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LeaderPulse: The 5 Most Valuable Gifts Most Leaders Aren’t Getting

By Evan Sinar, Ph.D.

Evan Sinar, Ph.D.

This year, Boss’s Day is October 17th. This unofficial holiday was created in 1958 to celebrate and show appreciation for leaders who not only bring out the best in their employees, but who have a passion and energy for the team and company that is contagious. Great leaders can identify and grow even stronger leaders for tomorrow. They deserve every bit of recognition they receive on Boss’s Day and every other day.

Infographic: 5 Most Valuable GiftsHow should employees recognize their life-changing leaders in ways their leaders find most valuable? We looked at our research involving thousands of leaders to propose five alternatives to common Boss’s Day gifts. Though these aren’t gifts that employees wrap up and hand over in a box, they’re even more likely than their traditional gift counterparts to make leaders more successful, engaged, and likely to stay.

For this Boss's Day, consider these less common, but more valuable gifts:

1. Trade the paperweight for some heavy feedback.

Only 17 percent of leaders feel that employees are extensively involved in their development—all other leaders want more feedback from their team on how they’re doing. Employees see a side of leaders that no one else does, and once-a-year (if at all) 360-degree feedback often isn’t specific, timely, or actionable enough to help leaders become better. Leaders won’t get the input they need on how to build on strengths and shore up weaknesses without the unique perspectives of their employees.

2. Forgo the fancy pen for notes about your development needs.

A full 89 percent of leaders look for opportunities every day to develop their employees. This development may happen directly through planned performance reviews and regular coaching discussions, but a large percentage of development opportunities—in many cases, those that ultimately turn out to be the most impactful—happen unpredictably. Leaders need to know what and how their employees want to grow in time to take advantage of an immediate developmental assignment or challenge. And there’s only one source for this information—the employees themselves. Employees with well-documented and personally-crafted development plans make the leader’s role as a talent champion much easier and more rewarding.

3. While a box of chocolates may offer immediate gratification, your leader is looking for more substantial reasons to stay in the job.

From our research, two top drivers of leader retention are having a good work-life balance and seeing that their company firmly supports employee development. Poor balance between work and home is often a sign of a leader’s micro-management tendencies and failure to delegate. Respected and trusted employees can help their leaders avoid falling into these detrimental patterns by pointing out missed opportunities to share the load within the team. Employees can also help their leaders stay calibrated on how consistently the company and the leaders themselves back up claims of broadly available and well-supported employee development with action and follow-through. When leaders know they’re playing the role they should be in building, sustaining, and advocating for employee development, and when they’re finding balance between their work and non-work lives, they’re less likely to leave the role, team, and company.

4. Skip the #1 Boss coffee mug and send a real message about what you value most from your leader.

In our research, we’ve found that, if given the chance, leaders would spend twice as much time working directly with their employees—coaching, collaboratively innovating, and celebrating successes—while trading off and scaling back time spent on administrative and managerial tasks like scheduling and paperwork. Employees are a critical voice to the company and to the leader about the parts of the leader’s role they find most valuable for their success. This perspective is an essential counterweight to the constant pressures placed on leaders to manage. Without this perspective, leaders and the companies they work for can easily, unintentionally, and dangerously neglect the interpersonal aspects of leadership.

5. Instead of that putting green, give your boss opportunities to hone their interpersonal leadership skills.

Forty-three percent of all leaders from our research don't get frequent chances to practice their interaction skills. This is a major problem because these skills only improve with time and focus, and they decay when they’re not being used. Employees are also the best judge of whether a leader’s interpersonal skills are improving. If they are not, employees know why and what should be done instead. Employees who initiate feedback, are receptive to feedback, and provide timely feedback about a leader’s foundational leadership skills will have an strong impact on leaders becoming stronger at the interaction behaviors at the core of effective, life-changing leadership.

Boss’s Day is an opportunity to acknowledge and appreciate leaders who make their employees more engaged and their companies more successful. Instead of wrapping a gift, employees should consider other forms of recognition that will mean the most to the leader who means the most to them. Instead of a box, these come in the shape of skills, feedback, and conversations to make leaders better, to make their jobs richer, and to give them reasons to stay in their job until the next Boss’s Day and beyond.

This article is the first of a new DDI series, LeaderPulse, to be released monthly. LeaderPulse will be a curation of data that looks at leader trends, leveraging DDI's extensive databank and pairing current events with new sources of research. For more information about the research study from which the data referenced above were drawn, please see the Global Leadership Forecast 2014|2015 which includes 25 findings about the state, context, and outcomes of high-quality leadership globally.

Evan Sinar, Ph.D. is DDI’s Chief Scientist and Vice President of the Center for Analytics and Behavioral Research (CABER). Evan is a thought leader on leadership assessment and development, talent management analytics, and data visualization.

Posted: 14 Oct, 2016,
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