My job as a business owner is to lead. While that may consist of a lot of different tasks, the most important is making sure that my team is working together well, that all the moving parts are churning along smoothly, and that everyone feels like they’re doing their part to produce something great. Sounds simple in the long run, but every single day can present minor challenges to company morale that build up over time.
More often than not, those challenges really depend on how you’re feeling: not only is attitude contagious; it also directly affects work behavior. If you’re worried that your attitude has been negatively impacting your company culture, ask yourself the following questions.
Are you showing trust in your employees?
In the beginning, it can be hard to delegate tasks to others when your livelihood, your dreams and your “baby” are on the line. For the first few months of your company’s existence, perhaps you were flying solo, shopping your precious ideas around tech and VC conferences and sacrificing all of your time and money for a dream. You then were able to take it from a seed to a real company, all to your exact specifications.
When the work begins to be too much and it’s time to hire, it’s hard to trust others to do things the exact same way you do. The problem is, these concerns can escalate into a stressful environment: hovering over your employees shows a lack of trust. When people feel mistrusted and micromanaged, it can often lead to nervous slip-ups.
If you catch yourself hovering, take a break, trust that you did the right thing when you decided to hire these people (with all of their specializations), and remember your baby has wings now — it’s going to fly on its own. You also need to take this same mentality with your freelancers. I’ve found that freelancers are much more likely to complete amazing work if they are shown trust on a consistent basis too.
Do you love your work all the time? Does upper management?
There is no job in existence that doesn’t come with its own low points, especially in creative industries. You lose your biggest client, or you realize that your latest marketing campaign was less effective than you thought it would be, or that your launch date needs to pushed back another three months. Some days are just tough to get through.
When the sky seems to be caving around you, it becomes extremely important to stay calm and not lose focus. A Harvard study calls this “Uneventful Management,” which involves updating employees in moments of crises, keeping calm and using leadership to help instill loyalty. A negative attitude can also prevent people who have great ideas from coming forward out of fear that they’ll elicit an even more negative reaction from you.
I find that when I’m in times like this, I like to go on walks. This always cheers me up and clears my head. When you’re stressed and not loving work, figure out a way to get over it and not let it shine through.
Do you value all team members equally?
Nobody likes to confront their own attitudes and assumptions, especially when they don’t believe that these attitudes (if they even exist) are big enough to pose a problem. However, these issues need to be addressed by anyone who works in upper management. Certain preconceived notions or biases insidiously present themselves not just when it comes to hiring and promotion, but also in social interaction and other unexpected moments, which leads to tension, discomfort or worse.
Every leader should strive to make their employees feel safe, accepted, equal and able to express themselves freely in the workplace.
Do employees feel engaged?
After all, it’s not just about your attitude. Keeping employees updated, asking about their well-being and keeping your focus on the greater goal will all help elevate employees’ attitudes.
Gallup research reveals that actively disengaged employees cost the American economy up to $350 billion per year in lost productivity. But in an interview for Gallup, author Curt Coffman suggests that maintaining engagement can be done by simply nurturing a strong relationship and fostering clear communication between employees and managers.
With that in mind, I try and ask every employee on a monthly basis if they feel engaged. I typically go on a 15-minute walk with every worker below me and ask them for their honest and unfiltered thoughts. They know this is “off the record” so they can be open. I then help them in every way possible to be more engaged.
Are you doing what it takes to keep your employees happy?