Do you worry that your employees hate you? Is your Corporate Culture terrible? I can help.
Over the last 2 years, I’ve consulted and coached on behalf of clients, the majority of whom are working in Corporate America. While these sessions are confidential, I have gathered enough data to see some consistent patterns that run throughout. If you manage employees in a Corporate (or small business) setting, you may benefit from these learnings.
It comes down to one thing.
As a manager, you have to give, give, give, and give some more.
Give them the respect of treating them like an adult; like your equal. Treat them like the adults that they are. Assume they know some things, but not all things. Assume they are human and empathize when they make a mistake. Allow them the space to fail and learn from their misstep. Speak to them authentically. No one wants to be coddled. Kindly, respectfully and openly connect with your employee through straight talk. This will ensure growth for everyone. We’ve turned into a world of CYA and double speak and buzz words, which doesn’t allow for real progress to get made. When employees feel like they have to position and posture to keep a boss happy, that breeds a culture of fear. And you’ll get less good work out of an employee who is insecure and fearful of making a mistake. The employee who feels empowered and respected becomes the confident go-getter. Straight talk.
Give them flexibility. This could fall into the “treat them like adults” section, but it gets called out so often in my client sessions that I felt it deserved it’s own category. Times and technology have changed, but Corporate America seems resistant to catch up. We are accessible 24/7 thanks to smart phones, so go ahead and let your folks work from home a couple of days a week. Or let them leave to pick up their kids from school, then work from home until 8pm. Give them the chance to get their work done in ways that works best for them. Face time for the sake of face time is nonsense. And if it seems really important to you, well, go head FaceTime them on your iPhone. I bet no one feels the need to do that, right? So why do we have to make an appearance based on outmoded rules of doing business. My guess is good employees understand flexibility is a luxury and will respond in kind – by working harder to prove they’ve earned that luxury. It can be a little anxiety inducing to not have your eye on your employees all the time. You have to give up some perceived control and have a bit of faith and trust. It can change the culture. But take an honest look – how good is the culture right now? Based on what I’m hearing from clients – it ain’t great. They may all be sitting dutifully in their offices, but they are probably on Facebook right now. Not exactly being productive. You have the power to design the environment however you’d like. Schedule a weekly team lunch, or have a regular one on one for check in’s, but otherwise, let them do their job in the way that works best for them. Give them enough rope to hang themselves. But that said …
Give them your time and attention. I’ve heard this time and again. Employees actually want their boss to be invested in them and their output. They want your feedback. They want you to take the time and energy to really see them, to listen to their ideas and their questions and their concerns. They are hungry for your candid, constructive feedback. And they want your approval. They want your praise. There are a lot of men and women out there that will go through a wall for you, if you are rooting them on. Motivate them by zeroing in on what makes them tick, as individuals, then become their biggest cheerleader. Be their therapist and be their advocate. Fear is not an effective tactic. If you aren’t getting good work from your employee based on offering stimulating work, positive motivation and reward, perhaps the actual job isn’t the right fit for them. Find out. And then help them get where they need to go. Threatening or fear mongering isn’t the answer. That just creates negative energy, which will permeate in other areas within the company. It isn’t good for the overall health of the employee or the business at large.
Give them ownership. Let them be responsible for complex, strategic projects. Give them the ownership. Give them the challenge and variety to ensure stimulation and growth. They will thank you for it, and you’ll get more and more quality work from them. Asking an employee to do a rote task or only a portion of the job without context will leave them feeling undervalued and bitter down the road. There is a reason they came to work at your company vs. working in a factory on an assembly line. Once up on a time they thought the industry seemed exciting, and that they wanted to do your job one day. Let them have the practice and the inspiration. A fringe benefit: you can give them work off your desk, freeing up some of your own time.
Give them credit for the wins. When they look good, you look good. When they do well, you do well. It all reflects back on you, so there is no need to take personal credit with the big bosses. Instead, highlight your employee’s contribution and champion them to the higher ups. Evangelize on their behalf. Help them elevate their brand. They will work even harder for you the next time around.
It’s actually possible to become a great manager and impact company culture plus the bottom line. By giving. And getting results in return. And that’s why they pay you the big bucks.