Love them or lose them. As the economy brightens engagement is hugely important. You need to make sure each of your people think ‘this is the best place for me to be’.

As products and services become more alike, competitive advantage increasingly depends on human skills. A recent study involving 20,000 managers and 200,000 respondents conclude that ‘inspires and motivates to high performance’ was the most important of all leadership competencies.

Here are three ‘to do’ tips to help:

1. Use the 5:1 ratio to create buzz in your workplace

Professor Kim Cameron in ‘Positive Leadership’ highlights the startling discovery that in the best performing teams (and marriages!) one factor is TWICE as powerful as anything else in predicting the team’s success:

The ratio of positive comments – approval, praise, appreciation and compliments – to negative comments – criticism, disparagement, pointing out faults – is 5 to 1.

In medium performing teams it is 2 to 1.

In low performing teams it is 1 to 3!

Of course there are times when critical messages must be delivered, but they work best when there has been a prevalence of positive messages first.

2. Create a culture where your people have a tremendous opportunity to be heard

The four most important words in any business – ‘What do you think?’ or ‘What would you do if you were me?’ Sometimes all you have to do to inspire people is to listen and act on what you hear. Carry a notebook or electronic equivalent and write ideas down.

Be interested in the individual and their life both inside and outside the workplace. Treat people as individuals – learn what motivates them and makes them tick.

3. Validate key individuals

Lift up success stories and talk to high performers about the importance of the work they do.

Make a special effort to validate key players. Tell them – ‘you are vital to our success’, ‘you are the glue that holds us together’.

Hand out encouragement. Lead by example. Remember the ultimate test of inspirational leadership is – ‘How do I feel about me when I’m with you?’

When you make people feel terrific about themselves you are well on your way to retaining your people and creating a great team – virtual or otherwise.

Learn more about LDL management and leadership development.

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