People often follow leaders because they inspire them. That inspiration may motivate them and create a willingness to serve or an attitude of gratitude for that leader who shares their knowledge, passion and vision.
What do good leaders do with that? They take the time to develop the people around them.
When we think about how we get people to change their behaviors and follow the vision their leaders set, we see that we use inspiration to motivate them. But to change their behavior, we have to give them the skills they need. We do this through training.
Great leaders work not just on creating willingness and attitude in their followers to work hard but also on giving them the actual skills they need to do so.
They recognize that there are two elements to creating the right behaviors in people. They have to be able to figure out:
1. What people are physically and mentally capable of doing
2. What people are actually willing to do
The obvious caveat here is that just because people are able to perform properly doesn’t mean they will. Good leaders blend both of these things, getting people to want to do the job in the right way at the right time.
But it starts with attitude because our people’s attitudes are reflected in their behaviors.
I’ve often found that for an employee who has been a good performer in the past but starts to slip, it’s not that they don’t know how to do the work. They’ve done the job before, so something else is at play: often attitude.
For whatever reason, the person’s attitude has soured their willingness to perform. What we have to understand here is that attitudes come from feelings.
I recently heard a quote by John Maxwell in which he said that he believes leaders must love their people. His point was that if we stop caring about our people, we can’t be good leaders.
It’s clear that there’s a direct connection between people’s attitudes and how they feel about their work and their leaders.
I have a client who recently hired a person with all the pedigree one would expect of a senior leader. When that person was on a business trip with a coworker, he said something to the effect of “I can’t stand people.”
Of course, that got back to the business owner, who called me and said, “We have a huge problem.”
He was right! A person in a leadership role is now on record saying he can’t stand people. No one is going to follow him with that attitude.
Caring about how your people feel may sound soft and fuzzy, but their feelings create their attitude, which directly impacts their behaviors.
So how can we impact feelings and attitudes? One of the best ways is through reinforcement.
Reinforcement falls into a couple of buckets, with the best one, of course, being positive reinforcement. Positive reinforcement includes pats on the back, bonuses, movie tickets, etc. — whatever it means for your organization to give someone something good for a job well done.
Another kind is negative reinforcement, which people sometimes think of as punishment. It’s not. It’s withholding something negative if your employee does the right thing. Think: “Do your job, and I won’t fire you.”
As you can see, that’s not necessarily the best motivator. I recognize there are points at which we’ve exhausted all other avenues to get people to change, but this type of reinforcement should be a last resort — the bulk of our time should be spent on positive reinforcement.
What’s clear is that if we don’t have some type of reinforcement for people’s performance, good behavior goes extinct.
If we don’t follow through on reinforcing the right behaviors, they start to disappear. Adults start to think, “Well, no one’s saying anything anymore so maybe it doesn’t matter anymore.”
Good leaders know this, and they know that reinforcement and encouragement have to be a big part of their message in keeping people fired up about their vision.
If we really want to change people’s behaviors, we have to be concerned with their feelings and attitudes. But when it comes to behaviors, the most important job we have as leaders is defining the behaviors we desire from them.
How often do we, as leaders, give someone a job description and say, “Here you go, this is the job you have to do?”
The job description is important but it doesn’t paint the big picture or create a line of sight between what they do every day and how it impacts the company’s strategic goals.
Creating that bridge is what leadership is all about. We have to get people to echo our vision, understand their role and motivate them to work hard in that role. We have to define for them what their behavior should look like, what the rules of the game are and what the results we want look like.
Of course, we want to let people solve their own problems. But we all know there are constraints in the business world: budgets and processes. We have to define those constraints for our people, and within that framework, say, “Go get ‘em, tiger!”
Once we’ve defined the behaviors we want, shared the vision and offered encouragement, then our people will have all the tools they need to succeed.
As leaders, we have to recognize that the climate we create in our organization is ultimately what’s going to determine the level of success of the organization. All good leaders in any industry set the right climate for their people to be successful, create a willingness in their people to work hard, and recognize them for their accomplishments.
I believe things like this are easy, yet we make them hard. Leadership can be easy if we’re willing to put in hard work to make it happen.
This article originally appeared on Forbes.com.