Let's Get Hi!

By Chris Lincoln, Head of Learning & Development, Puttshack

Chris Lincoln, Head of Learning & Development, Puttshack

Hi! It’s an underrated word. Greeting someone with a wide smile and a “Hi!” can be extremely impactful, and will more than likely inspire the same friendly greeting in response. You’ve taken the time to acknowledge someone, and probably provoked a smile; and the smallest of words can become a powerful catalyst for connection. But you might be surprised by how little this basic interaction is encountered in the workplace. Have we lost the ability to converse meaningfully?

With such a huge variety of literature and guidance on what makes a great and engaging Leader it isn’t any wonder that individuals who aspire to lead a team to success can struggle to identify the tangible action required. Journals detailing complex strategies are often difficult to digest and apply, and articles that attempt to be punchy contains advice that seldom seem to deliver lasting impact. Leaders understand the importance of encouraging their teams, recognising achievement and leading with conviction; but we well might have forgotten how the valuable fundamentals of basic human interactioncan help us to achieve this.

"Get “Hi” with your team, bridge the gap and break down those barriers by removing the “us and them” vibe"

Being nice to your teams is not a display of weakness, as was once so widely thought. Showing genuine interest creates loyalty, nurtures a culture of honesty and builds on the teams feeling of value and worth. A leader that truly inspires loyalty and motivation is one that listens to people, on any level. If you aren’t able to name a colleagues children, or know what they enjoy doing in their spare time, or even how they take their coffee, there’s a chance that your team feel disconnected from you; and their productivity, drive and investment is likely directly affected too. Their interest in your objectives and goals for the business are linked intrinsically to the interest you have shown in them. 75 percent of people leave their job because of their boss, citing disengagement and dissatisfaction, but seemingly we’re not sure why.

So often I have encountered leaders who want to bridge the gap between the frontline and the top, with no idea why the distance exists. Engagement strategies are coming to the forefront of HR discussion forums but while 90 percent of leaders think an engagement strategy would help, only 25 percent of them actually have one. The focus on staff engagement spans complex communication avenues, recognition and reward incentives, and the use of digital platforms. Even for those that do implement a strategy, with so many of these options centred around a reliance on technology we often neglect to stop and ask our teams “hi, how are you?”

89 percent of HR leaders agree that ongoing peer feedback and check-ins are key for successful outcomes. However, the introduction of online staff appraisals for instance only acts to demonstrate how removed we are from an understanding of staff engagement; and how readily we will accept a solution we can carry out from behind our desks. By attempting to review and appraise ones teams using a process which entirely removes the need to directly interact withthem speaks volumes about just why initiatives striving to close the gap only serve to widen it. As the leadership lens sharpens its focus on process and mechanism, the picture of the basic building blocks of interaction and engagement becomes blurred.

Why should we worry about our staff being engaged anyway? Well, those teams who score in the top 20 percent in engagement realise a 41 percent reduction in absenteeism, and 59 percent less turnover. Engaged employees show up every day with a purpose, a sense of belonging and a desire to perform to the best of their ability for their leaders.

I believe we are in a situation where it’s almost uncomfortable to give a compliment or show empathy, yet a recent study found that 96 percent of employees believe showing empathy is an important way to advance employee retention. We don’t compliment unless it’s a reward, that’s what we are taught in every leadership programme, or management development course going; “praise where praise is due.” Well, why not praise where you want to, because you like it and you appreciate your people, you are far more likely do build a culture of motivation and positive engagement if you do so.

Your leadership skills are easily built and implemented but the real drive for your staff force is connection on the basic human level. My advice to any aspiring leaders; take the time to look people in the eye, smile and say “Hi. How are you? How’s your day going?”

Get “Hi” with your team, bridge the gap and break down those barriers by removing the “us and them” vibe. Take genuine interest in the response you get, you never know; you might appreciate it as much as they do.

Besides, it’s much harder to lead a team of people you don’t know.

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