Management Success Tip #166: Want Engaged Employees? Listen and Learn!

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If you really want to insult someone, simply turn your back to them as they are talking to you. Be aware though, you may end up getting pulled rudely back around and even hit for such an act of disrespect.

What you may not realize, is that when you’re texting or answering your phone when an employee is talking to you, you’re engaging in the same disrespectful behavior. You are psychologically turning your back on them. More subtly, if you’re not giving your employee your full attention with your eyes as well as your ears, you are also “turning your back.”

Nothing is more important than not only listening to your employees, but also making it clear to them, by your attention and body language, that you are hearing them. “Employees are almost always telling their bosses how they feel, what they want or what they are doing, but sometimes this falls on deaf ears,” says Piera Palazzolo. “Make sure you listen and hear what your employees are saying to you. This will make you more attentive and caring as a manager, and will also help you know what your team is doing and how you can help them accomplish their goals.”

Isn’t that what you want? To know how your team is doing, and how you can best assist them in accomplishing their goals? When you do that, you end up with engaged, motivated employees who truly care about the company and strive for work-excellence.

Be a better-than-good manager. Join the ranks of the best. Listen and learn!

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Management Success Tip #165: Work From Home Programs: One Size Does Not Fit All

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There is an extensive body of case studies on individual firms that have adopted WFH (Work From Home) programs, and they tend to show large positive impacts, both in terms of increased productivity and decreased absenteeism.

Despite the clear evidence from such studies, WFH programs scare many managers half to death: What if you end up with a bunch of slackers? Or, if you don’t end up with slackers, what if you end up with work that doesn’t get completed, or done well enough? Or a majority of slackers with a few dedicated workers carrying the load of the whole department? Workers who will soon get burnt out, dispirited, and quit! What if the mice really do play when the cat’s away?

These worries kill most WFH programs before they ever get started. However, there is a way to find out if these dire prognostications are fact, or if all those studies have some truth to them . . . start small.

By that I mean, run an in-house experiment. Offer to those employees who are interested a two or four week trial of working from home. Preferably not during your company’s crunch time! That’s it. No big deal, just a couple of weeks or a month at most. Accumulate data on what gets done. Or doesn’t.

Review the work results at the end of the trial–preferably with everyone involved as well as the requisite higher-ups. Also review with your WFH employees what they thought of the plan. Did they like it? Not like it? Why? Why not? What could make it work better? You might discover that a more flexible “some days WFH, some days at the office” is the best solution for your company.

Once you’ve thoroughly debriefed both the plan itself and your employees’ reactions, if you’re pleased with the results–go for a longer trial period. If not, dump it. No harm, no foul.

You’ll never know if your fears are founded or unfounded unless you give WFH a try. Go for it! You have little to lose and much to gain.

Management Success Tip #160: Put the Ultimate Success Mind Set to Work for You: Calm, Happy and Energized!

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You may not have a sign on your desk “The buck stops here,” but that is the truth of your job. How well those who report to you perform, whether or not you meet your quotas, deadlines, or client expectations – all these are your responsibility, and certainly, you have the skill set, the aptitude for it.

But is your mind-set up to the challenge? Because research which surveyed 740 leaders nationally and internationally, found that 94% of them stated they perform best when calm, happy and energized – as opposed to (for example) depressed, frustrated or anxious.

Now that sounds like common sense, doesn’t it. After all, who’s going to perform at their peak when depressed, frustrated or anxious? And yet, ask yourself, how do you come in to work every day: worried? stressed? anxious? Uh-huh, I thought so.

So how can you get yourself into that “calm, happy, energized” place without living in massive denial or on major meds?

Simply put, start by recognizing when you’re not. Check in with yourself: if you’re anxious or frustrated, you’re not calm. If that’s common for you, take up a mindfulness practice, yoga, whatever helps you maintain calm more often. Happy is largely a matter of reflecting more on the glass half full than how utterly depleted it looks. And energized is easier to springboard off of calm and happy, than it is off of anxious or depressed. Healthy eating and exercise habits help too.

Beyond that, reflect on the wisdom of the Serenity Prayer (with or without the word “God,” whatever fits for you): “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

It’s a great re-focusing and calming affirmation.

Management Success Tip #156: A Better Way to Deliver Bad News: Deliver the Decision-Making Process

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Some managers are Scrooge-like in their glee at delivering bad news to employees, but that isn’t you. You wish there were some impersonal way to let your employees know that they’ve been demoted, or that raise isn’t going to happen, or they aren’t going to be part of the wonder-team, or whatever it is. But just like it’s extreme bad form to break up with someone via text, it’s utterly impossible for anyone other than your reluctant self to deliver said bad news. It’s in your job description.

Other than going British and adopting a stiff upper lip, what can you do?

Be transparent about the process by which the decision was made. People are generally more satisfied with the outcome, even when they don’t particularly like the outcome, when they believe that the outcome has been fairly arrived at. It’s what’s called “procedural fairness.” So explain how the decision was arrived at, who weighed in (if appropriate), what their considerations were, and what different factors came into play.

I think of it as “showing your long division.” Don’t just give your employee the result of the process, take them through the process itself. You don’t have to defend the process, or what went into the decision-making. Be factual, don’t take sides. Your objective is to describe the process, not argue any pros or cons.

Your employee may still not be thrilled at the news, but they will be at least reassured that the decision wasn’t arbitrary, and you will have a better way of delivering bad news than just stiffening your upper lip.

Management Success Tip #155: Don’t Rush To The Fix: Seek First To Understand!

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You’re a busy manager – too much on your plate all the time, and too little time. The curse of modern day business.

It’s perfectly understandable that in dealing with your employees, you want to go straight to the fix. Which you figure you know. After all, you’re the manager.

But here’s the thing: sometimes you don’t. You don’t know if the reason an employee is clock watching is because he/she is lazy and unengaged, or because there’s a sick child or elderly parent at home that requires care. You don’t know if it’s because the employee is rushing to get to a seminar, a team-sport activity, or a bar! You don’t know.

Instead of rushing to the fix, seek first to understand what’s going on with your employee. It’s what Steven Berglas, Ph.D., business consultant, calls “showing empathy.” He states, for example: “If you tell someone, ‘You know, you got an issue that calls for an attitude adjustment,’ youʼll never connect with them. Even if you are correct, the other person will dislike you for being insensitive. Say, ‘I sense you have been out of sorts for some time,’ and that person will embrace you.”

By not starting out with “the fix” and judging your employee on the basis of very little information, you’ve made it possible for your employee to share what’s really going on with them. Whatever it is, your fix will be far more appropriate and targeted, because now you actually know what the problem is.

Understanding is a far better road to effective management than guessing is. It also makes for a happier, more engaged workforce.

Management Success Tip #151: Great Bosses Don’t React, They Respond!

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There is a world of difference between being responsive and being reactive. When you’re reactive, you live in a knee-jerk chaotic environment, where you’re pulled every which way by whatever situation happens to hit in the moment. No thought, no plan, no strategy. Not only does this lead to ineffective management, it’s extremely detrimental to your employees!

Want to win the “Worst Boss Ever” award? According to Karin Hurt, leadership consultant: “Be Reactive – Respond to the biggest fires first with full on urgency. Pull as many people into the mix as you can. When you’re stressed, make sure your team is stressed right along with you.”

A stressed team is, by definition, a poorly functioning team with low morale. Relieve your team’s stress by responding, not reacting.

To respond means to take a pause before leaping into action. Think through the impact and consequences of a number of alternative approaches. Consider what you’re doing before you do it, not once you’re in the middle of doing it.

Your team will thank you for it!

Management Success Tip #143: Wanna Get Things Done While Maintaining Your Cool? Find Your Assertiveness Sweet Spot.

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As a manager, you have to get things done, yet you need your employees to think well of you.

If you’re aggressive, and demand, blame, threaten, or yell – cooperation and morale fly out the window. You may get this one thing done, but employees will sabotage and/or resist the next twenty. . .

If you focus too much on camaraderie and making sure everyone is feeling fine, well, chances are things aren’t getting done in the way or time they need to.

There is, however, an assertiveness sweet spot, according to research done by Ames & Flynn, 2007. It’s somewhere between the drill sergeant approach and the find-your-inner-guru approach. It’s where you respect the personal boundaries of others, you communicate clearly your expectations rather than demand or threaten, you ask questions you really do want answered about the feasibility of stated goals, and provide resources as needed, etc.

How to know if you’ve hit the assertiveness sweet spot? It’s easier to ask how to know if you’re being too aggressive: people will shy away from you, or be reluctant to ask for resources or support. Or if you’re being too touchy-feely: people are comfortable approaching you for anything, but goals aren’t being met, your numbers are dragging.

Interestingly enough, according to Ames & Flynn, when you’re in that sweet spot, your assertiveness isn’t even mentioned. Things are just going along fine, and that’s what your employees and your bosses want to know.