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Great leaders lead by a plan rather than by accident, says Brian Gareau, manager of organizational effectiveness and engagement at Caterpillar, speaking at CONEXPO this year. “Leadership is really easy,” he said. “It’s the day-to-day application of it that is challenging.”
Great leaders wear three hats, he told attendees:
- Manager, with a focus on projects, budgets and assets.
- Company advocate, with a focus on clearly conveying executive leadership’s vision — without saying, “Don’t blame me; I don’t make the rules.”
- Employee advocate, with a focus on accurately delivering employee feedback upstream to help decision-makers make informed choices.
You can combine your advocate roles to improve employee engagement, which can benefit productivity and retention. What’s critical here, Gareau says, is communication, particularly in times of change and uncertainty.
- Share information in a variety of formats — print, online, verbal — to the large group.
- Generate understanding by answering questions, speaking with small groups and individuals, and addressing the “what’s-in-it-for-me” factor.
- Reinforce applications so that you follow up with people to see what other questions they have and you offer thanks and recognition when you see them doing as you want.
The idea is to integrate and understand the basic needs of employees — fair wages and safe work conditions — and the emotional needs — the fear of change and the need for recognition. When you can integrate these, and lead by example, you get more engaged employees, Gareau said.
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