I have interacted with a number of leaders throughout my career so far.
I've seen some leaders try to use their power or hierarchy to impress their employees — only to be translated as self-promotion — but it has been a leader’s unique actions that have made a lasting impression.
There have been seven things leaders have said or done that have really stood out for me and made a difference in my perception of what it means to be a leader and create a positive work environment.
1. Executive Presence From Day One
During orientation, employees are on information overload.
When I look back at what I remember the most about orientation, it wasn’t operating policies, an explanation of benefits (which was taught through a PowerPoint marathon) or filling out what seemed like an endless number of forms.
It was when the CEO came in person and talked to the group about the organization’s values and encouraged employees to grow throughout the organization.
There aren’t many CEOs who do this, but by being given 25 minutes from the leader, I felt supported from the start.
2. Thank You
Jackson Brown once said, “Don’t forget, a person’s greatest emotional need is to feel appreciated.”
As humans, we crave the feeling of appreciation. Often times, organizations seem to forget one of the simplest, yet most effective forms of expression is saying "thank you."
I have even received handwritten thank you cards to my home address. It really does go a long way.
3. Is there anything I can do for you?
I was asked to come to one of our executive leader’s offices to set up a report for tracking purposes and explain components of the report.
I obviously hurried down without hesitation to assist.
After all, I’m young and relatively new, so when a leader asks me to do something, I do it.
As I was finishing my explanation and letting this leader know it was my pleasure to help, the person looked at me and said, "Is there anything I can do for you?"
I have to admit, I was a little shocked, and I am sure my face showed it.
Even though I didn’t have an immediate need for anything, this question got me thinking, and it let me know this leader was someone I could come to in the future.
4. Well, what do you think?
When leaders ask this question, I immediately feel like my ideas are valued.
Different employees have very different perspectives.
The diversity of their ideas and thoughts can offer more innovative approaches to achieve better outcomes.
5. Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due
No matter the role, position or ranking, employees want to hear when they have done a good job.
It lets us know our contributions are not only recognized, but valued.
I have learned real leaders will take a little more than their share of the blame and a little less than their share of the credit.
What is even better is when a leader acknowledges individuals who helped on a specific task or project out loud.
Yes, bonuses and fancy luncheons are nice, but what means the most to me are the small, simple ways you notice when I have done good work.
This also shows me you respect those who work for you.
6. Yes, I have a minute for you.
Leaders are constantly pulled in multiple directions and wear many hats: recruiting, training, coaching, monitoring, evaluating, mentoring, budgeting and reporting.
The list could go on and on.
Employees certainly don’t want to be burdens.
When you tell me you have time for me regardless of your next meeting starting in five minutes, it lets me know you recognize your people are your most valuable assets.
7. I’m sorry.
This is seldom said by leaders, as many leaders are reluctant to offer direct apologies, according to a leadership survey by the Forum Corporation.
When you are considered the boss, it is often times easier to make excuses than avoid admitting your mistakes.
When a leader has actually apologized by saying, “I’m sorry,” this lets me not only know the person is human, but he or she will also take responsibility.
The leader earned my respect even more when I heard this.