Think about your current leadership role or any times in the past where despite your best efforts and intentions, you were not getting the level of motivation and engagement from your team members or your employees. The symptoms include taking on too much work, having to take responsibility for almost every decision, and poor quality of output from a team that otherwise has the skills to perform.
One of the reasons for this may just be that your team does not feel needed. A recent survey of employees that we conducted suggests that there is a correlation between the feeling of being needed by one’s leaders, and the level of engagement and productivity of an employee.
Everyone has an “ego” need, the need to feel appreciated and needed as part of an organization or system – the desire to make a contribution, and receive recognition for this contribution. According to Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy, this need is part of the evolution of an individual’s motivation, but of course varies by degree from one person to another, and perhaps in different situations. Our research shows that a particularly vulnerable group, are new employees or new joiners to a team that are eagerly expecting feedback on their performance on the new team.
On the other side of the vulnerability it is common to find people in leadership positions or positions of authority ascribe their entire success to their own efforts. Entrepreneur CEOs, pioneering business people, inventors and outstanding athletes may think of their effort as singular in achieving and sustaining their current status and future achievements.
Some leaders therefore fail to acknowledge or perhaps encourage the input of others to their success, and therefore have to struggle with disengaged, underperforming staff and a truck load of work. In reality, all of our achievements come from God, and as He has proven through time, He uses the people around us to influence us to actually achieve our goals.
Some Generational Theorists also suggest that the “Y Generation” which constitutes the growing population of the workforce today are “recognition freaks”, and the absence of adequate recognition takes the wind out of their sails.
No matter how powerful, successful or intelligent you are, you need the help of others to succeed. No matter how small the help we receive, we must acknowledge that other people play a key role in our success. To get more from the people around you, you need to show them how much you appreciate and need what they do.
Everyone likes to feel needed. A feeling of being needed is often more treasured or valued than monetary compensations or rewards. It is at the heart of intrinsic motivation. Leaders who are not confident and comfortable in their abilities pretend that they can do anything and everything, with or without the input of others. Leaders who are mature and authentic recognize the support and help that others provide to them.
Leaders have to be deliberate about conveying how much they need others and can achieve this by:
- Thanking and appreciating the people around us for the work that they do;
- Not making statements that suggest that with or without others you can succeed;
- Challenge them with stretch assignments, and show them that you have confidence in their ability to perform these tasks;
- Allow yourself to be vulnerable and allow those around you to take responsibility and rise to the occasion;
- Seek their input when making important decisions, and reflect their opinions in the decisions you take, and when you do, let them know.
Earlier in my career, our CEO would usually engage the newest and youngest members of the team to make contributions and proffer solutions at meetings. As a young team member, it made me feel wanted, in fact – needed, almost as if without me that decision couldn’t be taken. It encouraged me and many others to sincerely challenge ourselves to think of newer and better ways, and send our opinions to the top management team whenever we could.
Leaders can learn from this example, and the potential impact that needing others can have on employee engagement and productivity, and start to work on any of the tips above in the days and weeks ahead.
By Andrew Clapton