In a previous blog post, we discussed the article “Toxic Workplaces” by The Economist, and what Amnesty International failed to do in caring for its employees… ultimately resulting in the tragic death of one of the staff members.
In this follow-up, we’ll explain what you should know (and do) to prevent something like this from happening. The key takeaway is to ask for and respond to meaningful input from your employees. Working with leaders to do this well is what we specialize in at EII Consulting.
It’s More than Just the “Mission” at Play
Amnesty International was doing the opposite of good—or even adequate—when it cam
e to leading their employees. Yes, their employees were listening to them and many were achieving, but only because they believed in the mission… not because they necessarily wanted to follow their leaders.
As a leader, it’s important to pay attention to your team’s interests to achieve your goals. Or, you will encounter a crisis like Amnesty where staff leave, lose productivity, or—in the most severe cases—hurt themselves or others.
So, how does a good leader fix a problem like the one in which Amnesty found itself?
The “5 Levels of Leadership” Assessment
A great place to start is turning to John C. Maxwell’s approach to “levels of leadership.” Maxwell defines five distinct Levels of Leadership. The below visual defines those levels. Note that in the lowest level, Level 1, people only follow the leader because they feel like they have little other choice.
The rest of the Levels of Leadership build upon each other with slightly more engagement from the people on your team.
As you “step up,” you will be implementing those aspects of the previous levels while adding more value to the team.
Clearly, Amnesty International is aiming for Level 5 leadership with their mission of advocating for political prisoners, but they failed in this instance. They were actually at Level 1! The reason they failed is expressly because they did not focus enough on their workers. You can only change the world once you have changed it for your team. They will only take you as far as you take them.
How Do You Get to a Higher Level of Leadership?
In order to make it to these higher levels of leadership, you should continuously be building on your relationships with your employees and focusing on that—as well as (obviously) the mission of the company.
Google has done research on leadership and what makes good leaders—defining the actions you need to take in order to reach the level of leadership you aspire to. According to the research, the most important factor a good leader possesses include empowering and coaching your team/employees through their work.
People often assume that knowing “how” to do the job and having a vision for the company is what sets normal leaders apart from great ones, but that isn’t the case. Your job as a manager is to remove obstacles for your team and to help them through the process of doing the work. When they do well, you notice their efforts and reward them.
The above visual is captured from our leadership course. Contact us today for more helpful information like this!
Both Maxwell’s Levels of Leadership and Google’s leadership research show that one of the most important things you do as a leader is work FOR your employees by empowering them with their work. If your employees don’t want to be there or aren’t enjoying what they’re doing, you’re not only failing them, but you’re failing yourself and your company.
Why You Should Care About Your Employees’ Mental Health
As we discussed in part one of this blog series, one employee of Amnesty International, Gaëtan Mootoo, committed suicide. While there were surely underlying mental health issues he had been dealing with—and Amnesty International is not to blame for those issues—the French authorities made it clear by defining it as a “work accident” that Amnesty was at fault.
An organization’s leaders needed to be more aware of how to help their employees during a stressful time. A lot of people struggle with mental health issues, and your system needs to be able to help them with a confidential and responsive Employee Assistance Program (EAP)—so they can continue to help you meet your goals and to avoid a catastrophe like the one Amnesty faced.
The report that came out after the tragedy of Mr. Mootoo’s death revealed that employees felt the services being provided were not helping to prevent issues. They felt services were being employed reactively, only after a problem arose. Eighty-five percent of employees said they didn’t know how they could help their fellow colleagues’ well-being.
More proactive processes were crucial; ones that focused on providing employees with ways to cope with the stresses of that job and to make adjustments, if necessary.
In contrast, companies like Ernest and Young (EY) offer examples of what other companies should be doing to help their employees. They have a program called “r u ok” to allow for their employees to discuss their mental health and provide services for those in need.
The company’s EAP allows for employees to receive free assessments, referrals, and short-term counseling for any mental or emotional problems. These services are available to any large or small business. Similar programs are delivered at no cost to employees by stand-alone EAP vendors or providers who are part of comprehensive health insurance plans—make sure your company offers this!
No matter the mission of the company, it’s vital that managers make sure that their employees’ needs are met and their expectations are considered when making strategic decisions. Make checking in on your team a regular part of your work routine. It is ok to be direct and ask how they are doing!
If you need help making your organization a more welcoming place to work, EII Consulting is more than happy to work on this with you. Contact us to learn more about the services we offer.