We all know that happy employees are more likely to stay with the company, take good care of customers and do what their boss needs. Sometimes it may feel like developing engaged employees is impossible. However, satisfied employees don’t have to be mythical creatures, sighted as frequently as unicorns in the forest.
With care and hard work, you can create a workplace environment that supports employee happiness. And, it may not be as difficult as you think.
The key is for you to recognize the difference between being a manager and being a leader. A manager plans, organizes, assigns and follows-up. A leader influences, motivates and encourages.
Your job as a company supervisor requires you to excel at both skills to be successful. But, the leadership component means you must build good relationships with employees in order to influence, motivate and encourage.
It’s been said before, but it’s hard to overemphasize the need for managers to show concern for their employees as people. That means taking the time to ask about their holidays and families, their hobbies and interests. It also means giving them a chance to get to know you.
You don’t have to reveal anything deeply personal. On Monday morning when everyone’s talking about their weekend, mention attending your daughter’s school play and watching the big game. Or, talk about how hard it is to see your parents struggling with ill health or having to explain to your toddler why the family dog died.
When there’s too much work to be done in too few hours, it can seem like taking time for personal interaction is wasted energy. However, knowing your team members, their interests and stresses both inside and outside the office can be a powerful ally in helping you find the best ways to encourage and influence them to optimum productivity.
This doesn’t mean you have to be your employees’ best friend. In fact, other employees may see it as favoritism if you do, which can lead to bitterness and a lack of motivation. Human beings perceive interest as caring. Managers who make employees feel their boss cares about them as more than a cog in the wheel engender loyalty and motivate employees to work harder.
Meet them where they are
Like it or not, we all bring our socialization from childhood into the workplace. You, as team leader, must recognize your natural style and adjust to what each employee needs.
Say you come from a strict, command-and-control military family and are comfortable with overt displays of authority. To be effective, you must recognize some employees may come at their work differently. Adjusting your style to fit your team’s needs shows flexibility and engenders respect.
Analyze each team member’s natural style. Are they an introvert or extrovert? Good at one-on-one interaction? Naturally gifted at customer service or numbers or presentations?
By understanding each person, you can help him or her commit to business goals in a way that fits their abilities and motivations.
By playing to their strengths, you are more likely to engage their hearts, not just their minds. Employees who are truly engaged are less likely to find roadblocks to the success of their projects, to go the extra mile when it’s needed.
Want your team to roar past their goals? Explain the big picture, why they are doing what they are doing and set clear expectations. Your employees need to understand how they fit into the company, why their job is important and what they must do to help the company reach its goals. Plumb deeply to make sure each and every team member understands how he or she contributes to the overall company.
Say the company has a year-end sales goal of X. Your employees need to know what they can do every day to help meet that goal. Stick to one or two tasks so you don’t overwhelm them.
After setting clear expectations, you must hold people accountable by checking in weekly or monthly to see if goals are being met. Don’t forget to recognize success publicly and coach privately if there’s a problem.
Be positive as much as possible during these communications. People want to work for positive people, especially when facing the challenges that naturally come about in any project.
Be open and available
I’m a big believer in what’s called servant leadership. As described by James Hunter in his book The World’s Most Powerful Leadership Principle, the servant leader makes himself or herself available to help employees when it’s needed.
Hunter wrote: “How we behave as the boss at work today affects what goes on around the dinner table in other people’s homes tonight. Anyone who has ever had a bad boss can certainly relate to what I’m talking about. I believe this is where servant leadership begins. We need to reflect on this awesome responsibility for which we signed up and recognize that our choices and behaviors are impacting lives.”
Say someone missed a goal because they had trouble getting the right data. By checking in regularly with your staff, you’ll be able to troubleshoot, encourage when it’s needed, answer questions and generally help your staff accomplish their short- and long-term goals.
If you are in the trenches with them, you’ll be seen as a respected team leader rather than a distant tyrant. You’ll also be able to keep emotional commitment high and nurture employees’ great ideas at the source. Remember to be open to feedback too.
Finally, get out of the way and let your employees shine. Give them opportunities to position themselves as subject matter experts. For instance, if you have a presentation to executives, give your key players the chance to co-present.
By giving your employees high-profile growth opportunities, you will make them feel valued and appreciated. Lead from the heart, invest your heart in your people and let them grow along with you. You’ll create relationships that can benefit you both for a lifetime.
For more ways to build your best staff ever, download our free guide, How to Develop a Top-notch Workforce That Will Accelerate Your Business.