A COUPLE of years ago, I bought a painting for about $30. I was enjoying the sun on a Bali beach when a painting peddler approached me.

I flipped through the many canvases he had and one of them “jumped out” at me. 

Since then, I have been the proud owner of an oil painting of a kampong scene in Bali, complete with coconut trees and sarong-clad folks. It hangs in my living room — where I tend to spend most of my free time — as a reminder to “go-back-to-basics” once in a while.

This approach to revisit the essentials can equally apply to leaders, whether you are a newly appointed supervisor or a chief executive officer:



 Treat employees with respect

If you want others to respect you, you have to first respect them as individuals with feelings.

Remembering their names is so fundamental, but leaders sometimes overlook this and excuse themselves by saying: “Oh, I have too many things to remember.”

This is not helpful to anyone. The next time you bump into the tea lady, greet her by name — and watch out for the smile that will naturally follow.



 Acknowledge and celebrate

I always say that people don’t do this enough.

When one of your colleagues does something well, say something simple and complimentary, such as: “Good job, Linda!”

That will take just five seconds tops and does not cost you or the company anything. But you can be sure it will make a difference to Linda.

When a milestone is achieved or maybe even something more basic, like the completion of a project, take the entire team out for dinner.

It does not need to be in a fancy restaurant with $300 bottles of wine (although that would be nice once in a while). A simple meal at a seafood restaurant is fine. 



 Offer feedback

Feedback is helpful. When you give feedback, be as specific and as “immediate” as you can. 

For example: “Ai Ling, when you raised your voice at Venka at the meeting just now, how do you think he felt?

“And how do you think the rest of the team feel about your behaviour? How will you react differently the next time someone says something that you do not agree with?”

Focus on behaviours and their impact on others around you. Do not get personal.

And always get to know the full facts.

If you wish to provide disciplinary-type feedback, for example, when a colleague complains about another’s actions, always speak to both parties before you take any action. Never make decisions based on just one person’s input.



 Communicate well and
nurture a sense of belonging

Communication is perhaps the most fundamental leadership skill. But it is also the most challenging.

The key to doing it effectively is to decide which communication tool you should ideally use. For example, if you have to communicate bad or “difficult” news to your staff, it is best to do this in person, and in private.

Send e-mail only if the message needs to go on record, or if the recipient is not located in the same building/country. For such situations, a preferred alternative would be the telephone.

Leaders should communicate to share updates, news and so on with their employees as and when it is necessary — the more frequently, the better.

Employees like to feel they are part of a bigger story, and it also gives them a sense of belonging, which is essential for them to do a good job.



 Focus on strengths

People like to be appreciated for what they are good at, rather than be told what they have not done so well. Try to focus on the strengths of each member of your team, and harness this collective strength.

Of course, you should also highlight the key areas for development or improvement so that your employees can learn and grow and be even more effective in their jobs.

But do this only after you have focused on their strengths. They will be more motivated to do their best when they feel valued.


Article by Paul Heng, founder/managing director and executive coach of NeXT Career Consulting Group, Asia. Visit www.nextcareer.net for more information.