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3 Tips for Managing Employees
How do you keep employees happy and engaged?
Recently I was asked to offer up a few leadership tips for a friend who had been newly placed into a management roll. Since running a team isn’t the same as being a member of one, they wanted to set off on the right foot from the start.
Here’s what I shared with her.
When it comes to managing employees, keeping them happy and engaged with the work can feel daunting. The same rewards and values that motivate you may not be the same things that motivate them. The good news is that great leadership is more about getting out of the way then hand holding, and a few behavioral habits on your part, will go a long way toward fostering an environment where people want to succeed.
Here are 3 tips for managing well:
Give clear direction, and make yourself available for as many questions as show up.
Sometimes when I’m working with clients who want to improve the morale of their team, prior to facilitating an event I’ll do some pre-workshop surveying to understand the current wants, needs and challenges of the teams members. The most common answer I hear is that people want clarity (either of their roles expectations, the project parameters, or the steps in a process).
More than deadlines and numbers, your employees want to understand what is expected of them, and what success looks like. This is not the same as telling them how to execute the work (which will put you into micromanager territory). Instead it’s about communicating what you need from them, or what part of the process they own, clearly and concisely. Part of giving direction is asking if there are any questions, and answering them.
Leave the door open for future questions as they arise, and where available and appropriate point them towards useful resources.
Check in to make sure they have what they need, and then get out of the way.
Just because you’ve given clear direction, and said that you’re available to answer questions does not mean that all of your employees will feel like they’ve been set up for success. How many times have you been shown something in the past, and thought you had it, only to discover that a few days later you felt confused and frustrated? Not everyone will feel comfortable asking follow up questions, or asking for help… and even if they do, sometimes their inquiries show up at the worst times for you!
The solution is for you to check in periodically and casually inquire about what is needed, by simply saying something like “how are things going with project x?” or “how are handoffs going with person y?” Sometimes your employees will present their challenges immediately and you’ll be able to offer support then and there.
For others, they may worry about looking vulnerable. For them, it’s enough to say, “I’m stopping by to see what, if any, support I can offer. Do you have everything you need? Is there anything else I can provide?” And then address what, if anything, comes up. If no further help is requested, and the report is that everything is on track, acknowledge that success!
Then get out of the way and let them work!
Demonstrate that they are valued.
For most people… maybe even all people, feeling valued is a powerful motivator. But how people feel valued will depend on the individual. So as a leader, you’ll need to get to know your people well enough to know what they like, what gets them excited and what they’ll want more of!
Earlier this year I met a guy who manages a team of linemen. When asked about motivation and reward he said “All my guys want is a burger and a hat and to get out of their way.” How did he know? He asked them. How did he verify what they said? He tried it.
In jobs were your employees are hired to think, asking them to think about something for you (in other words asking for their input and help on your own projects) can show them that you value their minds. In work where your folks are hired to be creative, praising the creativity they’ve demonstrated in their output and acknowledging that they’ve created something you wouldn’t and couldn’t have, can go a long way in motivating them to want to do more.
My favorite shortcut for demonstrating that someone is valuable to me, is to notice when they’re doing something right, and then point that out and tell them to do more of it.
The bottom line:
If you want your employees to feel happy and engaged, find ways to help them feel that they understand what’s needed from them, how to get the support they need to succeed and that their efforts are making a positive impact on you and the work that you share.
What are your favorite ways to help your employees stay engaged and happy?
As an employee what helps you feel like you are valued?
If you were going to add tip #4, what would you add?