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8 Behaviors Successful Leaders Use to Motivate Staff

8 Behaviors Successful Leaders Use to Motivate Staff

What makes a great leader in the workplace? Maybe you will be instinctively drawn to a leader because of their charisma, knowledge, and perseverance. But when you actually break it down, it is quite surprising to learn that great leaders are approachable, open, and great communicators. Here are 8 behaviours that we can all learn from those successful leaders.

1. Create an open and approachable environment

There are some managers and CEOs who place themselves on a pedestal and never really get to know their staff. They are living in a cloud of power and have little touch with reality in the workplace. They are obsessed with authority, prestige, and their position. They are rulers, rather than leaders.

But a real leader creates an open and approachable environment where staff are encouraged to say what they think of procedures, policies, and business objectives. There is a much better atmosphere and staff do not hesitate to approach the leader. The result is that there is a much greater sense of collaboration and a team spirit rather than a hierarchy based on fear, power, and privilege. Brian Tracy, Chairman and CEO of Brian Tracy International sums it up very neatly:

“Become the kind of leader that people would follow voluntarily; even if you had no title or position.”

2. Build confidence when the going gets tough

Leaders are expected to lead. In times of crisis, this can be the greatest test of a successful leader. They know how to mobilize the staff by staying calm and courageous. The open approach will pay handsome dividends here as staff will be fully aware of what the crisis is. They know what they will have to achieve in turning the company around and staying ahead of the game.

Steve Jobs as a business leader did not only turn Apple around after its stocks plummeted in 1996 but released new products such as the iPod and iPhone. It is an inspiring example of how a business leader was able to build confidence during a crisis.

3. Build employees’ self-esteem

Everyone craves praise when it is merited, of course! Leaders give praise and encouragement when it is due. They encourage people to let coworkers know about their achievements such as meeting a tough deadline or exceeding a sales target. Great leaders or managers know what people are striving to achieve and they will be the first to encourage and praise. Todd Mansfield who was vice president of Disney Development Company for 11 years realized that in time, as he explains here.

“When we’d sit down to evaluate associates, we’d spend 20% of our time talking about the things they did well and 80% on what needed to be improved. That is just not effective. We ought to spend and energy helping people determine what they are gifted at doing and then align their responsibilities with those capabilities.”- Todd Mansfield

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4. Empower and enable workers

Great leaders work hard to encourage a culture of inclusion at every level. In practice this means that innovation and skills development are strongly encouraged. One great way to empower employees is to keep them in the loop as to what is really happening at every level of your operations. These might include strategies for every contingency, emergency procedures and on-going skills training. The great advantage here is that this sense of empowerment makes them feel that they are a vital part of the company.

Doug Conant, CEO of the Campbell Soup Company, had to rescue the company from falling sales. His recipe for success was to prioritize employee engagement which had been judged as among the worst by Fortune 500. During his ten year stint in which he managed to turn the company around, employee engagement was consistently rated as among the best.

5. Ask questions and listen

Many managers talk loftily about their company’s mission statement and ethics. They talk about staff development and training. They sometimes fail to set the example by actually doing these things such as encouraging communication by asking questions and letting staff ask them. In fact they often talk far too much and do not listen nearly enough. This is why they rarely relate to others and inspire them. John C.Maxwell, the founder of Maximum Impact and an annual speaker at Fortune 500 companies often mentions this very important aspect of leadership:

“Leaders must be close enough to relate to others, but far enough ahead to motivate them.”

6. Take risks

Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, was recently interviewed on leadership. He said that one of the great ways to be an effective leader is to take risks. He gave an example of how he always goes for personality rather than formal qualifications, when hiring staff. Certainly there is a risk here. He also prefers to promote within the company rather than hiring outsiders. It sends a great message to staff and shows that hard work and dedication are actually rewarded. He is the author of The Virgin Way: Everything I Know About Leadership.

7. Be humble and learn from each other

Great leaders will always be on the lookout to learn from their staff and to share wisdom and experience. The leaders who lock themselves in their offices will never be exposed to new ideas. In addition, one of the four critical leadership qualities is humility, according to a Catalyst study which asked 1,500 workers from all around the globe. Humility is learning from criticism and being able to admit you were wrong. Lazlo Bock who is Senior Vice President of People Operations at Google explains what humility means in leadership:

“It is not just humility in creating space for others to contribute, it’s intellectual humility. Without humility, you are unable to learn.”

8. Be passionate about change

Great leaders do not shirk their duty when it comes to making changes which will mean challenges but also great rewards in the long run. If you are passionate about change, you can achieve great success. Indra Nooyi, CEO PepsiCo, is absolutely committed to taking the company in a healthier direction while achieving financial success. She has managed that while implementing a five year plan to cut costs by $5 billion:

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“Leadership is hard to define and good leadership even harder. But if you can get people to follow you to the ends of the earth, you are a great leader.”

Featured photo credit: Sir Richard Branson/ Jarle Naustvik via flickr.com

More by this author

Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

Think of yourself as a cup. Each day, you wake up full. But as you go about your day—getting tasks done and interacting with people—the amount in your cup gradually gets lower. And as such, you get less and less effective at whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing. You’re running out of steam.

The solution is obvious: if you don’t have anything left to pour out, then you need to find a way to fill yourself up again. In work terms, that means you should take a break—an essential form of revitalizing your motivation and focus.

Taking a break may get a bad rap in hustle culture, but it’s an essential, science-based way to ensure you have the capacity to live your life the way you want to live it.

In the 1980s, when scientists began researching burnout, they described this inner capacity as “resources.” We all need to replenish our resources to cope with stress, work effectively, and avoid burnout.[1]

When the goal is to get things done, it may sound counterproductive to stop what you’re doing. But if you embrace the art of taking a break, you can be more efficient and effective at work.

Here are five ways on how you can take a break and boost your productivity.

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1. Break for the Right Amount of Time, at the Right Time

When I started my first job out of college, I was bent on pleasing my boss as most entry-level employees do. So, every day, I punched in at 9 AM on the dot, took a 60-minute lunch break at noon, and left no earlier than 5 PM.

As I’ve logged more hours in my career, I’ve realized the average, eight-hour workday with an hour lunch break simply isn’t realistic—especially if your goal is to put your best foot forward at work.

That’s why popular productivity techniques like the Pomodoro advocate for the “sprint” principle. Basically, you work for a short burst, then stop for a short, five-minute break. While the Pomodoro technique is a step forward, more recent research shows a shorter burst of working followed by a longer pause from work might actually be a more effective way to get the most out of stepping away from your desk.

The team at DeskTime analyzed more than 5 million records of how workers used their computers on the job. They found that the most productive people worked an average of 52 minutes, then took a 17-minute break afterward.[2]

What’s so special about those numbers? Leave it to neuroscience. According to researchers, the human brain naturally works in spurts of activity that last an hour. Then, it toggles to “low-activity mode.”[3]

Even so, keep in mind that whatever motivates you is the most effective method. It’s more about the premise—when you know you have a “finish line” approaching, you can stay focused on the task or project at hand.

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There are many applications and tools that can help you block distracting websites and apps (such as social media) for specific periods of the day. Similarly, you can also use some mailing apps like Mailbrew to receive all the social media content or newsletters you don’t want to miss in your inbox at a time you decide.

So, no matter how long you work, take a break when you sense you’re losing steam or getting bored with the task. Generally, a 10-15 minute break should reinvigorate you for whatever’s coming next.

2. Get a Change of Scenery—Ideally, Outdoors

When it comes to increasing a person’s overall mental health, there’s no better balm than nature. Research has found that simply being outside can restore a person’s mind from mental fatigue related to work or studying, ultimately contributing to improved work performance (and even improved work satisfaction).[4]

No lush forest around? Urban nature can be just as effective to get the most out of your break-taking. Scientists Stephen R. Kellert and Edward O. Wilson, in their book The Biophilia Hypothesis, claimed that even parks, outdoor paths, and building designs that embrace “urban nature” can lend a sense of calm and inspiration, encouraging learning and alertness for workers.

3. Move Your Body

A change of scenery can do wonders for your attention span and ability to focus, but it’s even more beneficial if you pair it with physical movement to pump up that adrenaline of yours. Simply put, your body wasn’t designed to be seated the entire day. In fact, scientists now believe that extended periods of sitting are just as dangerous to health as smoking.[5]

It’s not always feasible to enjoy the benefits of a 30-minute brisk walk during your workday, especially since you’ll most likely have less energy during workdays. But the good news is, for productivity purposes, you don’t have to. Researchers found that just 10 minutes of exercise can boost your memory and attention span throughout the entire day.[6]

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So, instead of using your break to sit and read the news or scroll your social media account, get out of your chair and move your body. Take a quick walk around the block. Do some jumping jacks in your home office. Whatever you choose, you’ll likely find yourself with a sharper focus—and more drive to get things done.

4. Connect With Another Person

Social connection is one of the most important factors for resilience. When we’re in a relationship with other people, it’s easier to cope with stress—and in my experience, getting social can also help to improve focus after a work break.

One of my favorite ways to break after a 30-or-so minute sprint is to hang out with my family. And once a week, I carve out time to Skype my relatives back in Turkey. It’s amazing how a bit of levity and emotional connection can rev me up for the next work sprint.

Now that most of us are working from home, getting some face-to-face time with a loved one isn’t as hard as it once was. So, take the time to chat with your partner. Take your kids outside to run around the backyard. If you live alone, call a friend or relative. Either way, coming up for air to chat with someone who knows and cares about you will leave you feeling invigorated and inspired.

5. Use Your Imagination

When you’re working with your head down, your brain has an ongoing agenda: get things done, and do it well. That can be an effective method for productivity, but it only lasts so long—especially because checking things off your to-do list isn’t the only ingredient to success at work. You also need innovation.

That’s why I prioritize a “brain break” every day. When I feel my “cup” getting empty, I usually choose another creative activity to exercise my brain, like a Crossword puzzle, Sudoku, or an unrelated, creative project in my house.

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And when I’m really struggling to focus, I don’t do anything at all. Instead, I let my brain roam free for a bit, following my thoughts down whatever trail they lead me. As it turns out, there’s a scientific benefit to daydreaming. It reinforces creativity and helps you feel more engaged with the world, which will only benefit you in your work.[7]

Whether you help your kids with their distance learning homework, read an inspiring book, or just sit quietly to enjoy some fresh air, your brain will benefit from an opportunity to think and feel without an agenda. And, if you’re anything like me, you might just come up with your next great idea when you aren’t even trying.

Final Thoughts

Most of us have to work hard for our families and ourselves. And the current world we live in demands the highest level of productivity that we can offer. However, we also have to take a break once in a while. We are humans, after all.

Learning the art of properly taking a break will not only give you the rest you need but also increase your productivity in the long run.

More on the Importance of Taking a Break

Featured photo credit: Helena Lopes via unsplash.com

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