Being in a position of leadership comes with influence. But remember that your influence — and its impact on your business — can be positive or negative.

Management is an art and a science. That means it’s based on research, industrial-organizational psychology, and iterative reasoning.

That also means that while some people might be said to be “born leaders,” their ideas on how to motivate others must also be founded on facts and best practices, not just personal experience and gut feelings.

Without the empirical backing of evidence-based leadership approaches, you can easily get caught up in unconscious biases or cognitive fallacies such as Dunning-Kruger Effect.

Therefore, this article has summarized research on three key ways to be an encouraging leader so that you can inspire your teams to greater and greater success.

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1. Focus on outcomes, not vanity metrics

If you want to motivate your team and not have them worry about reports and numbers that don’t matter, shift your focus to outcomes instead of vanity metrics.

Think of outcomes as actionable metrics. To put it another way, outcomes are things that in and of themselves lead to work that makes an impact, and you have direct control over them.

Check out this graphic from Userpilot to see some clear examples between the two.

Vanity vs. Actionable metrics

(Source: Userpilot, Vanity Metrics vs. Actionable Metrics)

As David Pereira says, “vanity metrics mislead you because they can make you focus on something shiny that turns out to be fool’s gold.”

To prevent your team from feeling the micromanagement crunch, don’t worry about asking them to report on vanity metrics — instead, ask for outcomes. Thinking about outcomes means you’re more likely to focus on leading indicators rather than lagging indicators. It’ll also give your team the opportunity to brag a little about accomplishments and wins. 

2. Highlight the big picture mission, not “in the weeds” tactics

Getting too focused on the minute details distracts you from vision and mission. It also wastes valuable time and resources covering ground your team likely has already traversed.

Let your team manage the details, and let them go to you to consult about the larger, 10,000-foot view of their projects and goals. When it comes to effective management, there’s a big difference between operations — the day-to-day things your teams handle — versus strategy — the big pieces you need to handle. 

Understanding when and how to dive into details or let your team handle those intricacies is known as psychological distance. It’s not easy to learn, but here are two reasons why you’ll want to let go and build employee trust.

You’ve hired experts; you’re not the expert. If you and your hiring team have done their jobs, you should have best-in-class talent taking care of business. Therefore, if you want your organization to be effective, don’t micromanage. Step back and let them excel.

Deferring, not hovering, lets people be their best at their jobs. “Hovering” happens when you haven’t provided clear details, haven’t collected enough feedback about a project you’ve assigned, or when you haven’t invested in cultivating trust. To effectively defer a project to your employees means: you’ve listed clear requirements; you’ve consulted with subject matter experts about deadlines, needs, and project blockers; and you’ve chosen to “let go” of the project and hand it off to the working team.

3. Be known for gratitude, not critique

Many, many studies have been conducted about the beneficial effects of gratitude in the workplace. Gratitude “increases positive relationships, social support, and workers’ well-being, reduces negative emotions at the workplace, and enhances organizational health and success,” according to researchers at the University of Florence.

On the flip side, a lot of data point to the negative effects of bad and hyper-critical bosses, from decreased workplace productivity to even mental and physical health problems.

According to HBR, an elementary exercise like simply saying “thanks” instead of critique can have helpful benefits. This is because it shows you’re noticing the overall accomplishments rather than micromanaging the inevitable small hangups that happen throughout any project.

Take opportunities to let your team know that you appreciate their work. And avoid using gratitude as a cover to provide critique (like in “the sandwich technique”).

Rather, look for opportunities to let your team know that their hard work makes your company successful and that you truly appreciate what they do.

Also, be sincere with your gratitude. Don’t come off as disingenuously flattering, and ensure your appreciation centers on your team’s hard work and not your positive feedback.

Inspiring management instead of micromanagement

Keeping your employee experience positive means letting people have their best day at work. And avoiding micromanagement by focusing on outcomes, the big picture, and gratitude is a great way to keep your team engaged, on task, and appreciated.

Apply these tips, and be the kind of boss your employees are proud of.  

Category: Workforce Management