Now that we’re past another cycle of divisive elections, you have an opportunity. We’re entering the season of Thanksgiving, a time of year when we remind ourselves to be grateful. You can also show your employees that there is more that unites than divides you. John Maxwell encourages leaders to engage in specific practices to reduce the effects of the polarization we’re all feeling so acutely this year.
“A leader who assumes that because people show up in an office, they must be on the same page as you, is a leader who won’t be leading very long,” says Maxwell. If this sounds like you, it’s time to pull your head out of the sand and take action.
One detail that leaders often miss is the need to remind employees of the company’s mission and values. Is your company committed to delighting every customer it does business with? Do your employees know how far they can or should go in satisfying a customer? Maybe your company promises to manufacture products of the highest quality. Have you defined ‘highest quality’? Do you encourage your employees, or reward them, when they bring a quality issue to your attention?
Too often, leaders start out with good intentions about keeping everyone informed. But, we get busy and lose track of details. If it’s been a while since you communicated the company’s most important values, gather your team and review them. Praise team members for working together to solve the tough issues and remind them that you’re all working for the same goal, regardless of any personal differences. And, remember to thank them for all they've done for you and the company.
Part of leading a team is making the effort to truly connect with people. You may regularly send out emails or instant chat messages that state your position or opinion on a topic. Have you stopped to consider how your employees feel about the same topic? Many companies have a policy, like families at Thanksgiving meals, of not discussing politics or religion. If you’re staying away from those topics, there are plenty of other issues to discuss. The key word in the previous sentence is ‘discuss.’
It’s not enough to tell your employees your position. In fact, that strategy might not be a good idea. Because once employees know where you stand on the proposed highway coming through town or the new gun control bill, they might keep their opinions to themselves.
Instead of talking about yourself and what you believe, ask your employees what they think. Listen to their answers without resorting to negative or sarcastic responses.
Opening the lines of communication between leaders and employees is one way to reduce conflict. It’s even better to encourage employees to listen to each other without judging. Doing so in this season of Thanksgiving could improve interactions throughout the year and build your corporate reputation as a place people will want to work.