Hiring an employee and continuing to pay them is only the half battle in keeping them motivated. The other half of the challenge is to maintain good engagement levels, whereby they remain invested not only in the company, but also in their role with it. Here are 10 strategies for management engagement to get you started.
Feedback sessions are one of those things that can make employees nervous. Especially if they have a boss that doesn’t know how to give it. Bad leaders are the ones who mistake the word ‘feedback’ for ‘reprimand’, and use the time to highlight every single tiny mistake their team has made with orders to never do it again. But what good is that? How does a team grow and learn from it? Actual feedback, on the other hand, is a constructive process. It doesn’t shy away from tackling hard topics, but it doesn’t end with the finger of blame. It ends with a good conversation about the hows and whys and where to from there. It also looks not just at mistakes but at things that can be done better to help both the worker and the company. It’s the language that doesn’t start with “You did this wrong” but with “Let’s look at this, and talk about how you could have approved it differently…” It’s something that offers encouragement not discouragement and, in truth, is the best type of feedback of all, because it shows that, as a boss, you’re interested in helping your people grow.
As the boss, it’s your job to make decisions and ensure your team – no matter how big or small – performs to the absolute best of its ability in pursuit of the company’s aims and big picture. And for some people, they feel the only way to lead is to be a dictator. To avoid consultation, to never show doubt, to never admit when they are wrong and to blame others for mistakes. But this is a great way to end up with no respect, no longevity and, potentially, no staff. No one wants to work for a dictator. People will always respect the fact the buck stops with you, but a boss who fosters an atmosphere of teamwork, who shows recognition for his staff’s intelligence and ability by tapping into it, who consults his team on decisions big and small, and who shoulders blame when it’s needed is the one they will happily follow.
Mistakes are made in business every day, some bigger than others. And when they happen, it’s absolutely your job as a boss to get the bottom of why and how it happened and to follow through on the ramifications. And you know something? Workers understand this has to happen. Good ones will even proactively seek it out. But it’s what comes after that will decide the long-term ramifications, and how it affects their impression of management. And there’s two ways you can play it. A good manager comprehensively assesses the problem, works out what decisions and rectification are needed, identifies strategies to stop such an error happening again and then moves on. A bad manager never lets the mistake go. Even if they don’t demote the worker/s involved, they’re the ones who reach for a passive comment when one isn’t needed. The ones who say: “Oh, we could send Jason out for coffee, but then he’d only forget to place the order like he did with Jones Company.” It’s bullying at its nastiest and will do nothing but create a them versus you situation with the entire staff.
It’s true staff get paid to do a job. And ideally they would sit at their desk, log on and work solidly for their entire shift. But that’s not how human nature works. People want to connect, to have conversations, to share funny parts of their job and to ensure they can find enjoyment in a place they spend a huge chunk of time. This is something you absolutely need to encourage. That’s not to say you need to schedule ‘fun’ time for everyone in the office, you just need to make it known you’re cool with the odd moment of downtime or humour. That means smiling at staff when they’re having a conversation, or allowing them to turn on the TV in the kitchen when there’s a big sporting on. It doesn’t mean glancing pointedly at your watch and sighing every single time you see two people chatting. Unless, of course, they’ve been doing it for an hour. Then we suggest sighs give way to more serious prompts to get back to work.
This encouragement principle could again start with recognition staff get paid to do a job, and should be happy to do it. But again, it’s important to remember you’re managing people, not machines. And a little encouragement above and beyond the norm can go a long way, none more so than when management lets workers share in a little of their ongoing success with a gesture that says: “You matter.” This could be giving everyone a birthday RDO on top of their existing holidays, celebrating a new contract with a group breakfast, or even just making sure the work Christmas party is a corker. True, some of these gestures will add up to a pretty penny, but they will always engender goodwill and good memories far beyond their material value.
Bad managers love business buzzwords and phrases, worst among them the dreaded ‘synergy’. They somehow feel such language makes them sound managerial, but if anything, it does the opposite. Staff know when convoluted corporate speak is being used to show off, to disguise a lack of facts or to try to polish a negative outcome, so you’re actually making the situation worse with a lack of honesty and transparency. Instead, couch your words in normal, every day vocabulary. Trust us, if there’s no changing the facts of a situation, they would rather hear the phrase: “I’m afraid we had to let some people go” than be told “We have experienced some internal efficiencies.”
Staff are hired for their particular skill set, but a good employee – and employer – knows this is only the start of the journey. As the business environment changes, skills and know-how must evolve, and the best way to ensure staff keep up is through training, which brings myriad benefits. Firstly, the employee gets to broaden their qualifications, which makes for a handy tool on the climb up the ladder. It opens the way to a better salary plus there’s a certain loyalty that goes hand in hand with a boss who believes in you enough to train you up, especially if it’s something broad-based, like a business course, which could be applicable in myriad positions. It tells the worker the company has an eye on their future, which is particularly reassuring in this day and age. The boss, meanwhile, benefits not only in a quantifiable way, such as in better efficiency and a better skilled workforce, but in one that will hopefully reward the investment in their future with a healthy dose of loyalty. And that’s something money can’t buy.
Some companies, by nature of their workforce, aren’t in a position to showcase a career path within the company. But a decent-sized one, with varied levels of staff and management, may in the fortunate position of being able to promote an employee through the ranks as positions arise and performance allows. As we said before, no one wants to do the same job forever, so eventually, a stagnant staffer will look around for what else is available. And if there’s good potential to do something new or climb the ladder with their existing employer – especially if you’re known to promote internally where possible – you’ve got a much better chance of keeping them, their experience and knowledge on tap. And that’s a win-win situation.
The title of manager gives the game away when it comes to your position description. But there’s a massive difference between management and micro-management. And the latter is almost guaranteed to backfire. A good leader will outline the task at hand, liaise with staff and then trust them to execute their part of the vision. A bad leader will want to know the ins and outs of every single thing staff plan to do along the way. Not only is this inefficient – two heads aren’t always better than one – it also tells workers you don’t trust them and their competence. And there’s almost no faster way to crush innovation, creativity and inspiration and breed an atmosphere of contempt that will be almost impossible to turn back.
This is such a simple point, but one that’s often overlooked. Being a manager doesn’t mean you want staff to fear you. Nor do you want to be their best friend. The ideal is somewhere between the two; a healthy sense of respect underlined by a cordial relationship. So make an effort to be invested in their lives a little bit. To know if they have a family, or to understand what shapes them outside hours. Take the time to have the odd conversation in the hall, to say hello in the lift, to discuss a mutual interest by the coffee machine. Again, it’s about remembering you’re leading people, not machines, and you can guarantee that those shared moments of connectivity are the things that helps to glue a team together. And at the end of the day, that’s exactly what you want.
There’s a saying parents often use with their kids: Do as I say, not as I do. But in management, that doesn’t cut it. Bearing in mind the usual divisions between management and staff, you need to show them you’re prepared to do what you ask of them. If the company decides it needs to cut back on wasted electricity use, make sure your office lights go off as you exit of an evening. If expenses need to trim back, don’t take unnecessary long lunches on the company account. If a job requires all hands to the wheel, don’t be leaving at 5pm on the dot. Everything you do as a manager registers, and if the team knows you ‘re prepared to walk the walk as well as talk the talk, you can be sure they’ll fall in behind you.