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How to lead, inspire and build relationships

Debbie Lentz, president of global supply chain at RS Components and the Electrocomponents Group 

As a career-driven and ambitious person, a natural step up to having more responsibility and promotion opportunities is embarking on a managerial role. It doesn’t matter how many people you’re leading, how big your team is and who your team is made up of - leadership skills and adaptability to different personalities is key.

According to a study by Mercer, two in five employees plan on quitting their job in the next 12 months. This is why it’s important to see that leadership is not about you, it's about them; as a manager you’re also a leader, a mentor, and a coach.

Leading a team is a challenge no matter the size. Within my 3,000 deep team, each individual has their own engagement style. So how do you lead and motivate a team that big on an individual level? 

Building an engaged workforce  

An engaged employee is one that is both active and motivated to work, and having a strong relationship with your manager is important for workplace morale. According to statistics, 57% of employees report not being provided with clear direction from their managers and 69% of managers are not comfortable talking to their employees in general. These startling statistics confirm a clear separation in communication from managers to their employees, that is not only affecting their work but could also drive employees to resign.

Keeping an employee engaged boils down to effective and continuous training and support; if your employee doesn’t have a handle on their responsibilities, work with them and find out how you can help improve the way they work. Those employees that can gain a strong grasp of their workload are more likely to take pride in what they do.

Engaged staff can lower the risk of turnover and improve customer satisfaction, which is supported with further statistics that reveal highly engaged teams show 21% greater profitability. 

Connecting with your team 

Working amongst a decentralised team is a particularly tricky task for managers to overcome. Obtaining oversight on a team when you aren’t heading into their office every day means that managers need to explore alternative ways to keep their workers united.

Research has shown that 93% of employees said that they would be more likely to stay in their job if their bosses would show more empathy, and also highlighted that 91% of CEOs believe empathy is directly linked to a business’s financial performance. With that said, it’s important that an established strong leader-employee relationship is built. 

How important is time spent with your employees? The answer is very. A recent survey reveals that employees who spend approximately six hours per week interacting with their direct leaders were more likely to feel inspired to do their best work. 

I have found that regularly checking in with my employees is an extremely effective way to gain an understanding of how they work, what makes them tick and allows me to gain an understanding of how each individual approaches challenging tasks. As a leader, by making yourself approachable, you can be there to support your team when they need you most.

Whilst 24/7 availability is not sustainable, especially for a team of a large scale, having regular touch points with your workforce - whether that is face to face or over video call - can make your team feel valued. This also gives managers a chance to identify any issues they may be having before they arise. 

This is also a great opportunity to set employees clear goals they can achieve ahead of your next visit - therefore keeping them motivated.

Leading multicultural teams 

People of different backgrounds, races, and nationalities approach work tasks and human interactions in different ways. Whether you’re managing a team across the globe or a small team in one country. It’s important that you acknowledge and are respectful of the vast variety of different religious beliefs and cultural customs of your workforce. Inclusive companies are 1.7 times more likely to be innovative leaders in their market, according to research. 

You should be open to adapting work schedules to accommodate for cultural norms such as siestas and other religious holidays - like the Jewish holiday Passover, for example. You will find that most people, when asked in an appropriate way, are open to discussing the difference between cultures, so don’t fear these conversations. Research has found that employees hiding their true identities dramatically declines their professional performance. 

Much like many international companies, language barriers are a common challenge. Bridging the gap of communication is not a straight-forward process and requires patience and innovative ways to help people from different countries understand you. Avoid jargon-filled language and, when words fail you, the use of imagery can really make a difference in understanding concepts. 

When travelling abroad, it’s important to be aware of the use of slang and clichés and avoid them, as they may mean different things depending on the cultural background and related language. During my time in Zurich for example, I found my colleagues of German descent spoke British English as a second language, and speaking American English myself meant that I had to quickly adapt and learn their terminology, phrases, and clichés. I had to change my language to respond in a way they would be able to understand.

Working in a multicultural environment can be very rewarding; you can expand your horizons and learn different communication skills for the benefit of both yourself and your team. 

Managing different personalities

In any team regardless of nationality, you will encounter different types of personalities and temperaments. It’s your job to ensure everyone is working as effectively as possible, and working with a range of different generations, personalities, and nationalities requires different approaches. Initially, you will need to identify the variety of traits your employees possess - for example, are they a thinker or feeler? How quickly do they learn? Are they confident and outspoken or are they a wallflower?

After identifying your employee's personality types you can adjust your management style to their way of working. For example, for those with the ‘feelers’ personality type you can be sensitive and, for ‘thinkers’, you can engage in more talking points. For slower learners, be sure to put further training in place so they’re able to reach their full ability. 

As more companies begin to prioritise employee experience, we are seeing a popular rise in team building events. These are a great way to help establish how employees work together on tasks that are unfamiliar to them, therefore helping employers to identify the doers to the thinkers within the team. 

Your way of working with individuals need to handled with finesse, for example, is their cultural norm to more direct with instructions? Or is it more about relationships? Will taking them to lunch and having more of a celebration be the best way of working together.

Workplace camaraderie is built up from a leader’s willingness to get to know their employees on both a cultural and personal level. Ultimately, a positive corporate culture fosters both a respectful and willing work environment. This is not something that occurs overnight - it’s a journey. By investing time in engaging and empowering employers, you will not only see working relationships blossom but productivity increase and nurture the bottom line. 

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