 21st Century. But with the unending expansion of technology and the impact of instant global communications, the profound burden for leadership is learning how to engage, energize and encourage the workforce under these constraints while enhancing performance and profitability.
For leaders, personal accountability is the key to business success, sustainability and improved bottom line profitability. Accountability can improve workforce morale and make them more responsible for their actions and improve results. On the other hand, poor accountability leads to low morale and little or no personal responsibility.
“Leadership is practiced not so much in words as in attitude and in actions,” stated Harold S. Geneen, past president of the ITT Corporation. Accountability can be inspiring, motivating and engaging, any of which can serve to reduce workforce negativity, improve morale and increase performance.
Accountability yields respect. There is no better teacher than leading by example. This includes actions, words, deeds, body language and taking responsibility for good and bad results. The better the example set by the leader the more respect the leader commands and the more engaged the workforce becomes. Throw out the old rule “do as I say, not as I do.” Instead adopt the philosophy “let me show you by example so you can follow.” The better the example and the more consistently the actions align with the words, the better the results.
Many people who wish to be leaders are not willing to accept the responsibilities of leadership and pay the price. You cannot expect to excel as a leader if you do not accept the other half of the equation: setting the example. Without being the example for what you expect, you are dictating not leading.
Success stories yield engagement. Often overlooked, storytelling plays a key role in a leader’s communication strategy. The right stories are motivational, moving and memorable. Deliberately build a file of stories you can use at a moment’s notice to make a point, give encouragement or inspire. Personal stories of real incidents and real people have lasting value and are long remembered teachable moments.
For example, tell a story about yourself and how you took personal responsibility for a missed deadline on behalf of your team along with the steps you took to ensure meeting future deadlines by teaching your team how to work more efficiently. A story like this reassures your workforce you will not hang them out to dry and encourages them to try harder to help everyone succeed.
Personalize these stories, name names and give credit where credit is due. When leadership is accountable and uses personalized success stories as part of the communication strategy, the workforce becomes more engaged and productive.
Encouragement yields increased performance. Know when to use I and we when communicating. For the leader, I should always describe personal accountability and we or you should always be used to inspire, motivate and give praise. With the incredible onslaught of impersonal communications via social media, email and text, an in-person word of encouragement, congratulations or “keep up the good work, you’re doing a good job,” will dramatically increase performance levels and profitability.
If you are not good at encouraging others, practice. It is a key component of accountability leadership. And, if possible, always do it in person.
New leadership tools are required to manage and inspire the new social media driven techno-savvy workforce. Lead by example, take responsibility and build a story library that encourages, motivates and inspires improved performance and increased profitability.
Pat Heydlauff speaks from experience. She works with organizations that want to create an environment where employees are engaged, encouraged and involved, and with people who want to be in control, anxiety-free and confident. She is the author of the forthcoming book, Engage: How to Lead with Power, Productivity and Promise and Feng Shui: So Easy a Child Can Do It. She can be reached at 561-799-3443 or www.engagetolead.com.