Lead Well: How to Avoid Making Your Best People Care Less

10/30/2014 08:07 pm ET Updated Dec 30, 2014

Whether you lead a team of two or 2,000, it's likely you've noticed the value of hiring and retaining capable, self-motivated people. Yet it's all too common--and completely avoidable--that you inadvertently do little things that may de-motivate your "go to" people in big ways. Here are ten life-tested watch list items to make sure that as a leader, you're not making your best people care less:

  1. Be candid, direct and timely with constructive feedback. Don't hold back a helpful observation for your person's annual or semi-annual review. Deliver it, even when it's a hard message, and particularly if/when you find yourself wanting to avoid it.

  • There will be ebbs and flows in the volume of work, so it's important your people can flex with demands, but are not overloaded in a prolonged, burnout-inducing way. It's important to your people that you actually care about their workload--so I suggest from time to time you actively check in with them about their volume of work in relation to their capacity.
  • Tap in to (and take seriously) your people's experience, knowledge, and ideas. Be respectful and appreciative of their ideas, even when you may disagree or feel you have better ones. Hear them out, ask clarifying questions, and seek first to understand them.
  • Given times you may be more and less busy yourself, overall don't be aloof, opaque or unapproachable. On average, be more responsive and available to your people than not, ensuring you spend time with them regularly.
  • Show interest in and actively support your people's learning and career development. Ask them questions about where they want to head and why, and see what you can do to help them accordingly.
  • Recognize your people's accomplishments, spotlight them in more senior forums, and make sure they get credit for wins. Don't take credit for your people's work.
  • Don't ask or tell your people to do things you wouldn't be perfectly willing to do yourself.
  • When you give your people responsibility for something, give them authority to act on it in their own way, and a wide enough berth to "fail small" if needed to learn something.
  • From time to time, ask your people for candid, constructive feedback about how you are leading them; take what they say to heart, and if it rings true (whether or not you agree with it) do something about it.
  • Ensure the impact of your leadership on your people, and that of your organization on the world overall are both positive, and therefore sustainable.