By Dr Lynda Shaw, cognitive neuroscientist and business psychologist,

Due to a lack of good leaders in the UK, employees of all ages and across all income levels are feeling apathetic and detached from their work resulting in a loss of productivity, increase in sick days and poorer quality work.

There are plenty of good managers in the UK workforce but there is a lack of dynamic business leaders who inspire and drive their workforce to be their very best. As top management attempt to juggle more business roles and responsibilities during an uncertain economic climate, as well as the growing demands of social media, networking, accountability, and never ending bureaucracy, we are neglecting our staff and increasingly treating them as robots on a production line, which ultimately harms profit.

Differentiating between managers and leaders is crucial. Managers need to ensure that people are happily engaged at work and that the company is harnessing their employees’ individual personalities, goals, needs and abilities to build a successful and intuitive working environment. We spend more waking hours at work than anywhere else so managers need to be able and willing to facilitate workers’ accomplishments by removing obstacles, providing help and acknowledging strong effort.

As a leader though, you need to inspire your staff to be the very best they can be and to have a thirst for knowledge. Leaders need to give their staff opportunities to develop and grow, and to lead by example. A good leader also is able to make firm but fair decisions by listening to all sides and then trusting their experience and instincts.

How a leader reads and then reacts to a positive or negative workplace situation can have a huge effect on staff. If employees are unhappy, unmotivated or frustrated it has a profound effect on creativity, productivity and commitment. For example we are far more likely to have new ideas on days when we are happy because we widen our attention and broaden our perspective when feeling good. By default if we feel positive about something we are more likely to want to repeat that experience and our motivation centres in the brain embrace new experiences and growth. When we feel negative however, we tend to narrow our attention naturally in order to focus on what is making us feel bad.

Many of the key traits a leader needs; perception skills, problem solving and excellent communication skills all have their roots in cognitive and social psychology. By our very nature, human beings are social species rather than individualists thus the vital relationships we have with others in the workplace are hugely influential on our happiness and emotional stability and dedication. We need good leaders to encourage and drive this.

Managers are of course vital too. Communication should be the absolute golden word for any successful manager. Not just between the business and client or customer, but amongst the staff. Being able to engage well with your staff, be empathetic to any problems and stresses they face, and to relate to them on a human level, is crucial to a happy workforce but can be overlooked in the drive for profit. Colleagues must be able to work together, to support each other and to feel like a team and this is the job of a good manager.

A 2012 survey of 1,000 workers in the United Kingdom conducted by the job search website Jobsite showed that for 70 percent of respondents, friends at work is the most crucial element to a happy working life.

Leaders on the other hand need to be constantly aware that the atmosphere in any working environment has a ‘trickle’ effect. It starts at the top of the hierarchy and works its way down to all team members. Studies in the past decade have proven that emotions in business can be infectious.”

The importance of positive energy needs to be stressed, and the often used ‘FUD’ method; fear, uncertainty and doubt, can not only damage workplace moral, but also have a detrimental effect on employees personal confidence. A good manager will recognize the human inside the suit. They will be able to be sympathetic to the employees’ concerns and needs. Failing to do so will only damage relations, and in the long-term the business. A good leader should be the driver, motivating, encouraging new ideas, and passionate about what they do which in turn will filter down through the workforce.

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