"Sometimes, you have to take a break from being the kind of boss that's always trying to teach people things. Sometimes, you just have to be the boss of dancing." - Michael Scott, The Office
As clueless and annoying as Michael Scott could be, he did grow on the people he managed – and on all of us, too. When it comes down to it, he had one part of the whole package that makes a great manager: He had the love.
The part he lacked was that whole "managing people to be productive" thing.
Clearly, in real life, that part is essential for anyone who wants to make it as a leader, but so are being thoughtful and inspiring. Many of today's leaders have only a few pieces of the leadership puzzle. Often, it's the soft skills that they lack – and these are the hardest ones to teach.
A recent Brandon Hall Group study found that a third of organizations feel their leadership development practices are "below average" or "poor." If you're one of those organizations, things aren't going to change overnight. You have to put some work into it.
And if you're not one of those organizations, there's still always room for improvement – especially when you don't think you need it.
Start improving your leadership skills today with these three simple tips:
1. Own Your Role Like a Boss ... Because You Are the Boss
One thing Michael Scott had, without question, was confidence. And it worked to his advantage: If you can convince your team – many of whom find your management style questionable at best – to have a mid-day dance party in an old closet, you're doing something right.
Seventy percent of employees who lack confidence in the leadership of their organizations are not fully engaged. Even if you, as a leader, don't necessarily feel confident, it's important to appear confident. "Fake it 'til you make it," right?
If you feel you need a confidence boost, try these tips:
- Be precise. When communicating with people, especially your team, get to the point. Avoid fluff. Stories can be great for demonstrating a point, but they can also be interpreted as a nervous habit, so choose your words wisely.
- Speak slowly. Everyone processes information at a different pace. It's never a bad idea to take your time explaining something. That way, your team can absorb every word. Speaking slowly also makes you sound less anxious or nervous.
– Smile more. Smiling is contagious, and it gives people the impression you are open and approachable. It also releases endorphins – making you feel happier!
2. Don't Underestimate the Power of Transparency
Ninety-six percent of job seekers say it's important to work for a company that embraces transparency, according to Glassdoor. Whether he knew it or not, Michael Scott was exhaustingly transparent. Our notions of transparency have changed today's definition of professionalism, creating a more engaging and trusting atmosphere for employees. Becoming more transparent takes concerted effort, but the payoff is worth it.
Start by upping the clarity of your expectations with employees. Be unnecessarily clear on details of projects and performance goals. If it helps, write out your thoughts before speaking with employees. You'll soon get in the habit of being an open book with your employees.
3. Connect With People on a Personal Level
Robotic leadership styles don't inspire anyone. In fact, they do quite the opposite. Recent Gallup research found that "[m]ore than half of employees who strongly agree that they feel they can talk with their manager about non-work-related issues (55 percent) and can approach their manager with any type of question (54 percent) are engaged at work."
Michael Scott had the personal touch down – even if, in his case, it was often intrusive and unwanted.
If you want to get more (appropriately!) personal with your employees, you can start by setting aside time to engage in casual conversations with them. It's amazing what a few minutes of chitchat about Jeff's son's soccer team or Margie's grad program can do for building trust.
Lessons From a Legend
"Would I rather be feared or loved? Easy: both. I want people to be afraid of how much they love me." - Michael Scott, The Office
The meaning of "professionalism" is changing. Today's employees are increasingly looking for thoughtful, transparent, confident leadership. What Micheal Scott teaches us is the power of soft skills – a power that today's leaders need more than ever.
A version of this article originally appeared on the Reviewsnap blog.
Chris Arringdale is the cofounder and president of Reviewsnap.