My first job in the corporate world was with a small team within a large organization. While our business unit was small, it was growing, and we knew that we could be successful if we could just find the time to dedicate to all of the opportunities around us. Because I was eager to prove myself, I followed the lead of my manger and did my best to keep up to the pace that she set. As a result, we rarely took a break for lunch and kept extremely long hours, often leaving the office hours after our colleagues from other departments had left.
We worked well as a team, in part, I believe, because we both subscribed to the notion that work was our top priority and we put it ahead of all other areas of our lives. While I learned a great deal during this time, I developed some very unhealthy habits. It wasn’t until I became a manager myself that I learned that these habits were neither sustainable, nor conducive to building an effective team.
Most leaders understand that it is their role to establish the vision for an organization, and put in place a strategic plan that will allow the team to get there. The hard skills required to run a business, such as market knowledge and financial acumen are critical to the success of any business. Equally as important are the soft skills that can allow a leader to create a successful team. A leader’s behaviour, including what they say and do, can set a positive tone in the workplace, and by example, inspire and encourage others to behave in the same way. Here are some scenarios to consider:
Do you move from one issue to another with urgency, panic and stress? Certainly, stress at work is commonplace, but it is possible to have a sense of urgency, while remaining calm and level-headed. By managing your own response to stress, and supporting others as they are experiencing it, you can help to influence the response of others. In fact, a kind word or a supportive gesture can go a long way to diffuse a situation for someone who is feeling overwhelmed by the demands of their job, especially when it comes from the boss.
How do you react when someone messes up or makes a mistake? How a leader respond in this situation will affect the team’s decision-making going forward. It is important to create an environment that supports autonomy and risk-taking (within reason, of course). If employees are afraid to make a mistake, or to admit that they need help, they can become paralyzed with fear and indecision, and have difficulty coming forward for help. By being open to mistakes, and using them as an opportunity for dialogue and learning, a leader will create an environment of openness, innovation and growth.
Making Time for Wellness
Do you work through the lunch hour and keep long hours? A leader can set the stage for health and wellness in the workplace by simply making it a priority in his or her own life. Not only will others be inspired by the strides that you are making, but they will also feel more comfortable leaving the office for a brisk walk at lunch, or shutting down at closing time in order to make it to an activity. Hosting yoga classes in the boardroom will only benefit employees if they feel free to attend them. A leader may not be able to attend every day, but participating from time to time and inviting others to do the same can demonstrate to others that it is valued and encouraged.
In a leadership position, it is important to be mindful of the impact your behaviour can have on your team. It isn’t always easy to be the role model, especially when the demands of the business are great, but setting a positive tone will have a positive impact on everyone involved, including you as the leader.
About Heather Liemanis:
Heather Lielmanis is the VP of Business Development at Fitneff Inc. Fitneff is dedicated to providing innovative products and solutions that help busy people make their productive time more active. Fitneff offers a full suite of walking desks, sit-stand desks and active accessories that allow you to incorporate movement into your work day.
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Today, on International Women’s Day, I have chosen to profile Laurel Walzak, the female co-founder of Fitneff Inc. Laurel has been successful in so many areas of her career - first as a trailblazer in the sports business industry, then as an entrepreneur and most recently as an Assistant Professor of Sports Media at Ryerson University.
Laurel also spends a great deal of her time and energy outside the office in efforts to advance the careers of young women who are making their start. I asked Laurel some important questions about the role of women in business, and the role that she plays in advocating for other women in her life.