The 3 Things Your Employees Need Right Now

Essential Qualities of a Good Leader

As a kid, the only motivation I needed was a free personal pan pizza from Pizza Hut.  I would lean back in that red pleather booth and proudly present my report card to the waiter and a free pizza would arrive right on cue.  That’s about all it took to dole out the refrigerator-worthy report cards quarter after quarter. I was officially crushing 2nd grade.

Now, of course, it’s a lot more complicated.  What does it take to truly inspire and motivate people, especially in hybrid environments?  What drives someone to show up each day?  And I don’t mean hopping on zoom, staying on mute throughout the duration of the meeting, and multi-tasking on the other screen.  What does it take for people to truly “show up?”

If you sense that there are people on your team that are simply punching the proverbial clock, there are 3 things that you can do as a leader (or colleague) to ensure that your employees are bringing their A-game:

3 must-have qualities of an effective leader

They need to know you care

Sure, your whole team knows that you care about the bottom line and the revenue targets and the big product launch in Q3, but do they truly know that you care about them as a human being?  Do they feel compassion from you when you tell them that your kids are home sick for the 109th day this school year?  Do they feel empathy from you when they are overwhelmed or stressed or frustrated?  When employees feel like you understand and care about their whole self–beyond the daily output of their role–they will respond by showing up for you. It’s as simple as that. And the science backs this up. Research shows that warmth, affection, and connection leads to higher engagement. Demonstrating care is also good for your health: when you show care, the brain’s reward center is activated, increasing brain chemicals like dopamine and oxytocin. When your employees know that you care about them, they will do everything they can to show up 100%.

Try this:  It’s hard enough to keep up with your own hectic schedule, let alone someone else’s.  So, the next time your employee mentions a big event coming up in their life, jot down a reminder on your calendar.  Before the big event you can check-in and say something like, “Your sister’s wedding is this weekend, right?  I hope you have a great time!”

They need to feel empowered

If your corporate culture has created an environment where everyone stays in their lane, no one takes risks and no one challenges upper management, you might have a demotivated team.  Employees need to feel like they own their little world—even if it’s just a tiny sub-segment of a much larger initiative.  Employees need to feel the power and the control and the ownership that comes with empowerment and trust. Studies have shown that people who feel like they control the events in their lives are more confident in their abilities. If they genuinely feel like you trust them to do a great job and you trust their judgement to make a good decision, they will feel empowered to truly “own” their role.  And say they slip up or make a mistake?  Then you coach them up and course-correct and guide them.  But then you slowly back away and let them continue to run.

Try this: If you have someone on your team that is angling for a promotion, try to give them a stretch assignment or a “passion project” where they have full reign to excel.  You both will learn a lot about their drive, self-motivation and their full capabilities.

They need to feel appreciated

The perfect role for any individual is where their skills and talents perfectly align to the specific roles and responsibilities of the job.  This creates a magical win-win.  The employee feels like they are operating at peak performance by delivering optimal value to the organization.  And, at the same time, the organization is benefiting from all of that value and energy being poured back into the role.  This starts with ensuring that your employees are aligned in the right seat.  Do their skills match up with the job?  Do they have untapped superpowers that you aren’t utilizing?  And then—and I can’t stress this enough—they need to feel appreciated.  Everyone responds differently to praise, but if you can figure out what makes your people feel appreciated, they will continue to rise to the occasion time and time again.

Try this: If you don’t know how your employees would like to receive feedback and positive affirmation, then stop everything and ask them directly.  And don’t overthink it, no one ever left their job because they felt “over-appreciated.”

Just about everyone needs these 3 things from you on a regular basis.  In fact, a pivotal moment in your own emotional intelligence will occur when you realize that the way that you positively connect with people can have an immediate positive impact on their performance. Moods and emotions impact significant organizational metrics like performance, creativity, teamwork, and leadership.  By showing your employees that you care about them, by empowering them in their role, and by appreciating them for their work, you will be providing them with the reinforcement they need to thrive.

And if all else fails, I’m going to let you in on one last secret: never underestimate the motivational power of a personal pan pizza.

Taryn McKenzie is the EVP of Client Solutions for TalentSmart EQ.  She is a guest contributor for our blog and has been leading teams for over 20 years in the executive training space.  For more information about motivating and inspiring your employees, please check out additional resources at:

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