“Congratulations on your new beginning” read the card accompanying a beautiful bouquet of flowers my friend recently received from her husband. What a magnificent way to celebrate a new job, don’t you think? Only thing is, she wasn’t starting a new job. She had just learned that her division, along with her job of 23 years, was being phased out.
“What a sweet message that provided just the right perspective,” she said as she shared how his note impacted her as well as other members of her staff on the receiving end of the distressing news.
Her experience, coupled with the upcoming holidays, made me think about key characteristics highly successful leaders possess, as well as prize and cultivate in others.
If you haven’t already, take time this Thanksgiving to express your gratitude to your exceptional employees who help make your workplace hum with their ability to:
1. Reframe circumstances. Reframing, a resiliency skill, is looking at things from a differing, more helpful perspective. Like your employees, my friend’s husband could have panicked at bad news. Instead, he chose to look at the positive. Next time someone makes a mistake, you can help them see it as a terrible thing, or as a wonderful opportunity to grow and tighten up your systems to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
2. Offer encouragement. No matter how great the job or wonderful an environment you’ve created, challenges and difficult circumstances arise. As someone once said, “You’re either in a tough time, coming out of a tough time, or heading into a tough time.” When an employee is struggling, a team is facing a tough decision or a business is besieged, sometimes all it takes to muster the strength to get through it is a well-placed word of encouragement.
3. Be a firm but gentle truth teller. While having everyone say yes or massage your ego may feel great in the short run, you and your business will suffer if you aren’t surrounded by people willing to tell you the truth from their perspective. It’s virtually impossible to be at your best in a vacuum. As Solomon said, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Even with a fantastic boss or employee, it can take a great deal of courage to disagree, offer a differing opinion or hold someone gently accountable for their actions and results.
4. Disagree civilly and respectfully. Conflict is inevitable in the workplace, and how it is handled determines whether your work environment and employees are safe and positioned to be highly productive. Take special notice of employees who practice listening, trying to understand one another’s perspective, and who leave others feeling uplifted instead of torn down when problems arise.
5. Consistently work hard. Wouldn’t it be great if every employee was a rock star who worked hard and made your job exceptionally easy? Take time this holiday season to thank your sometimes unsung heroes who step up to the plate and deliver for you day after day, week after week, year after year.
While Thanksgiving is a time we set aside to formally express gratitude, my hope is you regularly notice and comment on all the wonderful things your staff does the whole year through. The more you do, the more you’ll see the behaviors and characteristics you prize. Who wouldn’t want to perform at their best and go the extra mile for a boss who truly sees and appreciates them?