A leader talks. A good leader listens. A great leader gives gifts. The best leaders motivate.
Just as you can talk without listening to your conversational partner, you can give gifts to your team without truly inspiring them to be more productive or accomplish goals. Gifts are important elements of motivation, but you must use them effectively to spur your workforce to action. Here are a few tips and tricks used by the best leaders in their gift-giving practices:
The Gift of Vulnerability
Many business leaders desire to seem stalwart, stoic, and stony – to look as upright and unshakable as 19th century generals in oil paintings. Unfortunately, a hard, distant, and emotionless leader is hardly what employees crave; they need someone open and approachable who is willing to kindly consider suggestions, offer friendly advice and feedback, and lend support to their team.
Thus, the first and best gift a leader should give is vulnerability. Workers need to see the human side of their bosses, so they feel connected to the organization and associated with its successes and failures. Leaders who show uncertainty, ask for help from their team, and express sadness as well as joy are more likely to engage their employees and see high productivity.
The Gift of Attention
A hardworking employee will quickly give up and become indolent when their efforts are not recognized by their boss. Though leaders have more to do than watch their team work, they must make noticing the efforts of their team a high priority if they want productivity to soar.
Unexpected attention can be particularly delightful to the most industrious workers. Leaders who recognize not just the completion of a project, but the superb quality of the details will inspire not just one employee but the entire team. Still, if a leader’s time is particularly pressed, it is especially important to pay attention to employees who specifically request a meeting. Leaders must listen to questions, comments, and concerns of their team to prevent high turnover, which results in even more wasted time.
The Gift of Public Praise
Being recognized by a boss is one thing; being recognized by a boss, coworkers, and the rest of the organization is another. If an employee has gone above and beyond – by completing a project with remarkable excellence, showing tremendous dedication to the business, or earning praise in some other way – leaders should feel the need to publicly commend that employee.
Public praise doesn’t have to take the form of a ceremony or lavish celebration. Acknowledgement during a meeting, at a small party, or in a company-wide memo might suffice. Awards for employees can be small and affordable while still providing a significant personal impact. Leaders should be able to identify the type of praise their employees most value and deliver it to improve productivity and morale.
The Gift of Boundaries
It would be inappropriate for a boss to tell their team what to eat, where to live, who to date, and how to vote. A business leader only has authority over their employees’ work; anything else is a grave transgression.
There should be several boundaries between leaders and workers. First, leaders should put a tall, broad wall between themselves and their employees’ personal lives. Workers should be allowed to relax when they aren’t on the clock, and having a boss around during their off-hours prevents them from recuperating after a long day at work. Besides exchanging vague pleasantries about known loved ones, bosses should avoid commenting on anyone’s home lives.
Additionally, leaders can give the gift of boundaries within the workplace. For example, an employee’s desk should more or less be their own; they should be able to organize and decorate as they wish. Further, bosses should avoid hovering over their workers while they complete projects. Helicopter leadership does not inspire employees to be self-sufficient or innovative, which can damage the business in the long term.
The Gift of Time
Sometimes, all a worker needs to be productive is more time. Leaders should be willing and able of being lenient regarding deadlines or working hours. Vacations and breaks are necessary for employees to maintain their health, and leaders should be understanding of the general need for time off. If ever a leader is to be generous, it is with the gift of time.