Having a position over other employees comes with a bulk of challenges, like mediating petty squabbles and constantly minding other people’s deadlines in addition to yours. Whether you’re a supervisor, part of the middle management or a CEO at the very head of your business, the same thing rings true every time – leading other people is not an easy task.
According to Gallup’s chief scientist for workplace management, James K. Harter, Ph.D., at least 75% of the reasons people leave their jobs can be influenced by their managers. That means at least three out of four times, you have an opportunity to make or break an employee’s vocational life while they’re working for you. We bet that’s a lot more influence than what you thought you had. And no, it doesn’t just boil down to a matter of money, contrary to popular belief.
The question is – why should you care about your employees’ well-being? Well, besides getting over 50% higher productivity and over 47% shareholder returns among much more, happier employees means a happier you. The numerous benefits to the bottom line aside, a happier and healthier environment affects the people in it. That includes you. So, if you’re interested on making life better for yourself and your entire work force, these 8 pointers can help.
Tell them stories about those times when you failed miserably.
We could write a book on this, but let’s summarize with these points: sometimes people think that failure is evidence of weakness or ignorance. Being either of these makes it difficult for others to trust your knowledge or your competence. But, while some failures can be caused by ignorance or weakness, it’s happened already! It’s in the past. No one is born all-knowing, and your employees already know that. What’s more is that they’ll be reminded to stop holding you to a standard of perfection when you don’t hold yourself to it, because let’s face it – nobody’s perfect and even managers will make mistakes. You protect them (and yourself) from being unnecessarily disappointed in you when that happens.
Besides, the failure in itself, if learned from, actually eliminates the faults that caused it and makes you a more reliable human being. If you show them that you too have failed, and tell them what you’ve learned from it, they will feel safer around you, and gain a new respect for you because of your courage to be open. Not only will they do that, but they will also be assured that they too can recover from their own shortcomings.
Have your favourites, but treat everyone as they deserve to be treated (that means fairly).
It’s unreasonable for anyone to expect you to be a personality match with all your employees, just like it’s unfair to expect all of your employees to get along perfectly well with each other, without conflicting needs or mindsets. However, preferring to have lunch with your secretary over getting beers after work with your accountant doesn’t mean you should give her the benefit of the doubt before him. This rings true especially for serious incidents that can affect someone’s job.
While you may think that liking a person means they are a better person than the one you don’t feel close to, this is probably just in-group bias at work. It’s the job of a leader to act and judge on evidence, not emotion. It doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to have preferences — it means you don’t let those preferences dictate the way you issue justice.
Show them how the company is run.
We know you can’t personally give every employee a personal walk-through on each department’s inner workings unless they’re supposed to be managers themselves. However, it’s one thing to tie shoelaces all day because you’re told you have to, and another to tie shoelaces because you know the packaging department depends on a great presentation when the customer opens the box. Helping your workers put the pieces together does wonders. It boosts their morale to know just exactly where their contributions make a difference for their colleagues and customers.
Do everything you can to make your employees are as engaged as possible.
“Employee Engagement” seems to be that hot new HR buzzword, complete with a hopelessly arbitrary meaning. You hear it everywhere, but hardly anyone states exactly what it is or how to measure it. That being said, worldwide engagement is at all all time, 13% low. You read that right – a measly 13 out of every 100 employees around the world can find meaning and inspiration in their jobs. But – some jobs are gruelling. Should you worry if the janitor isn’t jumping for joy when he’s going to clean the toilets? Does this mean you could expect him to get up and quit the next day, or start doing poorly at his job? Obviously, there’s a difference between engagement and entertainment. While some jobs simply aren’t fun in themselves, when someone has a sense of purpose, belonging and significance, their sense of worth increases. In turn, their engagement rises, increasing their commitment to, and favour for, the company they work at.
Encourage a culture that’s focused on good health.
Actively disengaged workers, on the other hand, face a myriad of health problems including weight related issues and an overall poorer sense of well being, both physically and mentally. In fact, their experiences put them in the same bracket with those who aren’t employed at all. While you can’t instantly solve every issue that affects your team’s health (like their current illnesses, eating habits or their relationships with food), you can give them all the knowledge they need to make informed decisions. If you have control over any part of your company’s budget, it’d also be great to lobby for fitness equipment or office furniture that encourages good posture and desk activity. If you care for the physical and mental health conditions of your workers, you’ll have loyal, healthy and productive retainers for life.
Provide support for the employees who commute to you from far away.
It’s no secret that employees are spending more and more time at work, with a good chunk of them clocking in over 50 hours weekly. The fact is, aside from commuting, people spend most of their week’s waking hours in an office or at a job site. Engagement, as mentioned before, has a remarkable effect on stress that’s agitated by long commutes. Nevertheless, long commutes are indeed a source of work related threats to mental and physical health. It certainly doesn’t help if their boss humiliates them for arriving a few minutes late, or on the flip side, provides no way for them to enter the office should they try to beat the traffic and arrive early instead. Usually people like this need a few minutes to gather themselves – so pressing paperwork into their hands before they’ve had a chance to sit isn’t a good idea either. Something as simple as a hot coffee or a comfortable place to unwind is an oasis for the harried commuter.
Have a good balance between a personal connection and respect for their personal space.
If you see an employee crying his eyes out on the front door’s steps, it’s probably best if you didn’t just step over him and go inside. It’s natural to stop and provide some support and comfort. However, it may not be a good idea to pry for all the ‘juicy details’ about his recent divorce while he’s trying to get a report done. Chances are he’ll shut down and never feel safe to open up at work again. Emotional intelligence includes a delicate balance between qualities like empathy and self control. The more you work on understanding how people think and feel, the less gaffes you’re prone to making when it comes to building a sense of trust between you and others, while simultaneously affording them the dignity of their privacy.
Compliment their work – and mean what you say when you do.
New research suggests that giving employees compliments has the same effect on them compared to doling out cash rewards. Guess which one you can give of more freely? Plus, displaying gratitude has a positive effect on workers’ engagement and morale, and creates a culture of generosity in a positive environment. However, sincerity is just as important and just about anyone can see if you’re complimenting them as a way to fluff their egos for your own ends. It’s obvious when not really buying in to what you’re saying, no matter how pretty the words are. When using compliments, do so when it’s necessary, and truly warranted for a job well done. There’s no need to compliment them for refilling the coffee machine. Your compliments are worth more when they’re based on actual achievements. Oh, and be sure to praise them for the active choices they made, not their inherent talents. According to Carol Dweck, you should praise the process, not ability, thus creating and maintaining the growth mindset.
These management practises touch the tip of the iceberg for the things you can do to build a winning team. There are countless ways to make the life of an employee sweeter under your tenure, and these eight points are an excellent start… if we do say so ourselves.