COMMENTARY

4 steps to being the servant-leader your company needs today

As the COVID-19 pandemic eases and economies reopen, many companies and people will return to the office. However, according to a recent survey, remote work may become even more popular. The socially responsible coronavirus-related quarantines of the last few months may have created a long-term change to America’s work infrastructure, especially as employees show greater happiness and productivity while working remotely and modern technology makes this option easier than ever.

As many companies consider making the transition to remote work more permanent, there are four areas leaders should emphasize to create a successful corporate culture in a coronavirus pandemic-era remote work environment. They all begin with servant leadership – putting employees and their work first by creating an environment in which employees are safe, challenged, effective, motivated and productive. Once this is accomplished, other leadership goals like organizational performance, profits, and cost-cutting will become more easily -- and more naturally -- accomplished.

Ensure employees and their families are safe

All servant leaders will agree the focus should be on the employee, and the leader’s job is to block and tackle to enable employees to be effective. More so than in a normal environment, however, this time of COVID-19 pandemic and quarantines require that employees know that their safety and that of their families are important to the company. If the employee is experiencing a battle between protecting their family and meeting the demands at work and the employee does not feel the company cares, the employee will not be as committed to company work or to achieving company goals.

Empower the team

Second, great leaders empower employees to work together in teams to develop ways to get the work done in the most efficient way. Employees who are told what to do may grudgingly follow orders -- or they may not. Empowered employees know what work needs to get done, and are creative and hard-working enough to create partial or complete solutions on their own. Leaders need to spend their time identifying goals, providing guidance and offering support as opposed micromanaging daily staff activity and behavior.

This strategy allows the most flexibility for the team and puts results ahead of artificial measures like number of hours worked. It also allows for long-term efficiency because the natural ebb and flow of each team member will, over time, increase their individual contributions as well as their synergy and effectiveness with the rest of the team.

Communicate

Third, create an environment of continual communication. It is easy to fall into the trap of using email or text to task others or to share work products. While this can be an effective way to transfer documents and exchange data, e-mail and texts do little to build team cohesiveness, ensure employees are challenged, or disclose areas where individual or team performance that can be improved. Have team meetings on-line and, as the leader, reach out to each employee often to discuss their work and their life, listening to what they need to be successful.

Effective intra-company communication also creates opportunities to catch and correct employee errors, dis-engagement, and other performance issues before they become long-term problems. Great leaders know that almost every issue is personal – which means that listening is often more important than talking to employees, especially employees experiencing personal or professional challenges.

Create a modern governance structure

Employee and company performance are best measured through effective corporate governance structures. Leaders must be able to evaluate individual and team productivity objectively -- and correct issues or celebrate high performance. If each employee and each team understand the definition of success, they will know how to manage their time and their work-life balance to achieve this success. If they have input into the definition of their success, they will have more buy-in and be more motivated to achieve personal, team, and company goals.

Effective leaders create a culture which clearly defines and a governance structure that enforces the company’s ethos, practices and client focus. This not only provides focus and creates a culture of high performance for current employees, but it also increases the likelihood of hiring highly motivated, effective employees from the start.

With a high performing, innovative, empowered team, companies will outperform the competition and increase revenue, market share and profit.

About the Author

Bruce Lyman is a former Air Force Colonel and the CEO of Parabilis, a small business government contractor lending company.

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