It’s a tough job, being a great leader. Here are some tips to help.
By Brian McLellan / BALLnROLL.com
A study from last year concluded that happy employees with a good leader are much more likely to stick around than those who don't. Good lord, that sounds like a no-brainer, doesn’t it?
But think about it: before you worked your way up, how many managers made you feel like just another number? In this economy, it's an employer's game, which means companies can afford to treat their people like cogs. It's up to bosses to change that, to become excellent leaders and create an environment in which employees can excel and turn in their best work.
Here are some excellent habits of an effective boss.
If you're seeing your employees as machines rather than people, it's time to change your attitude. A robot will do its job the same way every single day, but it won't do its job any better. That's the value of employing humans.
But humans also get sick, or need breaks in order to continue putting in better and better work. Part of your job is to facilitate this, so that employees can overcome slumps and return to form.
Nothing makes an employee feel more unappreciated than a boss viewing his work entirely in terms of output. As Liz Ryan, of Bloomburg Businessweek writes, "Decent managers have figured out that there is no clock, not for white-collar knowledge workers, anyway. Knowledge workers live, sleep, and eat their jobs. Their e-mail inboxes fill up just as fast after 5:00 p.m. as they do before. Their work is never done, and it’s never going to be done. That’s O.K. Employees get together in the office during the daytime hours to do a lot of the work together, and then they go home and try to live their lives in the small spaces of time remaining... We are not robots. We need to stop and shake off the corporate cobwebs every now and then."
Making sure there are avenues of communication
A company is built on the efforts of people, and communication between them is key. I spend most of my day e-mailing back and forth with people and without that communication, I wouldn’t be able to do my job.
Again, this seems like a no-brainer, but you'd be surprised at how many businesses cut off communication between employees and employers.
A long time ago, when I was still in school, I worked in an office whose tiers of management were specifically designed to cut employees off from the upper floors. When I found a problem with a project and came to my boss with a solution, he was powerless to do anything about it. He wasn’t supposed to e-mail upper management about things like this; he was essentially a glorified supervisor.
This was absolutely detrimental to the business--the project had to continue forward with the mistake in place, and we had to hope the client didn’t notice it. If employees feel like their boss is blind to their suggestions, they will feel helpless and think solving problems is a futile effort. That’s not good for anyone.
Don't be that boss. Keep your employees aware that they are able to communicate problems and solutions to you, and always give the impression that you are able to do something about it. If you are in a position where you can’t communicate problems to upper management, it might be time to find a new job.
Keeping your crew motivated
Sometimes the company mission isn't enough. That paycheque certainly isn't. I’ll quote Liz Ryan again: “Great leaders understand that the transaction defining the employer-employee relationship—the fact that an employer pays you in cash while you cough up your value in sweat and brainwork—is the least important part of your professional relationship. Good managers realize that to get and keep great people, they have to move past the dollars-and-cents transaction and let people own their jobs. Good leaders give people latitude and let them know that their contributions have value."
Part of being a leader is keeping your crew motivated, and making them aware of momentum. People are happiest when they feel they're making progress towards a goal, rather than running in place. To that end, remind employees what they're working towards and highlight clear and tangible goals. Give feedback, and often. Let them know what their progress is, what they've done well, and what areas to improve on.
It's up to you to let people know their work has value. Part of the way you can do this is to reward your workers.
As human beings, we like it when we are aware of a clear connection between effort and reward, especially if you're in an industry where you often have intangible results (sales, services, etc). It is in your power to help create that connection. Providing occasional treats, such as tickets or a pizza party, can go a long way to making your employees feeling appreciated for their effort. It's small, yes, but nice gestures sometimes count for everything.
But rewards don't have to be treats like pizza parties. Just letting your employees know that their work has directly contributed to the good of the company is vital. People need to see the correlation between their effort and results. Send them monthly or even weekly reports on what their work has done. Let them know what the diagnostics are.
This will help people track their own progress, and let them know that you're paying attention to them. It will even help them challenge themselves during the following week, which brings us to our last point...
Keep Them Reaching For New Heights
As Tara Weiss, of Forbes.com, writes, "Having fun at work and creating a cohesive team is just one element. The most successful companies also realize flexibility, values, career development and providing meaningful experiences are also important elements to minimizing turnover."
Part of a meaningful experience is the sense of challenge. This is different from motivation in one key area: Once you've got them motivated and attaining goals, that high they get from doing a good job is going to stop.
That doesn't mean they're lazy, or apathetic; it's human nature. The problem with a lot of businesses is that their goals and objectives often don't change. A month from now, or a year from now, you're still expected to give a customer an incredible experience, or to close that massive sale. No matter who you are, no matter how motivated you are, after a hundred amazing sales, the novelty starts to wear off. That's where you, the boss, have to come in.
You shouldn’t be expected to make a job feel fresh all the time, but you should make employees feel as if they're working towards new horizons. This can be as easy as being excited about an objective. If the manager looks as if he's ground down, that will have an effect on the employees.
Remember, effective leadership is often what makes a business fail or succeed. Keep employees happy and productive, and you'll be a happier, more productive boss.
Posted on Sep 28, 2011