What Do Your Employees Say About You?
September 23, 2016

What Do Your Employees Say About You?

 |  By: Mike Opperman

It’s human nature for people to want others to say nice things about them, especially when they aren’t around to hear it. When you aren’t around your employees, do you think they say good things about you?

Your employees listen closest to what other employees have to say. If there is something to be said about you, good or bad, they are bound to take it to heart.

Nathan Washburn from Utah State University and Benjamin Galvin from Brigham Young University recently published an article in Harvard Business Review where they discussed leader surrogates.  These are people who have developed admiration and respect for you and actively share favorable information about you. The authors say information relayed from these people is more powerful at motivating other employees than any formal communication you might send out.

Washburn and Galvin offer a few suggestions for developing these leader surrogates:

  • Get out more. Take advantage of getting outside of your management team to make contact with people at all levels of the organization. The authors say that your words and actions have greater impact with people at lower levels of the organization. Yet it’s these lower ranking employees that have the greatest credibility because there is no perceived benefit for them speaking highly of you.
  • Let spontaneous things happen. The best, most inspiring stories are those with surprising and unscripted elements. If you only interact with employees in planned meetings or scripted settings, those great stories won’t happen.
  • Don’t strive for perfection. “A leader’s strength in one area can compensate for weakness in another,” authors say. They site an example of a CEO who loses his temper, but his strength in the areas of vision, employee concern and standards compensate for that weakness.
  • Less can be more. Washburn and Galvin say that it’s more important to have authentic, meaningful interactions with a select group of individuals than empty interactions with hundreds of people. “Connect with one person and he or she can promote you to hundreds of people, causing a ripple effect throughout the organization.”
  • Doing beats talking. Leaders who demonstrate that they live by their own standards inspire others. One of the most effective ways a leader can display a human side is to help out with menial tasks. There are plenty of opportunities to do that on a dairy.

Making a connection with your employees in a meaningful way inspires great work. It doesn’t just happen, though, it takes effort on your part as well.