Imagine what it would be like to feel confident and knowledgeable about the work you do because your boss keeps you well-informed about your job and the goings-on at your company. Imagine working for a boss who is so wonderfully open and supportive that it is a pleasure to go to work.
Sounds wonderful, but is it realistic?
In another lifetime, I worked at a hard-edged, soul-less corporation that seemed more interested in profits than in people. I saw my boss skulk into the office every morning and go straight to his desk without acknowledging his staff that he walked past. I thought, all he needs to do is say ''good morning'' and that would ease the tension in the office. He chose not to. I look back on that time and shudder.
My former boss did not have soft skills - the human skills to enhance the work of his team and make them feel good about doing their jobs - and I found him difficult to communicate with. This contributed to negativity at work.
Business leaders with excellent soft skills are approachable and make people want to go to work. Andreas Maier, CEO of XXL Cloud Inc., is one of those leaders. He is a people-oriented boss with an open door policy, and understands the importance of treating his employees well. He takes the time to mentor and keep his team's spirits high.
''I mentor people to give them the knowledge they need to have," he says, "This allows me to hand over responsibility. I completely accept failure. If we do not fail, we can not learn. All this makes people, employees, customers and partners loyal. They see that one is still human and not a money machine!''
Trust Your Team
I can confidently say that when people are trusted, supported, empowered, and made responsible, they do a good job, are reliable and motivated. Exactly the right blend of soft skills that an employer wants in an employee, or that a not-for-profit wants in a volunteer.
As the current Manager of Model Relations at TOM* - Toronto Men's Fashion Week, and in the past as a trainer and volunteer coordinator with gay men's outreach at the AIDS Committee of Toronto, I understand that in order to build a strong and capable team, volunteers must understand their role and how they fit into the big scheme of things.
I tell my volunteers that I believe in them; that I know they can take on the responsibility that I give them. When this happens, volunteers feel appreciated and empowered, and strive to do their best when trusted with specific tasks.
Appreciation and Positivity
People need to know that they are valued and that their time, skills, and efforts are important to the company or not-for-profit organization. Ric Phillips is Canada's first Communications Coach. In his work, he uses soft skills "Power Concepts": Appreciation, Connection, and Positivity as key concepts in leadership.
Appreciation can come in many forms: gifts (Maier gives his employees small bonuses or dinner gift certificates), small tokens (coffee cards or company swag), company acknowledgement (employee of the month or an achievement certificate), or a simple and heartfelt "thank you".
People respond very well to gratitude. In turn, appreciation becomes a motivating factor for employees and volunteers.
Being positive and connecting with people also contributes to a positive work environment and a productive and happy workforce. I look my volunteers in the eye, treat them with kindness, have a laugh with them, make them feel special by taking an interest in them, and allow them the freedom to get the job done on their own terms (micro-managing does NOT have the same effect).
Inclusion, Knowledge-Sharing, and Accessibility
It's important that my volunteers know that I respect them and I'm interested to hear their ideas to make our work together more effective. Phillips agrees. He says that giving people a voice to express their point of view will deepen that person's loyalty to the company and help reduce any negativity.
To add to this, Phillips suggests to use inclusive language to help volunteers or employees feel like they're a part of a strong team: "we" or "our" instead of "I", "me", or "mine".
Part of inclusion is informing. The more people know, the more effective they will be at their jobs. Knowledge is power. A leader who understands the importance of transparency and plies his employees with knowledge instead of a task list, is a boss who gives power to his people who will do a better job because they understand their work and how it impacts the organization.
Following a leader who is accessible, approachable, and gets involved on the front lines will strengthen the team and dissipate any negativity that may arise from the ivory tower, top-down method of management. Take it from Mr. Maier: "I want to be the CEO I always wanted to work for," he says, "I treat my team, our customers, our partners, our everything, the way I always wanted to be treated. This tiny fact has a huge impact over time."
Behind every great employee is a great leader. Great leaders inspire their workforce, acknowledge them, and support their employees. Great leaders talk to and are interested in their people, not just in the work they're churning out. When a leader employs their softs skills and treats their workforce like humans instead of task-oriented machines, everything improves.