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What People Really Want: Five Things Every Leader Should Know

There are five things as a leader you should know about the unspoken and all too often, unmet needs of those you lead. Your team or staff may never verbalize these needs and might not even have given them much thought, but when they are not there, neither will they be. They often go unspoken and are rarely verbalized during performance evaluations.

Productivity, job satisfaction, and fulfillment are wrapped up in these five critical needs. If you as the leader are not aware of them, you cannot be aware of the impact they are having on those you lead and even with colleagues.

Humans, all humans are by nature, needy. There is not one human, no matter how self-sufficient, wealthy, poor, strong, or weak that does not have needs. And in the work environment, these are among the top five needs:

  1. The need to feel part of the decision-making process. In today's post-COVID environments, employees, especially Gen Z's and Gen Xers need self-determination. Older, baby boomer workers want to know that their years of experience matter. All want and need to contribute. Self-determination became especially important during COVID because so many of us lost so much of the control that was once taken for granted and came as naturally as breathing. We were told where we couldn't go, and what we couldn't do, and denied so much of our freedom. Post-COVID employers and leaders must understand more than ever, the need for self-determination, and that begins with being part of the decisions that will impact the same.

  2. They need to know that they matter. Period. Long gone are the days of "company loyalty." There is no such thing anymore. If you show them their presence doesn't matter, they will show you their absence won't either. A gold-plated watch at the end of 30 years is no longer appealing and neither is staying anywhere 30 years. How do you show them they matter? Begin with number one. Be open to suggestions and new ideas. Even saying hello and acknowledging their presence. No matter if you are the CEO or president of the company -- your position and golden parachute are dependent upon how well your company or organization performs under your leadership. Your success is tied to the success of those you lead. Give them incentives for success. That begins with them knowing that they matter.

  3. They need to know you have at heart their best interest not merely your own. Are you getting the picture here? Number two hinges on number one and number three hinges on them both. A selfish leader is no leader at all and if you make it all about yourself - your advancement, your career, your success, why would they have an incentive to better you when you take no interest in bettering them? Success is a two-way street. As great as you are. As bright and innovative as you may be, there are no lone ranger leaders and there is a reason for that. If they know you have their back, not everyone on the team, but the majority of the team will have yours.

  4. The need for transparency. Let them see the human side of you, not just the leader. Only strong leaders can be transparent and vulnerable. But these two soft skills along with empathy are the soft skills that will give you the edge. Those you lead need to know that you make mistakes too. And some were worse than others. Yet you not only survived but thrived. This encourages them that they too can do the same. Transparency engenders not only trust but also respect. It makes you human. Not weak. Human. Not woke. Human.

  5. The best for last - the need to know they are valued and respected. Appreciate your people and let them know that you do in tangible ways. This often does not mean money or raises. It is how you speak to them, acknowledge them, include them, and seek to understand their point of view or position on an issue or project. In return, you will receive value-added service, value-added compliance, and value-added camaraderie among your team. Which all translates to value-added productivity. Which translates to increased profitability.

Soft skills in today's turbulent, divisive, and suspicious (not auspicious, suspicious) work environments are what's most needed. The need for technical skills has not diminished; however, the need for "human skills" has come from behind the shadows and masks. We need to learn how to "human" again. And these five will give you the edge you need as you lead the same.


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