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6 Min Read

5 Ways Leaders Can Contribute to a Work Revolution

Anessa Fike

If you don’t treat your people well, you will lose out to companies that do. End of story. 

Most people who leave their jobs do it because they’re not paid enough, they have no opportunity for advancement, or because they feel disrespected. As a leader, there’s a lot you can do to build loyalty—paying them well and helping them grow are the basics.

I’m Anessa Fike, CEO at Fike+Co. I’m all about helping organizations build work environments where people feel safe, protected, and valued, and I recently had a conversation with 15Five about this on the HR Superstars podcast.

Let’s talk about how you can be a revolutionary leader.

Two verbs get you 99% of the way there: care and listen

If you’re just looking for ways to reduce your organization’s churn rate so your reports look better for your shareholders, you’re in the wrong place. We’re here to transform work for the people we work with, not the investors. You can only lead a work revolution if you genuinely care about people.

I’ve worked with over 120 organizations around the world, and trust me when I say there’s no perfect place to work. But perfection isn’t the goal. Better is. The best places to work, all have one thing in common. Their leaders give a damn.

Another big piece? Listening. Really listening. It means putting aside your priorities to really take in what people say.

Leaders who listen can identify problems before they become an organization-wide crisis. Leaders who care about finding the best solution to those problems for everyone—and not just the organization—make their workplace better.

Question the foundations

So many of the things we take for granted at work are based on unchallenged assumptions we’ve carried around for hundreds of years. These assumptions make up the foundations of what we think a workplace should be. Depending on where you’re from, the people who built these foundations may not look, think, or live the way you do.

In the U.S., for example, the “modern workplace” still has its roots firmly planted in these assumptions. Many of us work 9-5 jobs from Monday to Friday. Why these hours? Why these days? What about the night owls who get their best work done after everyone else is in bed? Why aren’t they allowed to work the hours that best suit them? Because someone at some point in the last 100 years decided it was the most productive way to work?

In my book The Revolution of Work, I have a whole chapter about professionalism and the gist is this; too often, we use that word to chastise someone who doesn’t conform. What “professional” even means comes from these assumptions.

If you want to go from “workplace” to “revolutionary place to work,” you need to challenge some of the most foundational aspects of how you do business.

Don’t give robot work to people

Robot work is anything that doesn’t need the input of the smart, capable people on your team. The kind of thing you could give to ChatGPT and no one could tell the difference. Too many leaders are ok with giving people robot work because it makes everyone look more busy even though it slowly drains them of their creativity and that unique spark that makes them human.

Take a look at some of the most important jobs throughout your company. How many of them are mired in mechanical, repetitive, dull, uncreative work? Does it really need the attention of a living, breathing person?

Imagine everything you could accomplish if your people had the opportunity to actually make things. Make an impact. Make a difference. Make a change.

No more robot work.

Stop being weird about feedback

We all say we love feedback. We use tools like 15Five to turn feedback into the fuel that makes our companies better. But when was the last time someone at your company was comfortable telling the CEO what they really felt? 

We say we love feedback, but too many of us really mean that we love seeing other people get feedback. Even if we know getting feedback will help us get better, our ego likes to jump in and slam the brakes whenever someone’s trying to help us.

Don’t be weird about feedback. If you want to lead a revolutionary workplace, encourage your peers to call out what you’re doing wrong. Take it all, productive, destructive, positive, negative. There’s something helpful in just about every bit of feedback you get, even if your ego bristles at the thought of it.

Make it 50/50

Human relationships are a give and take. We know this and try to live it in our personal lives. We do our best to keep our relationships 50/50, though we recognize that sometimes the scale tips a little heavy on one side—and that it’s something we work through until we bring back some sense of balance.

So why are most employer-employee relationships 90/10 in favor of the employer?

I’ve seen too many workplaces where employers expect everything from their employees while giving them almost nothing. If you’re happy with an organization where people cycle in and out as soon as they realize what’s going on, then by all means, keep up the status quo. But if you want your organization to be the kind of place where people want to be—instead of just where they get their paycheck—then start treating them like equals.

Go from status quo to revolution

I work with tons of leaders who say they want to make changes in their organization but have no idea where to start. Knowing there’s a problem is a great first step, but that’s all it is: the first step. If you want to lead a work revolution, you need to show just how much you care about your people, question everything, eliminate the robot work, go looking for feedback, and treat your people as equals.

Trust me. When you take that leap, amazing things will happen.

About the Author

As the CEO and Founder of Fike+Co, and serving as a Fractional Chief People Officer, Anessa Fike has provided strategic and operational leadership in human resources, talent acquisition, and employer branding for over 10 years. She collaborates with clients across various industries and sizes, ranging from startups to Fortune 500 companies, aiding them in navigating periods of transition, transformation, growth, and M&A.

Anessa’s mission revolves around creating and fostering inclusive, diverse, and engaging cultures that empower individuals to thrive and perform at their best. With a proven track record, she has delivered innovative and impactful solutions in areas such as employee experience, retention, compensation, benefits, learning, development, and DEI. Additionally, she is a frequent speaker, writer, and contributor on topics related to talent and culture. In 2022, Anessa was recognized as one of the most inclusive HR influencers and top DEI influencers.