In Leader Development, Leadership, Leadership Tips

As we approach the end of one year and the beginning of another, we reflect on what has gone well and anticipate what we plan on improving. As leaders, one skill that may not come immediately to mind and yet yields such extraordinary gains, especially when we invest in it strategically, is how we connect to the emotional needs of our employees. Tapping into how we communicate is essential for proactively creating a positive team environment where employees want to work and to succeed.

This idea of connecting is sometimes so much harder than we anticipated. Why is it so much harder? Intentionally developing relationships with those we lead is based on those skills often called “soft“ skills. We know that our employees want to feel purpose in what they do each day and want to make a difference. How do we as leaders help them to connect to purpose? We can show how what they do is aligned to the goals of the organization.  We can celebrate as we move closer to those goals. Leader actions when done 97 to 100 percent of the time help us connect with employees and see worth in what they do.

Leader Always Actions

We know the three tactics listed below make a difference for employees and for leaders.


This tactic is borrowed from our healthcare colleagues and it establishes positive relationships, focuses on process improvement, and harvests wins. These one-on-one conversations with employees are about asking what’s working well, what barriers can be addressed, and who can be recognized for good work make a difference.

Cascading Communication: Using Key Words at Key Times

Communicate the right message in the right way at the right time to the right audience. Think about the groups in your organization who often don’t get the message.

Employee Recognition: Thank you notes and WOW cards

Recognize good work and living the values. For instance, WOW cards simply say, “You WOWED me when you….”. The recognition paints the picture of what right looks like. What is recognized gets repeated.

We offer these simple steps:

  • Talk with your team about the actions you are going to begin.
  • Show your excitement and be transparent about the new leadership practice.
  • Clearly state your intended outcome—to learn from them, recognize the good work that is occurring, and communicate transparently at all levels.
  • Give it time: Results don’t happen overnight. Practice your chosen tactic with frequency.

As the new year approaches, reflect on what you already do well and where you strategically want to grow in the new year.  Choose one of the three tactics described. The trick is execution. Create a plan for implementation and stick to it. Remember positive changes and continuous improvement take time and effort.


Laura Swann, Studer Education

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