One of the most important questions you can ask yourself as a leader is: how valued do my people feel?
Now be brutally honest with yourself. How often do you even think about this topic, let alone ask yourself the question?
I remember the shock on one CEO’s face when I told him I was leaving the company because I felt undervalued. He literally couldn’t believe it. He rated me so highly (apparently). Problem was: I didn’t know it and it certainly wasn’t how I felt.
I too have lost good people over the years because I was too head down, focussing on delivering key goals, focussed on keeping clients happy, focussed on holding myself together in hugely stressful roles. Meantime I wasn’t focussed enough on my people. The same people who would help me deliver those key goals, the same people who would either delight or dismay our clients and the same people who could support me and share the load.
I often talk about the backbone of your organisation. The ‘stars’ get lots of attention because they’re always pushing you, challenging you and doing profile-raising stuff. The ‘problem children’ get lots of attention – sometimes too much – with performance management admin taking up huge amounts of time and energy. But what about the rest of your people? Those people who just get the job done – often a very good job – quietly, consistently and without any fuss. The backbone of your team or organisation. These are the ones who tend to get the least attention, who can easily feel unseen, unheard and hence under-valued.
Because, as we all know, feeling valued isn’t just about money. Motivation experts talk about money as a hygiene factor. If you think your pay is fair, then it’s simply not an issue.
Increasingly these days my sense is that feeling valued is about trust – it’s about being given and entrusted with greater responsibility, more flexibility, the ability to work remotely, the ability to work at different times of day, the ability to work more autonomously.
It’s also about feeling invested in – investment in you by way of coaching, mentoring, training, upskilling and so on. And that’s not just about investment of money, it’s as much about investment of time.
But ultimately what hasn’t changed and what will never change is our fundamental human need to be seen and heard – my personal interpretation of feeling valued.
And this vital human need is harder than ever to satisfy with the over-use of e-mail vs face to face communication, the rise of virtual teams, higher incidences of remote working, virtual meetings and so on. We increasingly utilise technology at the expense of human interaction.
However, as Teddy Roosevelt once famously said:
‘Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.’
So, as a leader, who I’m sure purports to care, ask yourself 3 questions:
1. Do my people feel valued – and how do I know that’s the case?
2. No matter how well I scored myself on Q1, what can I do to make my people feel more seen and heard?
3. How can I move this topic up my leadership agenda and keep it front of mind?
Then take some action.
Retention rates, engagement, motivation, productivity and teamwork will all improve exponentially when you do.
When your people feel valued, you will add a lot of value to your business.