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.

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Management Success Tip #157: Appear Confident During Crises without Channeling Your Inner Action Hero

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If managing employees was easy, business would practically run itself. Not! Management is usually about putting out fires with brief respites in between, which is why, as one of your colleagues says “They pay us the big bucks.” Yeah, right. You wish!

Meanwhile, sometimes the hardest thing to do while in the midst of putting out another of said fires, is to do so with confidence. Yes, you know what you’re doing – for the most part – but how well it will work, over the long haul as well as the short, etc., isn’t all that certain.

And yet, according to Georgina Stewart of Lead Change Group: “If you are not confident in yourself, the plan that you have formed or the actions that you are taking – how can you expect others to be confident in your ability? At the very least we ask that you appear calm, collected and confident at all times as causing others to panic on top of the situation you are already in will simply cause more stress and will burden you further.”

No, you don’t have to channel your inner Action-Hero, you just need to appear calm, collected and confident so as not to sow further panic in the ranks. And that is largely a matter of body language.

Stand straight, walk tall. Wipe the frown off your forehead, and as best you can, keep a neutral expression on your face. Think before you speak, and speak deliberately.

Here’s the thing: even as you adjust your body language for the benefit of your employees, science tells us that adopting such postures will help you feel more confident, and that, in and of itself, is worth the effort.

Management Success Tip #150: Want Solid Employee Ideas? Make it SAFE for Them to Talk!

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Asking questions of your employees is a tried and true way of engaging employee enthusiasm – not to mention getting valuable ideas and suggestions on improving productivity and performance from those in the trenches.

However, if your employees’ responses aren’t respected, appreciated and valued – or worse, employees feel that they’ve been punished or dealt with unfairly as a result of giving their honest opinion – then employees won’t give you their truth, all you’ll get are useless platitudes.

This is hurtful both to your business and to your employees.

Joseph Grenny, business performance consultant, discusses how a CEO successfully overcame the lack of safety felt by his employees when it came to voicing their concerns and suggestions. One of those ways was to praise publicly: “He [the CEO] created a safe forum for people to raise questions—then spoke publicly about those who asked them in laudatory ways… He was careful to sympathize with the questioners and to validate their concerns. The workforce took note— seeing evidence that disagreement would no longer be treated as insubordination. Questions could be asked anonymously or not, and over time more and more of the questioners identified themselves — which gave Phil [the CEO] a chance to commend them in the newsletter for their candor. Public praise is more about influencing those who hear it than those who receive it.”

Make it safe for employees to speak up, and openly express your appreciation for your employees’ contribution. You’ll win every time.

Management Success Tip #141: What You Can Learn from Jimmy Fallon: Respectfully Ask New Employees/Team To Get To Know You

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Most managers, when coming in to a new department, or taking on a new team, start with their credentials: “Here’s my experience, the other departments I’ve successfully managed, and why I’ve been asked to manage this department/team.” Or they dive right into their goals.

Managers often forget that the first order of business is to create relationship with those who now answer to them. Not gooey, sappy “Oh, you’re all so great and I know this is going to be wonderful” type of relationship building, but something much simpler, yet much more appropriate and powerful than that.

An introduction.

James Poniewozik commented for Times.com on Jimmy Fallon’s first Tonight Show gig as host:

“I was struck by one small, but in retrospect very important, thing that Fallon did starting out: he introduced himself.

“Not as in “Hi, I’m Jimmy Fallon, and I’m looking forward to this!” He very deliberately walked the audience through who he was, who his supporting stars were and what kind of show he was going to do. He literally, at one point, pretty much explained how a late-night show works, down to the fact that a host comes out from behind a curtain and tells topical jokes… It was simply Fallon respectfully asking his new audience to get to know him.”

Take a page from Fallon’s playbook: before you do anything else in your new position, respectfully ask your new “audience” to get to know you. And then make an effort to get to know them.

Management Success Tip #139: Lead with Authority And Compassion: Disagree With A Respectful “No”

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You want happy, engaged employees – not just because it’s the right thing to strive for, but because it’s been demonstrated, time and again, that happy engaged employees lead to a thriving business.

You’ve noticed that people don’t like conflict. Heck, you don’t like conflict. Now you’re in a pickle when you feel you must disagree with something an employee did or said. On the one hand, you don’t want to be confrontive, on the other hand, you disagree.

So you waffle. You pretzel yourself trying to find “likeable” ways to disagree, which generally leads to confusion. The employee doesn’t know what you’re getting at, and by this time, you hardly do either.

Instead, follow Steve Roesler’s wise advice:

“People don’t have to be disagreeable in order to disagree. We often respect someone who tells us not only that (s)he sees things differently, but who then takes time to calmly explain “why.” Taking time to explain “why” is a sign of respect toward us.

When you mean “yes” say “yes.” When you mean “no” say “no.” And share your reasons.”

Sharing your reasons for either your “yes” or “no” grounds your leadership in both authority and compassion.

Your employees deserve no less.

Management Success Tip #138: Drive Employee Engagement With A Compelling Mission, Vision and Accountability

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The business world is well aware of Gallup’s recent findings that only 30% of U.S. employees are engaged at work, yet engaged employees are vital to the success of your business.

Gallup’s research concludes that managers drive employee engagement to a large extent, and that those who are best at engaging their workers share certain traits:

– They motivate every single employee to take action and engage them with a       compelling mission and vision.

– They have the assertiveness to drive outcomes and the ability to overcome adversity and resistance.

– They create a culture of clear accountability.

– They build relationships that create trust, open dialogue, and full transparency.

– They make decisions that are based on productivity, not politics.

If you want to join the ranks of “great manager,” take a good, hard look at yourself:

– Do you provide a compelling mission and vision for your employees? Have you crafted that vision with your employees or do you just expect them to go along with whatever you come up with?

– Do you give your very best at all times, which is what underlies your ability to drive outcomes and overcome adversity?

– Are you accountable? Do you hold yourself responsible for your actions and their consequences?

– How open is your open door? Genuine, or lip-service?

– Are you invested in productivity, or only looking to please the higher-ups or your spur your bonus/promotion?

Management Success Tip #123: Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway!

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“Feel the fear and do it anyway” is a powerful phrase, generally attributed to author Susan Jeffers. Make no mistake about it: fear is powerful.

Fear is what prevents your employees from suggesting new projects or processes. Fear is what stands between your employees and their willingness to point out what isn’t working in the resources they’ve been allocated. Fear is what keeps your employees performing at levels below their best.

You, their manager, are not their therapist. It’s not up to you to go rooting around in your employees’ past or present lives for how various fears arose. Fortunately, you don’t need to.

What you do need, is to provide your employees with the antidote to fear: courage.

Courage is the ability to face the world, a situation, or a person, with confidence.  Courage is what enables your employees to speak up, speak out, and do what it takes to up the level of their contribution.

You instill courage in your employees by encouraging them. To encourage is literally, according to dictionary.com, “to inspire with courage, spirit, or confidence.”

Simply put, you applaud your employees’ efforts, you notice the work done right, you never dismiss an idea as ridiculous or irrelevant, you make it not only safe, but desirable for your employees to come to you with new ideas, helpful criticism, in a word – their truth.

Then indeed, despite the fact that there maybe always be that slight tremor of fear in the face of the new, your employees will be able to “Feel the fear and do it anyway” to the increasing success of your business.