Management Success Tip #149: Speak It, Mean It – The Ultimate Employee-Engaging Question: “How Can I Help You?”

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /

The higher up the food chain you are, the less likely your employees are to believe that you have their best interests at heart. Common perception is that supervisors, department heads, managers and on up are interested in their own success, and the company or department’s success – but rarely the employee’s.

This may not be true for you at all, but if you want employee engagement, the holy grail of today’s businesses, then you must demonstrate your interest in your employees’ success and well-being, or develop such an interest if it’s not natural to you.

One of the easiest ways to do that is to cultivate the “How can I help you?” state of mind. To literally, ask employees “How can I help you?” with a sincere, genuine desire both to hear what they have to say, and to help them with their challenges and concerns.

A sterling example of this in action was Doug Conant, who, while he was CEO of Campbell Soup Company, asked “How can I help you?” all the time of his employees, and required his managers to do so as well. Over time, Conant’s approach – genuine and meaningful –  completely turned Campbell Soup Co. around, from declining market value and profits, and woeful employee engagement, to a once-again thriving corporation.


No Surprise: Fortune’s “Best Companies To Work For” Also Some of the Most Successful

Fortune magazine and Great Place to Work just released their 18th annual “100 Best Companies To Work For.”

One trend to emerge from the survey was that more businesses are seeing a positive workplace culture as a strong competitive tool. The numbers bear this out. The survey shows that a positive work environment increases employee retention rates, and a more friendly work environment helps significantly increase employee productivity.

For small businesses that do not have the resources of large companies like Google to reward employees with big pay increases and generous benefits, here are suggestions to boost employee morale at little or no cost:

–Catch your employees in the act of doing something right—acknowledging your employees when they do something right is a far more successful than only commenting with them when they do something wrong.

–Your employees are only as good as you are—your employees will show up on time, have a good attitude, approach problems early and pitch in when needed if you encourage and support this behavior. Like attracts like.

–Keep employees on track and happy with clear direction – communicate employee duties and responsibilities clearly so they know what is expected of them.

–Right resources, right results – make sure your employees have the tools, training and sufficient time to accomplish their tasks and meet company goals.

–Fix the problem, note the blame – success does not come without bloopers and failures. When an error occurs, set your employees up for success by valuing their efforts to do better, not berating them for the failure.

–Increase employee success with regular, targeted feedback – an employee should never be surprised by a year-end review.

–All work and no play makes for unhappy workers—create an open, informal work environment, where work is not taken too seriously all the time.

The survey noted that since it began in 1998, the top 100 companies have outperformed the S&P 500 Index by a nearly 2 to 1 ratio and the 12 companies that have made the list every years since the survey was first published have created 341,567 new jobs.

The companies come from all industries—tech, retail biotechnology, financial services, real estate, energy, food services, manufacturing, healthcare and hospitality. This proves that the formula of treating employees with respect and appreciation and giving them the right tools to succeed cuts across all types of businesses. There is absolutely no excuse for a business to not use this model.

The survey asked employees about pay and benefits as well as workplace culture issues such as hiring practices, internal communications, training opportunities, recognition programs and diversity efforts. Google holds the top position for 2015 survey–for the sixth time in eight years.

Management Success Tip #148: Be Inspired By Big Cities’ Success: Bring The Right Mix Of People To The Table

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Ben Hecht posted a fascinating blog on how big cities think about large-scale change. He described, in considerable detail, the process used by big cities that were successful in implementing complex, large scale change.

Hecht pointed out, in one sentence that caught my attention like no other, that “Much of what weʼve learned is relevant to leaders of any type of organization or partnership that want to catalyze change in the face of complex challenges.”

Indeed. Take but one aspect of the process, what Hecht calls “Get the right players to the table.” He states that “Change happens only when the right mix of partners, with the right experience, knowledge, and power are at the table…Too often, actors that were fundamental to achieving the desired results were not yet involved in existing efforts — thatʼs why the efforts werenʼt working. We asked cities to start from the results that they wanted to achieve, and then to determine who needed to be at the table in order to achieve them. Often, this meant bringing people together who were not used to working together.”

What a powerful lesson that can be applied to any size business! Look at your team, or the people you’ve assembled to work on a project, and ask yourself, “Are these the people who need to be involved given our goals?” Open yourself to bringing people together who do not usually work together: techies with creative types, designers with employees in manufacturing, Boomers with Millenials.

Your employees will be invigorated by the diversity of their team, and you will have greater success.