Leadership and management are not the same thing, but being a strong manager goes some way to being an effective leader.
We will each have our own style of management, but it’s important to recognise that research shows 42 percent of people leave jobs because of a bad manager (Approved Index, 2015). That fact challenges any of us who are managers to be reflective about our impact on others. When an employee leaves, this can negatively impact on a business with a whole host of consequences including a potential loss of customers, a ripple effect on other staff members and work slippage. Therefore when staff leave due to poor management it can have a huge organisational impact.
For employees who stay and put up with bad management, their health and wellbeing can really suffer. Research shows that employees with bad managers are more likely to suffer with high blood pressure, chronic stress, sleep problems, anxiety, substance abuse issues, overeating, heart attacks and other health problems (various sources, including Harvard Medical School and the American Psychological Association). Furthermore, an article by Management Today states that “Looking after employees’ mental health might not always have been seen as a top priority, but the business case is very simple: happier staff equals increased productivity and lower levels of absenteeism, thus impacting positively on the bottom line.” With this in mind, I have put together my top tips on what I believe makes a good leader, getting the best out of your team, whilst also protecting their health and wellbeing.
Put the right person in the right job
Hiring the wrong person in the first place can be a costly mistake, so do your due diligence on whether the role fits the person and the person fits the role and organisation. Gallup research shows that people are happiest and most engaged when they apply their strengths to their job. Instead of changing people to fit a job, good managers play to the strengths of their team members and put the right people in the jobs in which they can do well.
Accept feedback, but find your own way
Whilst it’s a good idea to listen to what your mentors have to say, try to develop your own style of leadership. If you are new to management, ask yourself ‘Why would anyone want to follow me?’ Overall, I believe that people follow leaders because of what they stand for and how they help their team develop.
Be open, honest and straightforward
Trust is key to building a connection with your team, so be as open and honest as you can about yourself, the company, the key goals and what you need from your employees. According to a study by the Corporate Executive Board (CEB) in 2010 (referenced in Forbes), ‘firms whose culture encourages open communication outperform peers by more than 270 percent in terms of long-term (10 year) total shareholder return.’
Delegation is one of the most important management skills, however it’s important to do it right. The following advice, derived from various experiences, is a good start:
Define the task
Pick the right person / team for the task
Assess ability and training needs
Explain the reasons
State the required results
Consider resource needed
Agree realistic deadlines
Support and communicate
Feedback on results.
Set realistic goals and deadlines
When there is a job needed to be done, we can easily become unrealistic about what is achievable. However, it’s good to remember that there’s nothing like an unrealistic target or deadline to de-motivate an employee and cause unnecessary stress. In fact, too much work and unrealistic deadlines have been cited as the top two reasons for workplace stress in the UK (Slater and Gordon, 2014). It’s important to set SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely) targets and objectives for your team members.
Make time to communicate with employees
Keep the lines of communication open – regular catch ups and 1-1s are a good way of doing this and make sure it’s two-way. It doesn’t have to be formal, for example you could grab a coffee together or meet over lunch. Research has shown that communication is connected to higher employee engagement (Gallup, 2015). If your employee has an issue with something, make sure you find the time to give them guidance. You can also find out more by reading our article about improving communication in the workplace.
Recognise achievements and say thanks
To develop a good culture, give credit to your employees when it’s due. If you regularly recognise and thank your employees when they do a good job, it will create a positive work environment. Don’t just wait for the big wins either – it can be the little things that make a difference.
Don’t take things too seriously
Try to keep things informal and have a laugh with your team if and when you can. Humour can be a good release in a difficult situation and when a task gets too tough, so don’t be afraid to use it, but use it wisely.
Try modelling your management style on a boss you really looked up to and admired, but be yourself because that’s what matters most.
Be understanding during tough times
Everyone has a personal life as well as a work life, and managers need to understand that. Be understanding if your employee is going through a tough time, listen and offer to help by planning ways to alleviate workload together and allow for reasonable time off when needed. If you need some more advice, read our article on how to spot the signs an employee may need support which also explains how you can help them.
No rest for the workers?
Who should bear the risk when there’s no provision within an employment relationship for exercising the right to take holiday – the employer or the worker? That’s the question that the Attorney General of the Court of Justice of the European Union recently considered, making a clear decision in favour of the worker. Under the European Working Time Directive, workers are entitled to take 4 weeks of paid annual leave and employers must also provide an ‘adequate facility’ (or opportunity) for workers to take this right. Once the worker has been provided with the opportunity to take paid annual leave, then any relevant national restrictions on the right to take annual leave will then kick in. By way of example of such a restriction, the UK requires workers to take annual leave in the year in which it is accrued save for in specific circumstances and restricts claims for unlawful deductions from wages to two years’ back pay.
What happened and what was the result?
From 1999 to 2012, Mr King was a self-employed salesman who sold installations of windows and doors. He was paid in commission based on his sales and did not receive any salary. His contract did not mention paid annual leave and any holiday that he took, was unpaid. Sash Windows offered to employ Mr King, but he opted to remain self-employed. Mr King’s contract was terminated on his 65th birthday and he brought claims for age discrimination and holiday pay, arguing that he was, in fact a worker. The employment tribunal agreed that Mr King was a worker rather than being truly self-employed and upheld his claims. It agreed that Mr King should be paid for i) accrued but untaken leave from his final year of work; ii) the period of leave that he actually took during the time he worked for Sash Windows (£17,402); and iii) the leave that he was entitled to take whilst working for Sash Windows, even though he did not in fact take it (£9,336.73).
Sash Windows objected to the third finding; that Mr King should be paid for leave that he did not even try to take and appealed. The Employment Appeal Tribunal agreed with Sash Windows and effectively decided that a worker would first have to take unpaid leave; and only after having done so, could the worker test whether he would be entitled to be paid. Mr King appealed again and the Court of Appeal referred both this question and the question of what leave can be carried forwards and what compensation can be sought, on to Europe, where it was considered by the Advocate General.
He decided that the Employment Appeal Tribunal’s approach effectively put the onus on a worker to take steps to create an adequate opportunity, before they could take paid annual leave. In his view was this was the wrong approach. It would be an unlawful pre-condition to impose on workers trying to take paid annual leave; and employers are legally bound to provide adequate facilities to workers to allow them to exercise their rights to take paid holiday. The Advocate General noted that holiday pay cases which addressed whether the worker actually had the opportunity to exercise the right to paid annual leave were irrelevant when considering this case because the relationship between Mr King and Sash Windows did not even provide for the exercise of the right to take paid annual leave. As a result, unless Mr King’s offer letter was found to provide evidence of Sash Windows offering him adequate facility to take paid annual leave (a question for the Court of Appeal) then Mr King was entitled to receive payment for holiday that he had not taken in respect of the whole period that he worked for Sash Windows. Finally, the Advocate General also took the opportunity to deliver a lesson in European thinking on the subject of holiday pay, explaining that the right to paid annual leave was a particularly important principle of EU social law and that it was a matter of respect for human dignity.
Nick Elwell-Sutton, Partner at Clyde & Co, explains “Gig-economy employers should take careful note of this decision – if it’s followed by the main Court, it could result in employers being required to pay out significant sums in holiday pay, both for the periods of leave that their workers take during their contracts and for any leave that’s accrued but untaken on termination.” However, it is worth noting that if the contract with Sash Windows had provided for Mr King to take paid holiday, but he had chosen not to take it, then the outcome would be very different as it is unlikely that he would then be entitled to payment in respect of his holiday for the entirety of his engagement with Sash Windows.