You can hire the right employees for your business, but if your managers don’t manage them well, those capable employees may wind up messing up rather than stepping up.
Jen and Tim are managers of two totally different functions within Mid-Road Co., 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. Capable technical managers can be bad at managing others when they have not received management training or mentoring by a good manager.
Field research with midsize and large size U.S. organizations across a broad industry cross-section points to seven key management behaviors that encourage employees and help them become top performers. Jen and Tim could become better managers when they learn to:
C: Challenge employees with new opportunities
Jen pigeonholed her employees into routine tasks and offered little chance for them to learn new skills. Jen applies a 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.
R: Recognize results in real time
Tim was so immersed in his own work that he ignored the daily accomplishments of his staff members. After management training, Tim understands the value of observing employees’ on-the-job performance and praising an employee’s good results at the time of achievement. Employees feel appreciated for their efforts and want to achieve even more.
E: Ensure a healthy rate of change
Prior to coaching by her experienced manager, Jen often switched gears with 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.
A: 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.
T: Transcend the goal of making a profit
Previously, Jen stressed the importance of cost-savings so much that her employees began taking shortcuts on time and quality. She saw the bigger picture once she read and discussed the company’s annual report with her director. Jen now heightens employees’ awareness of their roles 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.
E: 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 changing this. 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.
S: Strengthen employee strengths
A significant step forward into good management for both 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,” says Tim when he next 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?” says 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.”
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.