What Your Employees Need From You

Eight keys to leadership that your people want from you but will probably never ask you for directly

Written by Rick Spence
Special Report: Your Best Year Ever

Leadership is tough. When you run a business there’s no instruction book. And while there’s always someone around to remind you to pay the bills or get to a meeting on time, there’s not usually anyone on the payroll who’s likely to remind you to listen better or be more empowering.

That means entrepreneurs have to figure out for themselves what leadership is about.

Fortunately, Melissa Raffoni is on your side. As president of Boston-based Raffoni CEO Consulting, she works with CEOs of mid-sized companies and their employees all the time. Writing on the Harvard Business Review blog, she says she often has to remind senior leaders what their real job really is: supporting their team and getting the best from them.

“I often have to remind the dedicated, smart CEOs I work with that leading takes time and energy,” she says. “Directing the feelings, attitudes, actions and behaviors of a team is a big task.”

To help business leaders keep their eye on the ball, Raffoni came up with the following list of eight things your employees want from you, but which they’ll probably never ask you for directly.

1. Tell me my role, tell me what to do, and give me the rules. Give your subordinates clear parameters so they can work within broad outlines.

2. Discipline my co-worker who is out of line. People trying to do a good job are always put out when their colleagues get away with half-hearted efforts. But what really upsets them is when leadership doesn’t seem to notice or care.

3. Get me excited. People want to feel passionate about the company they work for, the product they support, or the project for which they’re giving their all. Give them a reason to get excited.

4. Don’t forget to praise me. Motivate employees by leveraging their strengths, not harping on their weaknesses.

5. Don’t scare me. Your employees really don’t need to know what’s keeping you awake at night. Let them focus on what they can do best.

6. Impress me. Every leader has elements of greatness. Make sure your best strengths are always on show. Whether it’s your technical skills, your customer knowledge or your management savvy, you have characteristics only you can bring to your organization €“ and you shouldn’t be shy about role-modeling those traits.

7. Give me some autonomy. Give people interesting tasks to work on, and let them do it their way. As Raffoni

8. Set me up to win. Everyone wants to win. Make sure your people are in the right place, with the right teams, and armed with the right tools to let them hit realistic goals. Make sure everyone’s a winner €“ but don’t make it too easy.

“Your job is to make it practical for people to succeed,” says Raffoni

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Rick Spence is the Toronto-based author of the Canadian Entrepreneur blog and a consultant on marketing, strategy and business growth. You can reach him at

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