7 Gifts that Great Leaders Give to Their People
Throughout the year and around the world, various occasions are marked with the giving of gifts. For many, exchanging presents is not merely tradition; it is an outward sign of one’s appreciation for another. Much time, energy, and effort are put into finding the perfect gift. The gift-giving practice often extends to the workplace where leaders give presents to their team members for birthdays, holidays, and work anniversaries.
Far be it from me to squash tradition. By all means, buy your employees gifts, but keep in mind that a few days after they are given, gifts will be but a distant memory.
If you want to give them something that will endure well beyond the day the wrapping is discarded, give them the gift of a great leader.
No, this gift isn’t wrapped in a fancy package. There is no one moment of surprise as the ribbon is untied. This gift is parceled out in small ways, everyday. It won’t break the bank and it goes a long way toward increasing employee engagement.
Here are seven great leader gifts to them:
1. Give them something to own
You may not be able to give your people an equity stake in the business, but you can let them take ownership over a task, project, process, or client relationship. Great leaders know that ownership breeds commitment. This gift is not blindly given. Instead, much care goes into the selection. It involves assessing the risk, considering capabilities, determine how best to support, coaching as needed, and extending ownership. Allowing your people to own something, often referred to as psychological ownership, goes a long way toward building commitment and engagement.
2. Give them something or someone to trust
Great leaders know that trust impacts everything they do. While high-trust can inspire creativity and engagement, low-trust erodes relationships, results, and commitment. Great leaders know that trust is not a present easily given. It can’t be wrapped up and handed it out once a year. It’s an ongoing effort grounded not in words, but in behavior.
3. Give them a vision worth their effort
Great leaders paint a clear picture of the team’s purpose and the direction of the organization. They don’t merely strive to maintain the status quo, nor do they react to every stimulus. Instead, they inspire people to understand the ‘why’ behind what they are doing. These leaders know that if the ‘why’ is big enough the team can overcome any obstacle.
4. Give them systems that work
Great leaders create systems that help people win. They don’t require three signatures for approval when one will suffice. They don’t ask their people to produce reports that no one will read or hold meetings that add little value. They don’t create systems that require unneeded care and feeding. Misaligned systems are sure ways to drain people’s energy and zap their engagement.
5. Give them a voice in the process
Great leaders know that people want to be heard. So, they ask for input, they encourage people to share, and they take employee comments under consideration. This doesn’t mean that the leader acts on every team member suggestion. It simply means that they give people the chance to be heard and the respect to listen.
6. Give them a chance to be a better version of themselves
Great leaders create an environment where their people can learn, grow, and develop. They don’t limit development to a few ‘chosen’ people or invest in training that gives an immediate return on investment. Instead, they play the long game and work with people to understand where they are, where they want to go, and the best way to support making it happen.
7. Give them the ability to win (and win big)
Great leaders know that people want to win. They want to know that work matters. Unfortunately, too many people come to work each day just hoping to survive the next meeting, avoid messing up, or escape the workday unscathed. These folks aren’t playing to win – they are playing not to lose. Great leaders know that winning matters. Winning pushes individuals, teams, and organizations forward. Winning often begets winning, so they create opportunities for their people to win.
Go ahead and buy your team members gift cards, write them a note, or wrap-up a well-chosen present. Then, after the thrill of the moment passes, make a commitment to yourself to give your people the gift of a great leader. Yes, it will require you to change your behavior, shift your mindset, or pick-up a few new skills, but in the long run everyone wins.
Ten years from now your people won’t remember the gift you gave them for a special occasion, but they will remember and treasure what it felt like to be well led.
Don’t deny them – or yourself – that gift.
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Patrick Leddin, PhD is a speaker, global leadership consultant, and The Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Five-Week Leadership Challenge. Patrick is an Associate Professor at Vanderbilt University with a thriving leadership blog and podcast, and 25-years of leadership experience. He offers an unparalleled mix of academic rigor and real-world experience.