You can hire the right employees for your business, but if your managers don’t manage them well, those good employees may wind up messing up, rather than stepping up.
Jen and Tim are managers of two totally different functions within Mid-Road Company, but they share the same frustrations about their employees.
“You won’t believe it!” Jen grumbles over her morning coffee in the company cafe. “We’ve got to rework the entire proposal that Ronald turned in! I paid for his overtime last week to get it finished, and today I find he didn’t follow the prescribed format. I’m so mad at him for making us miss this deadline!”
Tim nods and snorts, “Yeah, my employees are worthless, too. They all start out so upbeat and sunny, but it doesn’t take long before they’re upset and slacking.”
Quick to blame their employees for mistakes, these two managers seem blind to their own failure to give needed direction and encouragement to their employees. They don’t see how much their poor management skills are contributing to their employees’ low performance.
Bad managers are everywhere. Like Jen, they may be new to managing others or, like Tim, may have been promoted reluctantly into management. Good technical managers can be bad at managing others when they have not received management training or mentoring by a good manager.
What to do about it:
Three decades of field research with 100 mid-large size U.S. organizations across a broad industry cross-section give us seven key behaviors of managers that encourage good employees and help them become top performers.
Jen and Tim became better managers when they learned to:
- Challenge employees with new opportunities. Jen pigeon-holed her employees into routine tasks and offered little chance for them to learn new skills. Jen is applying this better management skill when she identifies which employees are ready for cross-training, are excited to take on additional tasks or show interest in growth opportunities.
- Recognize results in real time. Tim was so immersed in his own work that he ignored the daily accomplishments of his staff members. With management training, Tim knows to observe employees’ on-the-job performance and praise an employee’s good results at the time of achievement. Employees feel appreciated for their efforts and want to achieve even more.
- Ensure a healthy rate of change. Prior to coaching by her experienced manager, Jen regularly changed directions to her employees several times a day. Her manager taught her how to avoid passing down knee-jerk reactions that confused employees and drained their confidence. She now holds short “huddles” every morning with staff to clarify goals and direction for the day.
- Adopt an open climate. Before getting valuable guidance from his boss, Tim would spout the company statement of “open-door policy,” then sputter when no employee would approach him about issues or concerns. His boss encouraged him to set specific times to meet with each employee each week. Tim is now more accessible, and his employees feel empowered to list their questions and issues to cover in their weekly 30-minute individual meetings.
- Transcend the goal of making a profit. Previously, Jen hammered cost-savings so much that her employees began taking short-cuts on time and quality. She saw a bigger picture once she read and discussed the company’s annual report with her director. Jen now heightens employees’ awareness of their role in customer perception and long-term satisfaction. Employees respond readily to meeting and beating customer expectations. They are more committed to accuracy, completeness, and timeliness.
- Encourage flexibility and innovation. Before his “field trip” to key client sites, Tim demanded that his employees follow the same pattern of processing orders established years ago. Seeing and hearing client problems in real-time opened Tim’s eyes to the need for his department to change. Tim now regularly initiates problem-solving discussions with employees. They are energized by the opportunity to contribute and often surprise him with practical solutions that he never would have thought of on his own.
- Strengthen employee strengths. A significant step forward into good management for Jen and Tim was learning to set individual goals for employee development. Complaining in public about faults previously dominated their interactions with employees. Private discussions on performance strengths now have Jen and Tim working positively with each employee. Building a strength-development plan offers more insight into each employee than either of them imagined.
“Haven’t seen you around the café for quite a while,” exclaims Tim when he sees Jen. “Would you believe my employees just presented to our director the new processing system they designed? I never thought they had it in them, but my extra attention has sure increased their productivity.”
“Yeah, who knew?” exclaimed Jen. “We’re seeing some real improvements in my area, too, since I’ve been communicating more with my employees. They’re actually a good bunch, some with potential that I didn’t see when I used to complain about them,” she admits.
How about you?
Think about yourself as a manager. Do you use the kind of management skills that will help your employees be the best they can be?
Now more than ever, ALL employees and managers need to be the best at their jobs, becoming highly productive problem-solvers who help grow the business. Businesses can no longer afford to let managers get by with bad, or even average, management skills.
Focus on applying the tips above and you will upgrade your management skills for today’s world. You’ll create better employees, get better results and have less rework and frustration for yourself.
About the author: Charlyne Meinhard is a speaker, trainer and Chief Results Officer of Next Level Consulting, a consulting firm specializing in change leadership, talent development and innovation. With more than 20 years of experience, Charlyne inspires and teaches managers to lead successful changes in organizations like Verizon and SunTrust. She is also the author of Change Agentsto the Rescue! and Ahead of Change. To find out more about Charlyne’s speaking and consulting, please visit www.NextLevelForYou.com, email Charlyne@NextLevelForYou.com or call 804-382-5054.
Photo credit: www.flickr.com/photos/76029035@N02
As the weather heats up and skimpier clothing options abound, I’m reminded of one of my least favorite kinds of email: the “This is just a reminder” email. Many organizations like to send messages like this:
This is just a reminder that we have a dress code. Please review it in your handbook. Men, you should be wearing a shirt and tie or a polo in a school color. Ladies, your clothing should be comparable. Please no exposed shoulders, flip-flops, jeans or other inappropriate attire."
“This is just a reminder” emails don’t work for any issue where infractions are visible to the whole staff: parking lot violations, messy desks, body piercings and so on. Those emails can became a bit of a joke. Most people know who is not following the rules because it often is the same few people, and yet the “This is just a reminder” email goes to everyone. Instead of speaking directly with the individuals who breaks the rules, the powers that be send vague reminders to the whole staff. The approach is ineffective for the following reasons:
- It makes the boss look weak. Employees know that no one is speaking directly to the rule breakers and that the boss is avoiding an uncomfortable discussion. That's understandable, however, when you’re the boss, it’s your job. You don’t want your employees to think you can’t handle the unsavory aspects of your position.
- Staff-wide emails are easy to ignore. Such emails might alert one or two people that they are unknowingly breaking a policy and prompt them to change their behavior. Yet many people believe that their managers should address them directly if they have a problem with their actions. It is easy to delete an email, however, if you speak to employees directly about their behavior, they are more likely to change their ways.
- Some people really don’t get it. Some people honestly don't realize that they are breaking the rules—and a nonspecific email will do nothing to clear that up for them. Like it or not, as a boss, sometimes you’ll have to explain what you think is common sense to your employees.
If you have a rule about something like that—and people are breaking it—don’t send an email to your whole staff or department. Talk to the people directly. It’ll be worth it.
Have a good “This is just a reminder” email story? Please share it in the Comments section!
[Photo credit: www.flickr.com/photos/wiertz.]
After years of hard work, you’ve made your way through your organization’s ranks and have finally received the recognition you deserve by getting the promotion you’ve been dreaming of. And after many years of being overworked and under-appreciated by managers, you vow, “When I become the boss, I am not going to make the same mistakes my supervisors made and treat my employees the way I’ve been treated.”
So, how’s that working for you now that you are in charge?
Fifteen years ago, Sheila was hired as one of many receptionists at a huge firm. She went from receptionist to secretary, and now, she has just been promoted to office manager, where she will supervise those she used to work with. Through the years, Sheila has had to take on duties that were outside of her job description, often serving as a personal assistant instead of a business associate. Having to perform and deliver under unreasonable deadlines and conditions, and often not receiving credit for the successful outcomes, Sheila now understands how the skills of lower level employees are under-utilized and undervalued in her organization.
Sheila wants to be the kind of manager that recognizes employees’ strengths and potential, applying them to benefit the organization. She doesn’t want to blindly follow her predecessor’s examples, yet she doesn’t want to reject them entirely simply to be different. She is determined to apply her own leadership strategies—techniques that will work for her entire team and the organization as a whole.
Of course, we all want to avoid the managerial and professional mistakes of our predecessors, but sometimes that’s hard to do when organizational culture is entrenched. That would be especially difficult for someone like Sheila who has been with an organization for a long time and is now the manager of her former peers.
Making those changes are important to Sheila, but can someone who is in this situation gain the respect of her coworkers—some of whom have been with the organization as long as she has and have become her close friends in the process? How can she do that without resorting to the old style of leadership her predecessors exercised? Can she balance the two, being an effective and impartial professional supervisor while maintaining friendship with her staff?
To gain change, change must be made
What Sheila must keep in mind during her transition from employee to supervisor is that in order to gain change, change must be made. In her efforts, she has to lead by example and grow a thick skin. Sheila will have to accept that some of her former peers will understand these changes, while others will try to hold on to the old ways. She has to be fully aware that her old friends will now look at her differently and possibly resent her, but she can’t allow this to deter her from her new managerial goals. Instituting a new office culture—where everyone is treated fairly and where managers do what is in the best interest of the whole organization—will be a trying undertaking for her. Sheila will have to be forceful, yet considerate in making her desired changes.
One common mistake that many new bosses make is trying to be friends with their subordinates. They believe that if everyone likes each other, the office will be more cooperative and run more smoothly. However, it has the opposite effect. Friends are on the same level as one another, while managers and employees have a hierarchical relationship. Sheila will have to put aside many of her friendships since friends do not order each other around; therefore this method of management rarely works.
Sheila must set the foundation of her new relationship with her staff on day one, addressing the new situation in a staff meeting, openly sharing her vision and expectations, and outlining the new direction and policies she wants to establish moving forward. Sheila must maintain her new focus and disposition no matter what.
Transparency and respect
At first these new changes might cause tension because there will be some who will test her new authority. Sheila must stay resolute and not falter in achieving her goals, while always remaining respectful. If she continues to behave fairly and openly with all her staff, insisting on being treated with the same respect and professionalism she demonstrates, her workforce will come to support her endeavors. They will realize that the changes she’s advocating are also in their best interests.
Employees should trust their bosses and know that they can come to them for help, but as an authority figure and not a pal. Employees need to know that bosses are the ones who set the rules and standards and administer disciplinary measures. Both supervisors and employees need to set and abide by professional boundaries.
Times have changed and so must the way businesses are run. Those in positions of authority need to be prudent. New managers should take the best of what they’ve learned along the way and reject what no longer works while injecting their own style and values, in an effort to create a respectful and harmonious work environment that achieves the organization’s mission.
About the Author: Esther Francis Joseph is a personal and family coach and author of, Memories of Hell, Visions of Heaven: A Story of Survival, Transformation, and Hope, her personal story of survival and perseverance, despite a violent childhood. Growing up on the picturesque island of St. Lucia, Esther molded her literary talents with her childhood experiences as she continues down her path to leading a joyous and fulfilled adult life. To learn more or contact Esther, please visit www.estherfrancisjoseph.com.
Imagine this interesting scenario: You just began your new supervisory role and your boss announces that it’s time for you to find your replacement. No, you haven’t done anything wrong and you’re not getting fired. Your boss believes in preparing for the future by succession planning, which means you train your replacement in conjunction with doing your job. Surprisingly, this training program offers many benefits to you and the organization.
Preparing your successor allows you to refine your coaching techniques. You expose the trainee to new experiences and responsibilities. You teach valuable skills and behaviors needed for long-term success. By teaching key elements of the job, you have the opportunity to improve your own skills and knowledge. The successor-in-training can fill in during your absence, which allows you more time to expand your network and industry knowledge at off-site meetings and conferences. Once the trainee learns the ropes, you are free to move up into a new position.
Look for these positive traits when searching for your ideal replacement:
- Intelligence and creativity. Smart people offer innovation and new ideas. An ideal candidate can effectively think outside the box.
- Compatibility. Look for someone who shares the organization’s and your vision. Determine personality by contacting former employees and asking the candidate open-ended questions. Favorable qualities include focus, courage and a strong sense of ethics.
- Loyalty. Look for someone who will trust your experience and knowledge and will remain devoted despite office politics.
- Interesting personality. Pass over one-dimensional types and select someone with many outside interests and hobbies.
- Passion for the industry. Find someone who truly enjoys the work and will devote the time necessary to achieve business success.
Most important, you need to keep your ego in check. Support the new recruit to maximize the program’s benefits and demonstrate that you are a team player.
What other traits will you look for in your replacement?
[Photo credit: www.flickr.com/photos/lambda_x.]
You’ve probably heard the stories. There’s the one about the employee who was terminated for criticizing her employer on Facebook ... and then sued the organization for wrongful termination. And of course there’s the one about the congressional staffers who tweeted updates about being drunk at work and other inappropriate topics. In short, if you pay attention to the news, you know the use of social media by employees poses a risk. But do you know how to minimize that risk?
First, the bad news—the problem may be worse than you think. Recently, the Ethics Resource Center’s 2011 National Business Ethics Survey revealed surprising statistics showing that active social networkers—defined as those employees who spend 30% or more of their working hours on social networking sites—have very different ideas about ethics than most other employees. For instance, 42% of those networkers indicated they would post negative information about their employer or co-workers on Twitter or other social media sites versus 6% of non-networkers. Similarly, 46% of networkers said they had no qualms about using company software on their home computers compared to 7% of other respondents, and 51% were willing to compensate for reduced wages or benefits by performing less work compared to 10% of non-networkers.
Why do social networkers behave the way they do? The survey didn’t capture what percentage of self-identified social networkers were using social media sites as part of their delegated job duties as compared to what percentage were doing so without authorization from their supervisors. If the numbers in the latter category were large, then the statistics may reflect a general disposition towards noncompliant behavior from those employees. In other words, being an active social networker may not be the source of their views on ethics; instead it could simply be one more example of how the employees bend or break the rules.
On the other hand, if legitimate, authorized social networkers are reporting similar attitudes towards ethics, we have to look for a deeper explanation. Could it be that social networkers just naturally view ethics in a different light? The free and open exchange of information is often viewed as a cornerstone of social networking and the internet age in general, so it only makes sense that many networkers would embrace a value system where property rights—intellectual or otherwise—are downplayed, sharing is encouraged and old 20th century rules are meant to be broken.
Now for the good news. There are steps you can take to limit the risk employee social media use poses for your organization. Follow these guidelines to protect your organization:
- Adopt a social media policy that defines what social media activity is acceptable in the workplace.
- Determine if part of your policy is to limit internet access to social media sites on company computers.
- Ensure that all employees are not only aware of the policy but also trained on its details.
- Also train your employees on your organization’s Code of Conduct and the possible ramifications for behavior that violates the Code (you should be doing this already anyway). If appropriate, make sure employees realize this behavior may include public activities they engage in outside of work that reflect poorly on the company, such as bashing the company on social media sites.
- Determine who is actively using social networking sites at work and whether their networking has been approved by management.
- Keep a list of approved networkers.
- Determine what the appropriate response is to unapproved social networking, and be consistent with your response.
- Avoid “gray areas” where employees adopt social networking roles for themselves without proper authorization from management.
It’s true that there are limits to how much control you can exert over your employees’ social media activity. You can block access on their work computers, but they can still use their smartphones while sitting at their desks. And of course you can’t really control what employees tweet or blog about your company outside of work. That being said, by adopting, disseminating and enforcing a comprehensive social media policy, you let employees know what the rules are and what is expected of them. That gives them—and your organization—the opportunity to make social media a net plus rather than a potential source of disaster.
About the author:
This article was written by Jon Strother, Senior Copywriter/Editor and Social Media Manager at Global Compliance. Global Compliance provides whistleblower hotline services and corporate compliance training, including up-to-date courses on sexual harassment training and diversity training. Global Compliance has merged with ELT and EthicsPoint to form a new leading player in the governance, risk and compliance (GRC) industry.
[Photo credit: www.flickr.com/photos/davedugdale.]