Leadership is not about being the best - A response piece

In response to the article ‘Leadership is not about being the best. Leadership is about making everyone else better.’ written by Brigette Hyacinth, Raelene Campbell, one of Griffith Consulting’s executive coaches and facilitators, was inspired to write a piece extending on from Brigette’s points. Raelene discusses respect, leadership and employee engagement.

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Most people are familiar with the commonly used phrase of ‘It’s not what you say, but how you say it.’ From experience, it’s often hard to recall ‘exactly’ what someone has said, but in an instant, we can remember whether we enjoyed somebody’s company and whether we felt listened to and respected.

Unfortunately, in this fast paced, highly pressurised world, it’s not uncommon for individuals to get caught up in their own agenda, often being ignorant to the implications of their actions or inaction on others. Yet if we consider Gallup’s global research that indicates that only 13% of employees are actively engaged, in large part due to feeling unappreciated or respected, then leaders need to seriously reconsider not necessarily ‘what’ they are doing, but ‘how’ they are showing up to do it.

Hyacinth’s article considers how respect and appreciation for others is essential for successful leadership; a concept that is strongly supported in the field of positive psychology. Sonya Lyubomirsky (University of California) proposes that happy people not only make more money, but they take fewer sick days, get along with their colleagues better, volunteer more frequently, receive better supervisor evaluations on the job, are rated more highly by customers and exhibit less work turnover than less happy individuals.   Essentially, being respectful of all individuals in the workplace does more than just generate ‘nice feelings’, it’s also translates into business success.

These findings are further enhanced by Harter, Schmidt & Keyes (2003, Well-being in the Workplace), who explore the direct correlation between employee emotional well-being and organisational success, with businesses reporting greater profits, greater customer loyalty and satisfaction, higher rates of employee retention and attendance, and higher levels of productivity.

Hyacinth’s article advises that great leaders ‘make everyone that they encounter feel like they are the most important person in the room’ and provides some great tips for showing respect, notably ‘praising more frequently than you criticise’. Kim Cameron (2012, Positive Leadership) supports this philosophy stating, ‘the single most important factor in predicting organisational performance – which was more than twice as powerful as any other factor – was the ratio of positive statements to negative statements.’ Positive statements are those that express appreciation, support, helpfulness, approval or compliment.  Cameron suggests that the ratio required for top performing teams is 5.6 to 1 – that is to say that five times more positive statements are required than negative statements to facilitate high performing, engaged teams.

It’s important to note that positive communication does not mean that discussions cannot involve criticism or confrontation. As we know, organisations make mistakes, corrections are required and disapproving statements are necessary and healthy in any relationship. It’s rather that these discussions are offered in a constructive context; and communicating authentically and communicating sincerely are both requisites for this to occur.  

There are many techniques that can be applied to promote positive communication when delivering negative messages.  Cameron recommends one effective way is to apply a ‘descriptive’ form of communication, applying 3 key steps:

1)    Describing a situation (rather than evaluating it)

2)    Identifying objective consequences or personal feelings associated (rather than placing blame)

3)    Suggesting acceptable alternatives (rather than arguing about who is right or at fault)

The importance of positive relationships in organisations is not new news, but the staggering impact is often under-looked, so perhaps it’s time to consider how your personal communication style is impacting not only your own level of success and well-being, but also contributing towards your entire teams engagement and organisational success. 


Author: Raelene Campbell

For over 20 years, Raelene has worked in senior corporate roles within the private, public, health, not-for-profit, industrial and education sectors to support individuals on a holistic level - enabling alignment of personal aspirations with professional objectives. Raelene works as an executive coach for Griffith Consulting and works on a personal level with our clients. For more information about Raelene or this article, please contact us today.

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