Visible Minorities in STEM

Successful Leaders Inspire Diverse Teams by Communicating, Motivating and Building Trust

Leaders know that they set the tone for their organization. As decisions are made, companies are shaped and redirected. If leaders fail to bring along the rest of the organization, business can’t get done. How can leaders inspire their employees to embrace change and take on new challenges?
— By Debra Jenkins

No leader can truly stand alone. In an ever-changing world, companies must be adaptable and flexible. But if workers are not moving in the same direction, progress is impossible. Executing a shared vision happens when leaders motivate appropriately, are trusted by their employees, and take steps to develop the skills necessary for success.

Cast An Urgent and Effective Vision For The Future
Leaders must communicate clearly. Speak to employees in person whenever practical (while respecting local health protocols, of course). This allows the conveyance of not just the substance of the vision, but the emotional weight of it as well.

Use email wisely. Don’t send out lengthy, time-wasting emails. Ensure that every communication received is useful, relevant, and concise. Imbue messages with words that reinforce the vision and remind workers of the shared goal.

Be mindful of body language. If leaders appear bored or disinterested, how can employees be expected to be excited by what’s being said? Aim to be as transparent as possible. If the strategy needs to change, be ready to explain why. While some information should not be shared across an entire organization, transparency helps a company stay on message even when adjustments must be made.

Speak promptly. If workers don’t know what’s going on because they haven’t heard from leadership, especially in times of uncertainty, alternate narratives and explanations can quickly fill that gap. Talk to teams in a timely manner so there isn’t space to wonder, or misunderstand the plan.

Once the vision has been effectively communicated, make it urgent. Motivate employees to take action.

Appeal to the heart. Most people take action first because they are emotionally compelled to do so, and then logically support the decision already made. The appeal may involve organizational contributions to making the world a better place or lay out personal benefits for employees.

Set specific, achievable goals. According to a survey, 63 per cent of employees reported that they wasted time at work because they were unsure what they were supposed to be doing. When the path to success is clear, and goals can be measured and incrementally met, it’s easy for employees to take action. Give credit and recognition when workers take initiative in the desired direction.

Ask nicely. No one enjoys being bossed around or told what to do. Inspire employees by encouraging them, and they’ll reward praise by working harder.

Being visionary is not enough on its own to change the organizational mindset.

Build Trust Within Your Organization at Every Level
How can leaders build trust? By ensuring alignment among employees from the ground up, and by following through.

Listen, listen, listen. It’s tempting to speak much when trying to change minds, but messages will fall on deaf ears if time is not taken first to hear what employees are experiencing. When managers and leaders are out of touch with what’s happening ‘on the ground,’ it’s easy to ignore their directives. But when employees at all levels of the organization are confident that their concerns and day-to-day experiences are understood by their supervisors, they trust that decisions are being made that take their interests into account.

Building trust takes time. Recognize that it’s not easy to develop cooperation and rapport with groups of people who may be brought together only because of their employment by a certain company. Don’t expect a team to “click” without doing the hard work of establishing credibility.

Have integrity. If promises are made, even in informal conversations, absolutely follow through. Be dependable. When promises are broken, own it and apologize. Nothing ruins employee trust faster than evidence that leaders do not do what they say they will. When negative feedback occurs, own the feedback and be willing to make changes as needed. Getting defensive will shut down crucial feedback and damage trust.

Never badmouth anyone. Avoid blaming others for mistakes or shortcomings. This is even true when leaders are tempted to blame political parties or cultural trends, as this blame-shifting can lead to a loss of professional credibility. Gossip should never be tolerated in an office, and especially not from organizational leaders.

Once the vision is cast and the team is aligned, it’s time to take the final steps toward achieving key goals.

Leaders who can communicate and motivate effectively, build trust among their employees, and have measurable plans to develop worker skills can be confident of future success.
Equip The Team to Tackle New Challenges and Embrace Change
Smart leaders know how to find and address possible skill gaps, use leadership meetings to review the skills and assets of each team, and how progress can be made toward the shared goals.

Set measurable targets. Find a business coach if there’s uncertainty around what skills the organization’s members need to have to achieve the company vision. Once it is understood what skills are needed, determine mechanisms for creating an inventory of what talents team members possess.

Be honest about shortcomings. Make regular performance reviews part of company culture. Provide metrics and scorecards for employees to be able to assess their own performance and measure their success and development.

Train for success. Have human resources put together employee development plans for each worker, based on that person’s existing experiences and company needs. Give team members opportunities to explore functions outside their core roles. This gives each person a deeper understanding of the company as a whole, as well as possibly discovering new ways to contribute toward the organization vision.

Pay well. Compensate your employees appropriately, and increase their pay as their skills develop. Tie promotions to education and achievement. Workers will be more satisfied with their income, and the organization will benefit from their new expertise.

Leaders who can communicate and motivate effectively, build trust among their employees, and have measurable plans to develop worker skills can be confident of future success.