Turning A Light On Workplace Connections

Effective Leaders Should Strive To Convey Warmth

Posted: August 27, 2013

The July-August issue of Harvard Business Review sheds some additional light on the age-old question as to whether it’s better for a person to be feared or loved by suggesting that the key is to try to achieve some of each, or, as the article states, to balance competence with warmth.

However, in pursuing this balance, a leader must strive to achieve warmth first, an order that’s the reverse of what many leaders think is correct.

Conveying warmth is the path to influence. It promotes the development of trust among others, and facilitates communication and the absorption of ideas.

Creating warmth will enable a person to connect immediately with those around him, demonstrating that he hears them, understands them and can be trusted. In most cases, trustworthiness is the first thing that we look for in others.

Perhaps not surprisingly, most people want to establish their competence first, showing themselves to be competent and “up to the challenges at hand.” They know their intentions are honorable, but others don’t necessarily know it.

Without that knowledge, subordinates will comply outwardly with a leader’s wishes but won’t necessarily fully internalize the organization’s values, culture or mission in a sincere or lasting way.

As the article states, before people decide what they think of your message, they decide what they think of you. Once you establish your warmth, your strength is received as a welcome reassurance, and your leadership is viewed as a gift rather than a threat.

Developing ‘A Feel For The Job’  

According to the July/August issue of Training, more and more companies are exploring how to help their workforces intuit customer needs. Such skills are every bit as teachable as technical skills.

The process begins by teaching employees how to ask customers and prospects good opening questions to understand their unspoken needs. Emotional intelligence is essential in helping employees understand the perspective of the other party.

Nothing is more important than listening skills, which can be assessed by having one employee tell a story or explain a service to another employee. A crucial part of the process is to make sure that employees not only listen, but also be alert to nonverbal cues, especially those that indicate that the customer isn’t happy.

Employees should be trained to ensure that customers are in agreement with what is being discussed as the best solution.

A good way to do so is to teach employees how to summarize customer needs, and the agreed-upon solution at the end of the interaction.

Finally, encourage employees to think in terms of building long-term relationships rather than treating each interaction as episodic. This will develop their ability to think about each customer’s larger, long-run goals.  

Keeping the focus on customers’ satisfaction should organically generate additional business.

Have Employees Set Goals

According to an article in the July issue of HR Magazine, this practice provides rewarding opportunities for employees to assume responsibility for their contributions and development.   

The first step is to prepare employees for this endeavor by making certain they are aware of top-level objectives, and how their department supports those objectives.

Once you have set your own goals for the coming period, ask employees to do the same.

To facilitate that effort, share information and clarify expectations, and ask employees to include at least one outcome measure for each
goal specified.

Once you have conveyed to employees that you are responsible for ensuring the relevance of their tasks, review their goals.

In the process, you might find it appropriate to assign one employee’s goal to another person, or to break large goals into smaller pieces.

It’s imperative that an employee’s goals fit into your goals.

The concluding activity is to ensure alignment of goals. This will involve meeting again with employees to agree on final goals, and making sure that expectations are clear.

Being part of the goal-setting process makes employees much clearer as to how their work contributes directly to the company’s annual goals, and such involvement results in higher job satisfaction and employee engagement.

Managers who achieve this alignment and engagement are usually rewarded with a promotion and career advancement.    

Philip B. DuBose is a management professor at the James Madison University College of Business.

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