Drive Employee Engagement with Ethical Leadership
There’s a lot of talk about how to increase employee engagement. That’s because many company leaders are realizing they’ve got to grow their company’s levels of employee engagement to be successful. Why? Engaged employees tend to be happier employees. They perform better, produce greater results, and contribute to sustainable profitability and a healthier workplace culture. But in trying to grow employee engagement, lots of leaders often trouble shoot this challenge by looking first at opportunities for improvement in regard to their people. However, research indicates leaders need to look first at themselves, instead, specifically around how well they’re upholding strong ethics in their leadership mindset and behaviors. Data shows that when it comes to ethical leadership, setting the tone may be the most important driver behind building effective employee engagement.
In a 2014 survey conducted by the Ethics Resource Center, 6,400 private sector workers were interviewed to find out how leaders could better them to do the right things, which is a proven catalyst behind employee engagement. The big takeaway: Employee engagement actually depends upon leadership setting a good example of conduct. Here’s what these employees said are the most important leadership behaviors:
Stop the blame game. When problems surface, leaders need to be honest about those mistakes and accept blame, not pushing it out and onto others. Great leaders aren’t afraid to recognize they’re human, owning up to their shortcomings and mistakes. However, they also know that it’s important to then move on by focusing on lessons learned and solving the problems. Above all, they get that pointing fingers never helps employee and workplace morale. It’s incredibly ineffective in terms of inspiring and motivating others.
Share credit for success. When a major goal has been achieved, many leaders tend to step into the spotlight and start talking about what they did to make it happen. Big mistake. Behind every leader is usually a team of people who also contributed and played a role in the success, even if it’s minor. It is essential for leaders to share credit when it comes to a company’s achievement. When great things happen in terms of your business’s goals or news, always consider who else was involved and make sure you’re singing their praises, remembering that the more specific you are about their contribution, the better.
Choose to do what’s right over what’s profitable. You read about this all the time in the news…for the sake of saving or earning a buck, leaders compromise their ethics and end up taking themselves and others—including innocent employees—down with them. No question about it, this kind of behavior is a leadership sin. So when facing big decisions, particularly those that might feel icky from a moral or otherwise ethical standpoint, call upon your courage to put on the brakes, dig deeper into options, and do the right thing. It may be uncomfortable or seem scary, but choosing what’s right eventually brings you bigger, better returns. You’ll be more respected by your people, more capable of motivating them and maintaining their engagement, and you will feel better about yourself. The reward that comes from choosing what’s right isn’t always immediate but it is, indeed, a win for all.
What’s an example of an ethical decision you faced in your leadership and what helped you to make the right decision?