Management Success Tip #181: Give First What You Want to Get from Your Employees

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Recently, The Conference Board came up with a practical, down to earth, and—more importantly—useful definition of “employee engagement.” Because frankly, half the time, when you ask managers how they define “employee engagement,” all you get is a blank stare and a “Uh, well, it’s when employees are engaged” type response, which means virtually nothing.

Here’s the definition: “A heightened emotional connection that an employee feels for his or her organization, that influences him or her to exert greater discretionary effort to his or her work.”

Now to the practical part. The Conference Board’s first “key driver” of employee engagement is “Trust and integrity: how well managers communicate and ‘walk the talk.’

Ah yes, there it is. Where the rubber meets the road. How well do you walk your talk? For example, if you want employees to work well together, to collaborate seamlessly on projects—do you listen to employees when they communicate to you? Or is your mind on 100 other things, so you’re following their thoughts with but a fraction of your attention? Are you appreciative of their opinions, ideas and innovations? Or do you dismiss employee ideas as ‘not good enough’ or ‘yeah, yeah, heard that already’ without even giving them credit for the desire to improve things?

You can’t get what you aren’t willing to give. It’s just as true in the workplace as it is in your other relationships. Be willing to give to your employees in spades what you want them to contribute to your company’s success.

Management Success Tip #178: Turn Your Boring Meeting Notes into a Powerful Action Plan

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If there’s anything you find more annoying than meetings, it’s having to take meeting notes. Why have to repeat everything that was said? It seems a monumental waste of time.

Indeed, if that’s how you look at it, meeting notes are a waste of time.

But, if instead, you think of meeting notes as a powerful way to get things done . . . well, that changes everything!

Think of meeting notes not as an historical rendering of what happened, but rather as a succinct series of bullet points which captures the key points, lays out the specific commitments for each topic discussed, and reminds all concerned of who’s responsible for what and by when.

In other words, an action plan! Where is it writ that meeting notes should be useless? On the contrary, make your meeting notes strong, solid and purposeful. Make sure your notes define in clear, actionable terms, who is to do what, where, how, when and with whom.

Which is how you can insure that the critical follow-up occurs. Because, as you well know, nothing happens without follow-up. If your meeting notes form the action plan, follow-up becomes a piece of cake.

Management Success Tip #177: Encourage Your Employees’ Best Work: Adopt Employee-Friendly Body Language

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You’re in a tough spot as a boss. On the one hand, you have to exude sufficient authority that your employees accept your directives, on the other hand, you have to be sufficiently user-friendly that employees are willing to tell you the truth of what they see and how they see it.

There’s a reason why there are couches and chairs in the Oval Office, in addition to the President’s desk. The President sitting behind his (or one day, her?) desk conveys a message of relative separateness: “I’m over here, you’re over there.” When the President sits at a couch or chair, with the guest sitting similarly, the message is one of working things out together.

When it’s important that your employees experience you as in “together” mode, make sure your body language is congruent with that message. For example, Detert and Burris suggest: “Keeping your arms at your side (rather than crossing them in front of you), lowering your voice, dressing less formally, and even smiling can make people more likely to share their thoughts with you. So can behavioral cues, such as sitting at the same tables as everyone else at lunch and not being the first to articulate a point of view at meetings.”

Gone are the days of “He/She Who Must Be Obeyed”! For all you may regret that, adopting an employee-friendly manner will go a long way towards gaining your employees’ trust, and with that, their best work.

Management Success Tip #175: 3 Steps to Getting Employee-Resented Tasks Done: Give a Reason, Get Real, Give a Reward

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Into every manager’s life must fall those tasks you hate to inflict upon your team, yet must get done. Mainly because they’ve been inflicted on you by your higher-ups . . . or just because it’s that time of year.

It’s tempting to say to your team “Just do it!” and stuff your ears with cotton wads so you don’t hear their grumbling. It doesn’t work well with your kids, you should hardly be surprised that it doesn’t work well with your team either. Oh, they may do the task, but half-heartedly, not thoroughly, and with zero enthusiasm. Which disinterest may then bleed into other parts of their work, which is a shame, because they’re usually high-functioning.

There’s an easy 3-step fix: give them a reason, get real, give them a reward.

Give them a reason: “The image library has to be labeled and catalogued because it eats up far too much of our time to search haphazardly.” “Corporate year-end report must include our stats; if we don’t provide them, corporate will  send in an outside consultant to dig them up and that will mess with our work flow.”

Get real: “I don’t like having to do it either! I don’t like having to ask you to label and catalogue; it’s boring, mind-numbing and tedious. And yes, I’ll be taking on a chunk of it to do also. I’m not asking you to do something I won’t do.” “Yes, pulling the stats together is a real nuisance, but having an outsider poke around in our work is even more of a nuisance. Let’s get organized and get this done as painlessly and quickly as possible.”

Give them a reward: “When we’re done, I’m treating everyone to lunch/giving you all Friday afternoon off/tickets to the ball game/etc.” In a word, whatever works. Whatever pleases your team and is meaningful to them.

People respond to honesty and shared endeavor. And if you can find a way to kick in your sense of humor, so much the better.

Management Success Tip #172: Engage Employee Cooperation By Asking Open-Ended Questions

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Even as children, most of us didn’t like to be told what to do. And although a certain amount of “Here’s what you must do” is obligatory in any business, there are many times when “What” or “How” open-ended questions are more effective.

For example, “How do you think your task could best be accomplished?” “What resources do you think you might require?” invite consideration by your employee as to just with what and how they might meet a desired goal. More importantly, open-ended questions invite dialogue, and dialogue, in turn, is how positive relationships are born.

Successful managers foster positive relationships between themselves and those who report to them: not necessarily friendships, but certainly relationships of mutual respect and appreciation.

You can, of course, lead by commanding, but that has proven to be an increasingly less effective strategy. Leading by engaging is far more powerful, and inviting dialogue is a prime way of engaging.

People always cooperate better with a decision they’ve had a hand in creating. Asking open-ended questions that invite dialogue is a sure way of facilitating your employees’ role in making, and then adhering to, those decisions that apply to them.

Management Success Tip #170: Agree Upon Goals, Expectations and Standards for Maximum Employee Productivity and Company Success

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Your employees want to perform well. They want to be productive. Yes, they really do, despite the fact that it sometimes (often?) may not seem that way.

Or at least employees want to do well when they actually know what they’re supposed to be doing! Too often, managers assume that workers should know what they’re supposed to do, how to do it, how often, and by when (and you know what the informal definition of “assume” is). All this because the employees were told once or twice. Or it’s in the job description. Or worse–in the employee manual (updated every decade or so).

That’s mistreatment of a potentially great employee! Instead, take the time to set agreed-upon goals and expectations. Not just your goals, your expectations, but those you sat down with your employee and together, figured out the hows, whys, whats and wherefores thereof. Fancy talk for if you don’t spend the time to make sure you and your employee are on the same page with what is needed, it won’t happen.

Similarly, don’t leave your employees in the dark as to what are the standards set to earn a bonus or other reward. An employee may think he or she has done stellar work, and fully (and rightfully) expects some sort of recognition, only to find out that whatever-it-was had to be completed during the first quarter of the year to qualify for a bonus. Aargh! Major disappointment, unhappy employee–their performance tanks, no big surprise.

Clarify goals and standards. Discuss these with your employees. Write down whatever you’ve agreed on. Both your company and your employees will benefit tremendously.

Management Success Tip #169: Your Company’s Higher Purpose Will Attract Purpose-Driven, High Performing Employees

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There’s a story told of bricklayers carefully applying mortar to brick, constructing a wall. Most of them, when asked “What are you doing,” replied, “Building a wall” (“duh” implied). But one bricklayer, when asked what he was doing, replied, “I’m building a cathedral.” As indeed, in the bigger picture, he was.

Today’s workers want to be building cathedrals. Not in the literal sense, of course, but in the sense of greater purpose.

Increasingly, workers are asking that their jobs have meaning, have a purpose. That the companies they work for, the workplace where they spend the majority of their waking hours, have a social mission, or at the very least, a purpose greater than simply selling widgets.

For example, Kickstarter, the crowdfunding platform, redefined its corporate structure so as to prioritize its social mission (funding creative projects) over profits: it became a public benefit corporation. With that, Kickstarter’s jobs page received a stunning increase in visits of 33%.

Now, where “purpose-driven employees” and “profits” align, is that workers who are purpose-driven, will work harder for companies with a greater purpose. So it is in your best interest, not only to look for potential hires who are purpose-driven, but to define your company’s purpose in a way that will attract those very hires, support their best performance, and retain them.

Your statement of greater purpose must be genuine, however. Purpose-driven workers are quick to sniff out any attempt at manipulation-via-greater-purpose-statement, and with the help of social media, the backlash would be swift and merciless.