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LeadershipZone fundamentals: integrity, communications & motivation

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When staff believe that their bosses have integrity and communicate well with them, they are more highly motivated and employee engagement scores are higher.   This blog looks at the changes needed when recruiting and developing leaders and the one thing that will make the biggest difference in peoples’ perceptions of their leaders – the appraisal conversation.

Why are engagement scores important?  Let’s take the example of hospitals: if hospital staff engagement with their organisation drops, mortality rates increase.  It’s in all our interests to be sure that hospital staff are well-motivated and engaged with their  work.

Engagement is about more than doing the job to hand; people need to feel that their leaders care about them as people.  In fact, if leaders do demonstrate engagement with their teams, their people will deliver over and above what’s expected of them.  When that key relationship breaks down, performance, and – at the bottom line – profits plummet.

It’s vital to support and develop leaders: in the key areas of integrity, communications and motivation.   When I start to work with leaders we look first at four key factors, based on their innate talents and strengths:

  • How willing are they to be self-aware and ready to develop their personal strength of character?
  • How self-motivated are they and actively connected to what motivates them at work?
  • How well are their social skills developed? For example to treat their colleagues and staff with respect and to interact with them as individuals?
  • How able are they to support, develop and motivate others?

I’ll typically use a low-cost self-assessment tool like Strengths Based Leadership to start this conversation:

It’s probably had the single most significant impact with leaders across the board as it provides a clear structure for the leader’s development.  People really connect with the ideas expressed in the book, the report provided by the self-assessment and the coaching conversations we have together.

For existing leaders, the three key factors that engage staff are: demonstrating integrity, communicating well and motivating others

Integrity is about knowing and showing personal character:

  • Leaders need to know their own values and live by them, leaders need to be ‘authentic’ – be themselves
  • This doesn’t mean we all agree on everything; it does means that staff know where their leader stands on key issues, and is willing to stand by those values when times are tough

Communication skills have to be learned, developed and continuously updated:

Here in the UK  many people undervalue the importance of ‘media skills’  but media studies graduates are more likely to be employed.

  • They are better equipped to understand and use the range of communications channels to good advantage.
  • It’s not enough any more to teach people ‘presentation skills’: leaders need speaking skills for a range of situations – from communicating well with individuals to speaking to the board, investors, or large groups.
  • Written presentations need to be focused on the key messages and the target audience

It’s time to change the way we recruit and develop leaders

Too often, we set up people to fail – by recruiting the wrong people in the first place, and then by not developing their social, communications and motivational skills.

If there were three key changes made in leadership recruitment, I would encourage:

  • Be clear about the ‘skills’ required to do the job: the technical and social skills required to deliver a task – let’s say, to be a telephone engineer, or a sales person – are very different from those of leading a team of engineers or salespeople.
  • Don’t recruit a technical expert to lead people if they lack the innate ‘people skills’: you can build on strengths – such as the ability to interact well with others – but it’s a much harder ask when those innate qualities are low to begin with
  • Don’t confuse ‘management’ (of tasks, systems, processes) with ‘leading’: people actively resent being treated like machines

For more on this topic, I recommend the book The Leadership Pipeline: how to build the leadership-powered company –

Change One Thing: appraisals and performance reviews:

If there was one single thing that would improve the team’s respect for their boss, it would be in the giving and receiving of feedback – typically through the review process.

Bosses hate this task and staff loathe the poor quality of the feedback they receive. From being a developmental opportunity, it quickly becomes the focus of resentment and frustration.

Yet it needn’t be this way; a positive performance conversation raises our self-awareness and sets the path for future development and personal and professional success.

Development training and coaching in this area is often a one-off activity.  My personal view is that it should be an annual activity, with fundamentals being set out in year one and refresher events thereafter.  Just as frontline hospital staff are required to keep their technical skills up to date, leaders should hone their performance and appraisal skills.


Author: Helen Caton Hughes

Leadership and Team Coach based on inspirational and practical tools. Works with leaders around the world; trains coaches to International Coach Federation standards. Passionate about finding best ways for leaders to inspire themselves and get the best from their teams

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