How many times have you said the word “busy” in the last week? This four letter word has become a leadership barrier in companies across America. “I care about my people. I just don’t have time to develop their skills or listen to their concerns. I’m barely meeting my deadlines. I’m just too busy!”
The primary goal of a company leader is to maximize the potential and effectiveness of their people. In the Digital Era where constant change, innovation, and shortened lead times have transformed the economic landscape, leaders are struggling to keep up with work demands, let alone develop the talent of their people.
“I’d like to spend more time building my team, but I’m constantly taking calls, putting out fires, fixing internal mistakes, and finishing tasks that must be completed by days end.” These leaders are loyal, hard-working, dedicated professionals. Yet, as one manager put it, “We are in a sprint every day and running so hard we barely have time to lace up our shoes!”
There are various operational reasons why leaders have gotten to this point. However, it also comes down to a misalignment of priorities and a self-limiting belief that, “It takes a lot of time to coach or validate others.” Since the brain acts upon whatever it hears most, your reality will literally become distorted to support this hypothesis. In other words, you’ll find lots of evidence for this belief, even though it’s sabotaging the performance of your entire team.
Have you ever misplaced your car keys? You’re in a hurry, so you start yelling to your spouse, “Where’d you put my keys!” Your spouse says, “They’re on the counter where you left them.” You exclaim, “NO they aren’t! I’m staring at the counter!” Then you spouse marches over and points at the keys that suddenly appear on the counter.
When you tell yourself the keys aren’t there, your brain deletes them from your awareness, thus creating a negative hallucination or what organizational psychologists refer to as a “blindspot.” Instead of continually reinforcing mental blindspots by using the word busy, use the following five mind tools to jumpstart the performance and morale of those you lead.
#1 – Focus On Your Desired Outcome
Beliefs are opinions and you can change yours at any moment. When you begin telling yourself, “I DO have time to care for my people,” a new possibility is created. Focus on your desired outcome and your brain will start finding ways to accomplish this objective. Tell yourself it only takes a few seconds to help others feel cared for and your people are more important than tasks. When it’s all said and done, employees won’t remember all the To-Do’s you’ve accomplished, but they will remember how you made them feel.
#2 – Offer Positive Praise On The Go
How long does it take to look someone in the eye and say, “I appreciate all your hard work today. Thank you!” as you walk by an employees desk? It requires no extra time and just a little extra effort. One manager confessed, “I got into the habit of ignoring my people as I passed them in the hall because I didn’t want to get interrupted by questions. The other day, one of my employees murmured, “You could at least say, Hi.”
I didn’t realize how much I was negatively impacting my team by this behavior. I still don’t want to get bombarded with questions if I’m in a hurry, yet now I greet them with a warm smile and a hello. If they seem to have a problem, I invite them to walk with me to my destination while we talk. If their questions require more time or investigation, I give them a timeline for when I can get back to them. In this way, they feel valued and are more accommodating when they see I’m in a hurry.
#3 – Give Yourself A Mental Reset
Your employees are directly affected by your body language, mood and energy. If you act stressed or overwhelmed in front of them, they will behave similarly. We have “mirror neurons” in our brain that cause us to replicate the behaviors of those around us. Even if you hold in your frustration or “shoulder it,” your people will still feel it, and that tension in the air will lower productivity and morale.
Therefore, if you’re feeling overloaded, take care of yourself first by using this simple Mental Reset technique. Stop what you’re doing and breathe in slowly through your nose as you mentally count to seven. Hold that breath for the count of seven, then slowly exhale to seven. Do this 7-7-7 breathing technique seven times in a row. It will take a minute, yet within this time your mind will slow down, giving you the freedom to chose your best course of action.
#4 – Use Gratitude As A Productivity Booster
Be grateful you are “in demand” and surrounded with opportunities to learn, overcome challenges, and serve others who need your help. If the choice is between having an abundance of business or not enough, which option would you chose!
People value your product, service, knowledge and you. It might not always get expressed in this way, so continually remind yourself that your hard work is making a difference. Through doing this for yourself, it will become easier to express gratitude with your team. Continually remind employees of their value and that their efforts are positively impacting the company. Validating team members practically guarantees higher engagement and morale.
#5 – Send Non-Verbal Appreciation Cues
If someone filmed your interactions with others without sound, would your body language be sending the message that you see their efforts and are grateful for them? Let your appreciation come out through your body language. Slow down when walking by someone, face them with your shoulders instead of having your body turned away, and give a high-five or a gentle pat on the back when appropriate. Employees want you to notice their efforts. A simple smile and a thumbs up can go a long way in stressful situations.
The way you feel is directly determined by what you tell yourself each day. If you say to yourself, “I am lucky to be in demand and things are improving every day,” you will develop an optimistic outlook that will energetically influence those you lead in a positive way.
Intentionally use the suggested mind tools to validate your employees over the next week and pay attention to the positive responses you’ll receive. Not only will engagement and morale improve, so will your job happiness! Breakthroughs first occur in the mind and then show up in your company’s bottom line.
Tim Shurr is an award-winning leadership keynote speaker and author of, Get Out Of Your Way! Listen to his Psychological Secrets for Skyrocketing Your Business at TimShurr.com/podcast