Most bosses want to be a hero, a mentor, and a friend to those that report to them. A recent Bloomberg article told a story of one boss, Richard Laermer, who decided to let his employees regularly work from home.
“”We hire adults, they shouldn’t be tied to the office five days a week,” said Laermer, who owns a New York-based public relations firm. “I always assumed that you can get your work done anywhere, as long as you actually get it done.” Unfortunately, for his company and situation, he was wrong. “Employees took advantage of the perk,” Laermer said. One was unavailable for hours at a time. Another wouldn’t communicate with coworkers all day. “The last straw,” he said, “was when someone refused to come in for a meeting because she had plans to go to the Hamptons.”” Laermer wanted to find a way to keep his employees motivated and happy. Frequently, many find that efforts like this don’t work.
There are many leaders that feel if they want to drive for results it will negatively impact their relationships with employees. While being a demanding leader often strains relationships, I’ve found from a recent study that there are ways for leaders to drive for results while remaining likable.
People are willing to drive for results when they clearly understand what is being asked of them. Relationships become strained when employees feel confused and frustrated about the vision and strategy.
Florence May Chadwick was the first woman to swim the English Channel. During one of her swims from Catalina Island to the California coastline she ran into trouble. A thick fog rolled in and she could no longer see her end point. As result, she began to doubt herself and gave up. Once out of the water she learned she was only one mile from the coastline. On her second attempt the same fog rolled in, but this time Florence pressed forward with a vision of the coastline that she couldn’t see. That vision helped her achieve her goal.
Just like Florence, employees need to have a clear vision in order to stimulate them to achieve great results.
There is a paradox between satisfaction and effort. If you ask people what would make them happier, most will request a break, less work, or a vacation. However, our research has shown that the experiences that do the most to build satisfaction are challenging assignments, accomplishing difficult tasks, and making the impossible possible.
One such leader who excels at setting stretch goals is the CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos. The idea of offering free shipping that was fast, predictable, and included in a yearly membership fee not only seemed crazy, but was a nightmare for the logistics department. In the first year Amazon lost millions in revenue and there was no evidence this gamble would pay off. However, the increased site traffic made the marketplace work, and the data they accumulated boosted their sales efforts. This stretch goal shaped Amazon into what it is today.
The easy path isn’t very satisfying or rewarding. To get results, set goals that will truly stretch people.
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