The Missing Key to Leadership Success

Raffa Financial ServicesRaffa Financial Services on 02/18/2021

When you think about your role as a leader, what do you feel responsible for? Your growth as a company? Your employees’ wellness? Your company culture? Your customer’s satisfaction?

For most, the list could go on and on. But in every case, there are a few things employers must provide to their employees:

  • A safe working environment
  • Sufficient training
  • Fair compensation
  • Equal opportunity for growth

You probably agree. This stuff is pretty basic. But providing these things to your employees doesn’t necessarily ensure their success at your company.

How you and your leadership team engage with your employees is what makes the difference.

Your personality and vision determine your leadership style – you may favor coaching or a fast-paced, high-intensity environment. Regardless of the approach, one simple trait is necessary for strong employee engagement: clarity.

Building a strong foundation

Many leaders who bemoan their frustratingly slow productivity rates or their low employee engagement will look to solutions like employee benefits, PTO, and the general concept of “employee experience” to help them solve their problem.

Leaders rarely look to their own leadership style when they respond to flaws in their company, but that’s a mistake. As a leader, you set the pace and tone of your company. You are the key to ensuring your employees are successful. So, it’s only reasonable you should evaluate your impact on the issues your company is facing.

This can be a touchy subject. You care about your employees, and you’ve worked hard to provide them with what you believe they deserve. You’re nice. You’re encouraging. You’re patient.

But if you’re not able to be direct about expectations and feedback, all that niceness you value flies out the window.

Most people are afraid of confrontation, including leaders. We don’t want to hurt people’s feelings or make them angry or upset them in any way. And we don’t want to be uncomfortable.

But here’s the reality: your comfort matters much less than your duty to provide your employees with clarity.

Taking on the responsibility

It may feel harsh to set clear and specific expectations of your employees.

But put it in perspective.

Remember that teacher in school who everyone loved but was known for being strict? They let their students know homework was due at the beginning of class and no later. If you turned it in late? No credit. But their classes were terrific. Why?

Because every student knew precisely what to do to be successful.

They were given clear boundaries that worked as markers on the road, steering them in the right direction and keeping them on track. They would know when they didn’t meet expectations because those markers were plainly and directly pointed out from the start.

No one called that teacher mean. No one resented them for their rules. In fact, those rules provide a modicum of relief to students. When the path to success is laid out before you, you don’t have to spend time worrying about whether or not you’re doing okay. You can see when you’re off the road and when you’re on.

It’s the same for employers and employees. Are you able to tell your employee where they need to improve their work? Do your employees know when they aren’t meeting your expectations? Or do they have to go by sense? Do they know the expectations you have of them? Or do they have to assume?

Get over your fear

If you’re squirming in your seat at the thought of sitting down with your employees and getting honest, then this is for you. The most influential leaders will have conversations explaining precisely what they want from their employees, set clear boundaries around expectations for them, and let them know when they’re off track.

Discomfort around these conversations will go away with practice – for both of you. You may see uneasiness from your employees when you begin this honest approach, but that is to be expected from an adjustment like this. With a bit of time, you’ll see individual employees begin to thrive beyond your expectations. You’ll see your employees relax into the new expectations you’ve set. And you’ll see a new bond of trust form between you and your employees.

Transparency works like streetlamps on a dark road. No one likes to drive in the dark. Given light, they can relax, sit back, and drive without fear of crashing. You owe it to your employees to provide that light.


Want to be a local employer of choice? Need help with performance management, employee turnover, and HR strategy? At Raffa, we work with businesses in the greater Maryland, Virginia and Washington, DC area to implement strategic employee benefits plans designed to position them as coveted employers of choice. Whether you’re looking to build a healthy team, lower employee turnover, or recruit and reward executive talent, we can help.   


Photo by Sergey Nivens

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