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.

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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 #174: If Engaged Employees Are Great, Inspired Employees Are Even Better!

Recent research shows that although engaged employees are by far better for your company’s productivity than dissatisfied or even satisfied employees, inspired employees outpace even engaged employees by over 150%!

The table below tells the tale:

Inspired Employees are Most Productive Employees

 

 

 

 

 

 

So how do you get your employees up past the satisfied level into engaged, busting into inspired?

Garton and Mankins suggest that you start by looking at foundational elements: “If people are constantly struggling with unnecessary meetings, cumbersome approval processes, and routine obstacles, they are unlikely to be satisfied, let alone engaged or inspired.”

Ask yourself, for example: how many meetings can you slash from your employees’ calendar? Including virtual ones? How can you better streamline the meetings that are actually necessary? Can you tighten up the agenda?

What is your approval process? Is there duplication of steps? As simplistic as it may sound, people prefer a one click-through process to a three or four clicks-through to get something done. How close is your approval process to a “one-click” style?

And so on. Review your basics, and you have much better chances of cultivating an environment where employees are inspired, not just doing what it takes to get by.

Management Success Tip #173: Don’t Force Your Square Peg Employee into a Round Hole Job!

#173 Square peg round holeYou know the expression “square peg in a round hole”?  It’s usually used when we’re describing someone who just doesn’t fit in with something: like a very relaxed, mellow, easy-going fellow who’s joined the Armed Forces. Not likely to succeed! Unless somehow he forces his laid-back personality into the tight structure required by the military.

Well, all too often, managers can inadvertently “square peg round hole” an employee. By that I mean that at one time or another, the employee’s skill set and job matched up, but that over time, either the employee or the job changed, such that it isn’t a match any more.

Rather than determinedly try to seminar, coach, teach, partner-up and in general force your square peg employee into that round hole job, consider a different approach.

Take a moment, and evaluate your employee’s current strengths. What he/she brings to the workplace that is of great value. Now, how can you re-configure your employee’s responsibilities so that he/she is operating from those strengths? Because only when an employee is able to operate from their strengths a majority of the time, will they feel effective. And it’s only when we feel effective that we can actually be effective.

It’s in the best interests of your company and your employees, for them to be using their best skills.

Yes, it may take some juggling of responsibilities: perhaps the employee you’re working with can assume some responsibilities previously assigned to a different position, and vice versa. But the payoff in terms of increased productivity and improved performance will be worth it.

Should you allow your employee to only operate from their strengths? No. It’s healthy and stimulating to be challenged out of our comfort zone. We all need some impetus to reach and grow. However, spending too much time and effort out of one’s comfort zone eventually erodes self-confidence and with it, ability.

There’s a balance here, and a wise manager respects that. Evaluate your employee’s strengths, and proceed from there.

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

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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.