When I work with leadership teams, I often ask, “What are you doing to help people bring their best self to work?”

It is a question that I think is pertinent whether we are talking about staff engagement, bullying, diversity, or just good management and leadership. There is no doubt that many organisations are struggling at the moment with staffing issues, whether is related to their ability to recruit, absenteeism, or building capability in their team. I think it is a pertinent question in this context as well.

We are seeing a fundamental shift in workplace dynamics. A situation that has been exacerbated by the past few years of Covid, lockdowns and isolation, but which, I think, is basically a generational shift in thinking about the place that work occupies in our lives.

I am sure there will be academic and researched studies about what is happening – there is already much written about the “great resignation” and “quiet quitting.”  My view is anecdotal – from watching, observing, interacting with people working hard to make things work for their businesses. I also believe that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

People want to feel valued, they want to be able to finish their day with a sense of achievement and pride in a day well spent, to be able to have a sense that they are moving forward towards something bigger. That hasn’t changed, people have always wanted that.

What may have changed though, is how work fits into that sense of achievement. I am hearing the same refrains from managers and team leaders about the challenges they are facing. Staff turnover is up and recruiting new staff is difficult, absenteeism is high, “good attitude” and “work ethic” is missing.

A number of things are at play. Firstly, team leaders and managers are under a lot of stress and are focussing on these issues, while not seeing the positive things that are also happening. That stress is also limiting their capacity to adapt and change their approach to minimise the negative impacts.

But thinking differently is what is needed.

As a first step, ponder the question, “What are you doing to help people bring their best self to work?” 

  • Do they feel valued?
  • Are you helping them to grow and develop in their job and as people?
  • Are they free from harassment and bullying?
  • Do they know how they contribute each day?
  • Are you helping them to get on with their work and achieve a good result?
  • Are you touching base with each person regularly to check in with how they are feeling?

Some simple things for managers and team leaders to try…

  • Say “good morning, how are you?”, every day – and mean it.
  • Say thank you at the end of every day
  • Check how confident they feel in their tasks and give them the tools to be confident
  • Provide timely and constructive feedback about their work, regularly and consistently
  • Take time to find out about your team as people – their likes, dislikes, values, strengths and challenges
  • Be considerate, kind and fair

The important thing for longer serving managers and team leaders to remember is that things have changed, and you need to be able to adapt your style and approach to work for you, your organisation and the people who work with you. At the core, though, are the fundamentals of good management and leadership, unchanged from what they have always been – take your management role seriously, be consistent, be fair and, most of all, believe that you need to treat people well in order for them to bring their best selves to work.