HKIHRM 2015: Michelle Tillis Lederman: ‘Authentic leaders are better at keeping staff’

Author: Liana Cafolla | Date: 02 Dec 2015

We still haven’t mastered how to build better relationships at work, says business author and coach

Most of the biggest problems faced by companies can be traced to poor relationships between leaders and their teams, author and coach Michelle Tillis Lederman told the Hong Kong Institute of Human Resource Management (HKIHRM) conference last week – and businesses are still failing to tackle some alarmingly basic workplace disconnects.
 
Lederman, author of The 11 Laws of Likability, says those poor relationships exact a high price, citing studies that say disengagement costs companies US$500bn per year globally. More than half (56 per cent) of managers say they can’t keep their top talent, and the reason 80 per cent of employees give for looking or another job is a lack of loyalty to the company. People don’t leave the company, they leave their boss, she said.
 
When leaders are effective, people stay, are more engaged and productivity rises. “Around 72 per cent of employees are highly engaged when they believe their leaders are effective,” said Tillis Lederman. “The solution is simple: we need our leaders to build relationships with our people.”
 
Rule number one in building relationships at work is to be authentic, she said. That starts with choosing your words carefully. The way we phrase things affects how we feel about what we’re talking about, so use energetic words. Avoid ‘should’, which implies being obliged to do something, and try to use positive sentiments instead.
 
Finding the good part in everything you have to do, even if it’s just the fact that a tedious conference will end with a nice lunch, also helps. “When you find that energy, it shifts how you feel about whatever it is you’re doing,” she says.
 
Feeling and then projecting positive energy is a great way to motivate. Energy is contagious, and if you express it, your team will feel it too, said Tillis Lederman. Get used to finding productive energy, or the appropriate level of positive energy for the situation. And if you find yourself in an entirely negative situation where you really feel you have nothing to contribute or gain, then just leave, or “extract yourself”, she advised.
 
Building good relationships is important because connecting with others fuels engagement and inspires people to work harder. “Relationships drive how we feel at work,” said Tillis Lederman.
 
Relationships also help people find better jobs, she added: 90 per cent of executive level jobs arise out of relationships, networking and who you know. In business, good personal relationships are vital because people prefer to work with people they like, and will choose them over others who offer a cheaper or even better product.
 
Appreciate differences and work to find common ground. Tell people what you admire about them and share information. This kind of openness and vulnerability builds credibility, which in turn helps builds good relationships. Finally, and contentiously, managers should assume positive intent when talking to people. Avoid jumping to conclusions and instead assume the best. “If you assume positively, you will have a better encounter,” said Tillis Lederman.