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The 6 Pillars of Leadership # 1 MORALE

Updated: Dec 1, 2022

Five years ago, I was sitting on a beach in Greece when I received a phone call that would change everything. A call I had been waiting for.

I was tasked to move to Malaysia, where a team demoralised by strong headwinds needed help.

Colleagues told me it was impossible, even betting on my failure. But it was the challenge I had been waiting for.

Within three years, the team in Malaysia went from the lowest earning to the second-largest performer in our global network. But I can’t take credit because I didn’t turn their fortunes around; the team did it for themselves.

I gave them the tools to do things differently and achieve a better outcome.

I could do this because in more than 15 years in corporate management, I’ve learnt the skills that leaders need to unlock the potential of their teams. And I’m going to share them with you, one at a time.

This is the first of my newsletters to help YOU achieve your leadership success.

“It is not numbers or strength that bring the victories in war. No, it is when one side goes against the enemy with god’s gift of a stronger morale that their adversaries, as a rule, cannot withstand them.”

Xenophon, The Persian Expedition

A room full of smiling, motivated people vs a room full of tired, gloomy faces.

Which room do you think will be better prepared for challenges and change?

Morale is the first cornerstone of leadership success that we’ll explore.

In many organisations, morale is something that can ebb and flow, but there are things that you can do to keep teams motivated and organically raise morale in your workforce.

Never play the blame game.

Nothing is more demotivating than working in a culture of blame. A culture where fingers are pointed when things go wrong quickly becomes toxic.

People become scared – scared to use their initiative, take risks, push boundaries or speak up, for fear of public shaming, punishment or losing their job.

A business can’t make progress if the employees are standing still!

Make it safe to try and fail, and you’ll create a safe, secure culture of continuous improvement.

Build a culture of respect

From Saudi Arabia and China to Israel and the U.S, I’ve worked in organizations around the world. While their workplace cultures can vary dramatically, I’ve found one common factor that helps to drive morale in their workplaces – the need for respect to be happy.

The best way to raise morale is to build a culture of respect for one another. No matter their position in their organization, employees should show respect for everyone around them and for themselves. Respect is, after all, the glue that means that teams don’t fall apart when there is tension and disagreement. Instead, it enables the team to share responsibility and take the journey to victory together.

As a leader, you are responsible for modelling respectful behaviour and holding your teams to account for it.

Earn trust by unburdening your team

Before you can earn respect, you must earn your team’s trust. EARN, not expect. Because trust isn’t given freely and, like a fire, you have to kindle it constantly to keep it bright and strong. If the fire goes out, it can be hard to ignite it again.

As a leader, the way you communicate with your team is one of your greatest tools for building their trust in you.

Use “I” not “you” when you talk about problems

“If this issue isn’t resolved, I am accountable for the consequences”.

Taking ownership unburdens your team and frees them to do their best work and take calculated risks without fear – because they know you have their back.

Use “we” not “you” when you talk about challenges and aspirations

  • “We’re going to fix this by doing X, Y or Z”

  • “We’re going to reach our target”

  • “We’re going to overcome this challenge”

Communicate goals and KPIs clearly and inspect what you expect

Research by goal-setting theorists Gary Latham and Edward Locke indicates that, in the right business culture, setting goals can have a powerful and positive impact on job performance. This culture of course is what we’ve discussed above – a safe, respectful environment where the leader takes accountability for risk and failure, and the team feel empowered to take on the challenges associated with their role.

You may have heard the phrase, what gets measured, gets managed. It’s crucial to make your team’s goals clear and ensure KPIs are measured and met. Inspect what you expect to be sure your trust in your team is well placed.

Goals motivate people to make plans and energize them to make an effort for longer. Achieving their goals renew their morale and motivation – a circle of positive, progressive momentum that all businesses should strive to accomplish.


Five morale-boosting things to start doing today

1 – STOP pointing the finger if something goes wrong and DON’T let anyone else in your teams do it either.

2 – START modelling respect by listening to what everyone has to say and taking the time to recognise the strengths and accomplishments of your team.

3 – START showing your teams you are prepared to be accountable by using “I” and “we”.

4 – KEEP showing up for your team to keep kindling the fire of trust.

5 – SET realistic goals for your team and celebrate with them when they achieve them.

Next time…

We’ll be doing a deeper dive in to ways you can build trust with your peers and your superiors with “How to Win Trust with Candour, Communication and Conviction”.

Get involved in the conversation by connecting with me on LinkedIn:

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