“Companies don’t have ideas; only people do. And what motivates people are the bonds and loyalty and trust they develop between each other.”-Margaret Heffernan
We all want to be better leaders. We want to create thriving environments for our employees and encourage their success and happiness, and we know that this can have direct benefits for our company. But how do we do this? Effectively leading our people takes self awareness and practice. However, once we become aware of the key behaviors that encourage happiness and success, you can start incorporating them into your leadership style and start to see the results ripple throughout the company. Through our work with many CEO’s, we’ve found that one of the essential behavioral traits of an effective leader is Support.
What is Support?
Support : the ability to be encouraging and kind in a way that attempts to benefit others.
Support is one of the 21 Behavioral Scales that we use to indicate a person’s natural tendencies after they have completed our Behavioral Assessment. According to our definition, high scorers in Support care about people deeply. They are supportive and sensitive to the physical and emotional needs and wants of others. They are thoughtful, peace-loving and warm and like to “touch” others at the heart level. People often confide in them. They are encouragers who sees the good in others. Relationships are often their number one priority. High scorers in Support are often seen as helpful, courteous and kind. They enjoy affection, touch and supporting others. Verbal expressions of warmth and gratitude come easily to this person. They are sensitive to the needs of others. This person relates well to others, and is often well liked. They tend to be tactful and cooperative.
On the flip side, if you score low in Support, you tend to be cautious of situations and people. You have very few close friends and prefer keeping most people at a safe distance. You may at times seem moody, dissatisfied and sarcastic.
Looking at these two definitions, you can begin to see how the Support scale can have a large impact as a leader and, as a result, have a large impact on the people you lead and the overall culture of your company.
The Importance of Support
“What happens between people really counts… In groups that are highly attuned and sensitive to each other, ideas can flow and grow, people don’t get stuck, they don’t waste energy down dead ends.”-Margaret Heffernan
At the end of the day, being a great leader isn’t only determined by KPIs and customers— Being a great leader involves intentionally showing that you care about your people and are invested in their growth. Employees who consistently feel cared about feel safe in their environment. They know that it’s ok to raise their concerns, ideas, strengths and growth areas, and as a result they’re more productive.
Also, showing Support impacts employee engagement. A Gallup survey about what employees want from their managers notes that “Among employees who strongly agree that they can approach their manager with any type of question, 54% are engaged. When employees strongly disagree, only 2% are engaged, while 65% are actively disengaged.”
Lastly, this genuine caring creates trust, and trust creates loyalty. Loyalty is what makes good people stick around and make the company more successful . The HBR article, “Good Bosses Create More Wellness Than Wellness Plans Do,” shows that when people have a good relationship with their leaders, they’re more motivated, they perform better, and they’re more likely to go the extra mile to support their team.
“I would give this advice to all leaders: You have to care. You shouldn’t be a leader if you don’t deeply care about leading other leaders. It’s a huge responsibility. Ultimately, your role as a leader is to help people discover who they can be before they might even know who they are. To help your team thrive, you have to push them to show them how far they can jump. But you also need to want them to succeed. It’s one thing to push someone because you want them to produce; it’s another thing to push someone because you want them to succeed in their career. A great leader will make the team that works with them better leaders.”-Christine Barone, CEO of restaurant brand True Food Kitchen
Increasing your Support Score
We all have many different ways of showing Support to others, whether it be through thoughtful gift giving, going the extra mile at work, or by taking a moment to share a cup of coffee with a colleague to catch up. However, all of these behaviors require intention and awareness in order to cultivate an environment in which your employees are engaged and happy.
Chade-Meng Tan, the head of personal growth at Google, gives this advice:
“Imagine any time you meet a person, your habitual, instinctive first thought is, “I want you to be happy. I want you to be happy.” Imagine you can do that. Having this mental habit changes everything at work. Because this good will is unconsciously picked up by other people, it creates trust, and trust creates a lot of good working relationships. “
Here are some behaviors to practice to increase your Support score:
- Have people’s backs, personally and professionally
- Establishing an environment of trust in the workplace leads to higher productivity and comaraderie among coworkers.
- Invest time in getting to know people
- Take a genuine interest in people’s lives and offer to help them in any way that you can. Ask questions and deeply listen. Remember the things that are important to them and ask them about them whenever you see them. If this pushes you out of your comfort zone a little bit, that’s ok. We believe that you need to push your comfort zone a little bit in order to grow. Just know that if it’s too much, you can always take a small step back.
- Be your genuine self
- Share with people all the things that make you unique in order to make connections and start relationships.
- Show Appreciation & Gratitude
- Bringing out the best in other people and appreciating it is how you bring out the best in yourself. Clearly tell people (and often) the impact they make and that their work is appreciated and valued.
- Prioritize relationships and make time for people
- Hold yourself accountable for regular conversations with your people and they will feel valued and respected.
- Be Present
- Engaging in Face to face interactions and deeply listening makes a big difference when establishing long-lasting connections with people.
- The Golden Rule
- And the most basic, fundamental law: Treat other people the way you want to be treated.
Supporting your people requires intentional behavior
An effective leader empowers people, giving them the opportunity to achieve their highest potential. When you lead with support, you foster loyalty and high morale, and in return, you’ll be rewarded with high productivity and happy people. The wonderful thing about this is that you don’t have to invest half a million dollars into an employee wellness program to see these results-all you need to do is make an intentional effort to connect with your people and show them you care.