Be A Better Leader: Understand What Your Employees Really Do

You’re great at leading other people, but could you do their jobs?

Seems like a trivial question, but your answer can reveal how effective you are (or could be) as a woman in leadership.

If you think you’re busy enough doing your own job, new research might make you reconsider how much time you spend working side-by-side with employees.

Turns out, knowing their work makes you better.GettyImages-518425079

The more a leader understands about her employees’ work, the bigger impact she has on their job satisfaction, a study in the Industrial and Labor Relations Review found. And when employees are happy, they can be as much as 12% more productive!

You cast a long shadow

“The bottom line is that employees are happiest when the boss knows what he or she is talking about,” the researchers said. “The boss casts a long shadow … Your own team’s job satisfaction levels depend on your competence.”

The good news is, you don’t have to know the intricacies of everyone’s daily work. But women leaders will want to know a little more about each of their employees’ roles.

Then you can capitalize on what you learn from them and what they already know. Here’s how to make significant strides in both of those areas.

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Many women leaders came up through the ranks, so they know how to get the job done.

But it’s likely that things – processes, technology, resources and demands – have changed over time. What worked when you were on the front lines may not be the best approach now – and your employees work through that reality every day.

To stay up to date on your employees’ work (or learn what it’s all about if you’ve never done those tasks):

  • Roll up your sleeves. Work side-by-side at least once a quarter. Fill in for them at least once a year.
  • Ask questions. Employees are often so good at their jobs, they’re on autopilot. Ask why they do things a certain way and how that turned into their “best practice.” This helps both of you understand the work better.
  • Review and rewrite job descriptions. Duties change and roles adapt over time. After you’ve worked closely with employees, check that the job description and specific tasks reflect the current reality. If it doesn’t, work together to update it.

Capitalize on their knowledge

Most employees will know more about their individual jobs than you. Many will even have keen insight on your overall operations.

You can use their experience to the team’s and company’s advantage. Try to:

  • Get their insight regularly. Employees who’ve been at your company for a long time see what works and what doesn’t. That makes them a great resource. You’re busy and can’t possibly see everything that happens at their level, and they can bring front-line insight to you.
  • Focus on the takeaway. When you do get their feedback, absorb everything they have to say, without letting it turn into a rant on everything that’s wrong. Instead, keep the focus on the takeaway. You want to be able to create action steps that help you uncover ways to support employees doing what they do best.
  • Create a partnership. Recognize that not every employee will want to be a fountain of knowledge. With those who want to share all they can about their work, and possibly expand their roles, take strides to combine their knowledge and your leadership to move the department or company forward.

Great women in leadership never stop learning. Consider your employees an ever-growing source of education and growth.