What I have to share today is an interesting anecdote of a gentleman named Sanjay. CEO of a prestigious company, with innumerable experience, he was coined as the game changer. Having observed him in his element, I understood the reason for human resources approaching me with a few concerns.
Sanjay was the key driver of improvement in the company’s overall performance and had been recognized by his peers in the industry for the same, however his sub ordinates didn’t appear to be very happy and the overall morale was low.
They felt pressured and underappreciated and a few expressed their grievances to Human resources by speaking of Sanjay’s lack of tact and constant criticism about their work. They felt that no matter what they did, they continued to be criticized and never felt appreciated.
People may participate to get negative strokes, if they don’t get positive stroke, as its better than no Stokes.
Deciding to delve into the matter, I sat with Sanjay and spoke to him about his life beyond work. His family, friends and to an extent, his upbringing. In due course of conversation, I understood of his family dynamics and their need to excel in every aspect of life.
He was not only pushed towards academic excellence, but was also enrolled in an array of extracurricular activities that helped him develop holistically, albeit gave him little or no time to get a breather. As and when he lacked in any area, he was admonished by his parents and pushed harder. Needless to say, he lacked what we call positive strokes.
Strokes are essentially units of recognition (Eric Berne -Transactional Analysis). They are a way to measure attention given by one individual to another. Positive strokes are those that help a person feel good about themselves (for e.g. A compliment). Negative strokes are those that make a person feel unhappy about themselves (or another). An example of a negative stroke could be a nasty comment on a person’s appearance.
These strokes can be further divided into conditional and unconditional, with conditional strokes being given for something that the opposite person ‘does’ such as Behaviors, Actions, achievements etc example ‘you have done superb job in the meeting’, ‘you achieved your targets on time’ etc. and unconditional strokes are being given for the person as a ‘being‘ for example ‘you are a superb person’, you are a caring leader etc.
Positive unconditional regards gives oxygen to a relationship.
It is very important for us to understand the impact of positive strokes in our daily interactions with those around us. Positive strokes not only help boost morale, but also help to improve interpersonal relationships. They make the environment a better functioning space. Think of the time your colleague complimented you on the dress/shirt you’ve worn and how confident you felt throughout the day.
You probably liked the colleague a tad bit more from that day on. Meanwhile, with negative strokes, one is left feeling spiritless and disgruntled, especially if given at a workplace by a boss. Not only does this affect the employee’s performance, but it also affects his peers as his interactions with them become equally aggrieved. He/she probably feels undermined or not as good as them.
Which brings us to the most important question of all? How do we ensure effective leadership through the use of strokes, considering that at some point are bound to criticize our employees/ subordinates?
Here are 5 steps to ensure we show care for our colleagues so that they can be their best:
1) Create a warm, welcoming atmosphere
Be it office decor (motivating posters), open door policy or approach ability, ensure you’re warm and friendly with the team by addressing them by their name and being in loop (to a certain extent) with what’s happening in their life.
2) Appreciate what they do differently
Each colleague has their own style of working. Highlight what they do differently and speak of how it works effectively in the role they play for their company. Appreciate them in front of the others.
3) Recognize their woes (if any) and address them in the right manner
Should you feel your subordinate is not motivated and/or is lagging, find out the reason why. They might be going through a phase in their personal life and will appreciate your concern, thereby motivating them to be authentic with you at all times.
4) Surprise your team
Coffee for everyone once every month! Maybe a secret Santa day every six months. These will help the team bond and create a fun atmosphere for everyone, whilst leaving you to maintain a balance between the authoritative leader and a fun boss.
5) Recognize their talent and empower what is good in them
Everyone is blessed with skill sets specific to them. It’s important to recognise what your subordinates are good at and nurture those skills, simultaneously helping them work on skills they’re looking to improve.
To gain more perspective on this, think of all the effort that left-handed people have to put in when they’re made to write with their right hand. The discomfort they feel along with the effort they have to put in is more cumbersome than just letting them write with their left hand whilst assisting them in improving their handwriting!
Having said that, do ponder over what you can do to empower those around you be their effective best.