Want to know what type of leader you are? Observe your employees’ behavior.

Each time I work with a client, I can observe anything I need to know about their leadership – their traits, strengths and weaknesses – by merely interacting with the employees. I believe how we behave affects how people respond. To get the insight on your effectiveness as a leader, observe how employees respond. What is typically revealed shows a disconnect between how the leader believes others perceive them versus what is true.

Retired American automobile executive Lee Iacocca once said, “The speed of the boss is the speed of the team.” I believe that to be true across all aspects of engagement, behavior and communication skills. If employees lack engagement, it’s typically because their management does, too. If employees have negative attitudes or are working in an atmosphere of fear, it’s because they have a lack of trust in their management due to communication inconsistencies in messages, delivery, reactions and follow through.

Did you know in a recent survey conducted by Kimble Applications, 75 percent of American workers said they cared deeply about the well-being of their employer but only 23 percent said they have full insight into how their organizations were actually doing?

There is a clear disconnect in many businesses between employees’ desire to be a part of the organization’s success and their leaders’ ability to let them.

Leadership is about influence. Influence is getting others to willingly act upon what is said. To influence others requires consistent, concise and transparent communication. The only way to truly know if you successfully influence others is to understand how they truly perceive you and to adjust your skills accordingly.

Below are common issues and concerns I observe from employees and the perception check I challenge with their leaders.

Leadership Issue #1: Employees lack engagement and passion for their work.

Leaders often perceive employees who lack passion as being unengaged, lazy or lacking commitment to the overall organizational needs. A 2017 study completed by Gallup even found that 51 percent of the workforces surveyed are not engaged, but why?

My Observation

Employees believe they lack direction, are unessential, unrewarded and out of the loop. They demonstrate stress and are overwhelmed in the workplace.

Reality Check:

When a leader inconsistently communicates with staff, they leave employees desperate for direction. Without it, employees are unproductive, as if their daily tasks are merely busy work that lacks meaning and value. Employees can quickly lose excitement and purpose for work when priorities aren’t frequently established and regularly communicated.

Communicate frequently. Whether through email, face-to-face, or conference calls, communicate often to clarify goals, priorities and objectives.

Walk the floor. Get out of your office and interact with employees. Encourage them to discuss questions and concerns. Solicit their ideas and feedback for projects and tasks.

Acknowledge hard work. Even if you understand the hard work and effort that goes into accomplishing projects and tasks, verbally acknowledge it to your employees. Reward their dedication and communicate appreciation.

Leadership Issue #2: Employees aren’t willing to speak up.

Leaders get frustrated when they solicit feedback from employees and instead receive blank stares in a quiet room. They often contribute this to employees lacking innovative ideas or a desire for organizational improvement.

My Observation:

Employees have given up attempting to contribute ideas either because they are:

– Frequently interrupted,

– Discouraged by a lack of listening,

– Believe they aren’t heard, or

– Fail to see follow-through.

Reality Check:

Even if a leader has the best of intentions, they must understand there is a reason that their employees hesitate to provide input, even when solicited. Encouraging employees to speak up and share requires a leader to build trust and credibility first.

When seeking feedback or input, listen only. Don’t comment until the speaker is done sharing and refrain from formulating thoughts until they have fully expressed theirs.

Give others your undivided attention. Ignore distractions and possible interruptions such as alerts, text messages, emails and phone calls. Allow the employee to perceive their input is the single most important thing on your agenda in that moment.

Utilize nonverbal body language to signal interest. Lean into your speaker, make deliberate eye contact and keep your posture in a neutral stance. Refrain from crossing your arms, leaning back or fidgeting while they speak.

Leadership Issue #3: Employees lack respect for leadership.

Leaders express that employees don’t react to their message with reverence, believability or respect. They witness a dismissive attitude by those on their team and are often forced to repeat themselves to get any employee traction.

My Observation:

Employees are frustrated that leadership inconsistently reacts to different scenarios. They often observe managers overreacting emotionally to situations instead of remaining calm and strategic. They lack respect for leaders when they are requested to sit through lectures or long-winded, seemingly pointless meetings. As team members hear those in leadership positions using filler words, they question the credibility of the message and that of the speaker.

Reality Check:

Credibility, trust and respect are earned with consistent communication and follow through. Trust gets broken when promises lack delivery. When messages get shared but lack continuity or clarity, credibility is called into question. Respect is earned when leaders routinely follow through on commitments made to employees and seek to make employees’ interests their own.

Follow through on your promises and commitments. Routinely communicate the status of your progress, allowing others to see your commitment to them.

Deliver messages with brevity and clarity. To prevent confusion, remove non-words from your vocabulary, such as “uh” and “um.” Utilize a pause while you transition to new topics, allowing everything shared to be fully understood.

Ensure your messages have continuity. Remain emotionally calm and professional in each interaction and response. Allow your employees to develop trust in your responses by witnessing the consistency in your behavior.

Are you ready for a leadership reality check?

Start first by soliciting feedback from someone you trust. Ask how you are truly perceived, not just what you believe to be true. Record yourself in meetings and on the phone. Be quick to watch and listen to the playback so you can observe your tonality, vocal inflections, word choices and nonverbal body language. When you commit to seeing yourself the way others do, you can then make the commitment to improve where needed. As you practice these skills in every interaction – high-stakes meetings or casual conversation – your influence, trust and credibility will improve. 


  • Stacey Hanke

    Founder and communication expert of Stacey Hanke Inc., author of Influence Redefine ... Be the Leader You Were Meant to Be, Monday to Monday

    Stacey Hanke is author of the book; Influence Redefined…Be the Leader You Were Meant to Be, Monday to Monday®. She is also co-author of the book; Yes You Can! Everything You Need From A To Z To Influence Others To Take Action. Stacey is founder of Stacey Hanke Inc. She has trained and presented to thousands to rid business leaders of bad body language habits and to choose words wisely in the financial industry to the healthcare industry to government and everyone in between. Her client list is vast from Coca-Cola, FedEx, Kohl’s, United States Army, Navy and Air Force, Publicis Media, Nationwide, US Cellular, Pfizer, GE, General Mills and Abbvie. Her team works with Directors up to the C-Suite. In addition to her client list, she has been the Emcee for Tedx. She has inspired thousands as a featured guest on media outlets including; The New York Times, Forbes, SmartMoney magazine, Business Week, Lifetime Network, Chicago WGN and WLS-AM. She is a Certified Speaking Professional—a valuable accreditation earned by less than 10% of speakers worldwide.