If you’ve been reading The ONE Thing’s blog this month, you’ll recognize that we are dedicating the month to improving the bones of your organization. At the core of any great company are great people. That means we’re focusing on helping you get the people aspect of your organization right.
You’ve dedicated time to recruiting talented people to your organization. Then, when you knew you had the right people, you spent time and resources preparing them for their role. Now, the hard work begins. We know the thought of managing people seems like a no-brainer. The truth of the matter though is that it’s a skill you have to commit to working on over the life of your career.
When it comes down to it, most of us think we’re good leaders. Sadly, most of the people who report to us don’t feel the same way.
Perception is reality – so it’s important to understand what the people around us think. And all too often research gives us some harsh insight into how our employees really feel about their managers. Gallup’s State of the American Manager reports that in a study of more than 7,000 adults, one in two left their job to get away from a manager at some point in their career. That doesn’t say much about our leadership abilities. A Forbes article, citing research by Michelle McQuaid, backs up this finding by reporting 65 percent of employees think having a better boss would make them happier than getting a pay raise. Neither statistic provides a lot of confidence that our employees are satisfied in their workplaces. And when employees aren’t satisfied, they aren’t likely to commit for the long-term.
Being the type of boss that creates the type of workplace your employees want to spend their time in comes down to five activities:
1. Finding ways to motivate every employee
2. Keeping everyone accountable
3. Communicating effectively
4. Being trustworthy
5. Overcoming adversity
All of these activities work in tandem, giving managers the ability to lead, engage and inspire the people who report to them. They all take focus and practice, especially if they fall outside of our natural comfort zone. But by improving your abilities in each of these areas, you’ll ensure your team will rave about you in the next workplace poll.
#1 Finding Ways to Motivate Employees
If you want to help your employees achieve big things, you need to tap into their motivation. Motivation comes in two forms: intrinsic and extrinsic.
Intrinsic rewards are defined as behavior that “arises from within the individual because it is naturally satisfying.” A person who has been intrinsically motivated wants to do something because they find it personally rewarding.
Extrinsic motivation, on the other hand, are rewards from external items. Whether for money, public recognition, or a promotion, a person wants to behave in a certain way because they receive a tangible reward.
While both types of motivation can instill a desire to do something, intrinsic motivation lasts longer and is more effective. Psychologist Edward Deci explores this in his book, Why We Do What We Do. In it, he recounts the experiments where he tested students’ motivation by solving puzzles. One group of students was told to do the best they could do, while the other group was told they’d be given a dollar for every puzzle they could solve. Most of the students who were told to do their best continued to work on the puzzles, even when the experimenters were gone. Those who were given money as a motivating tool went on to do other tasks when the experimenters left. In other words, the students who weren’t compensated for completing the puzzles were more likely to enjoy working on them. Translate this to a work setting and you’ll find that leaders who focus on intrinsically motivating their team wind up with happier and more engaged people reporting to them.
Researchers have broken intrinsic rewards into four distinct types:
- Meaning: An employee knows what their purpose is and believes they are on track to achieve it.
- Choice: An employee has a sense of ownership in the work they are doing.
- Competence: An employee believes that they are doing a good job and excelling in their role.
- Progress: An employee feels that they are heading toward accomplishment.
Great managers find out what type of internal feeling drives their employees and aim to instill it through work. The best place to start is to help employees determine what drives them. This is hard, but necessary. (It’s the key to getting them engaged in the work they do.) Help them figure out what they’re passionate about and then hold them accountable to pursuing that passion. If they don’t know where to start, hand them our My Purpose Workbook. The exercises will help them self-discover what drives them, which is good for everyone. Some managers may encourage the people who report to them to go off and do this workbook on their own. Great managers, however, will walk through the exercises with them to ensure they know where to begin. Not only is it beneficial for the employee as an individual, but taking this time with your employee shows them how invested you are in all aspects of their success.
It’s unlikely that two employees will have the same passion or purpose – and that’s okay. Just showing a little appreciation for how their purpose aligns with their work can go a long way toward instilling a sense of intrinsic motivation. Let them see how their personal contribution impacts the bigger picture of success in your business. One great way to do that is to share “impact stories”. These are tales told to show how employees’ own actions can have a positive effect on the people around them.
A comfortable work environment also helps instill intrinsic motivation in employees. A good workplace is not only pleasant for workers to be in, but can make the job more rewarding for employees. Recent research backs this up. In a study of 17 restaurants in a Midwestern town, researchers found that employers who support their staff and try to make their job more interesting and meaningful have employees that are happier and more engaged. The authors report:
“Work engagement is an important concept that helps organizations to increase their performance. When employees are engaged in their jobs, they tend to work better.”
When we make an effort to learn why our employees want to get out of bed in the morning, we not only create an environment where they feel appreciated and respected, but we show we care about their well-being as well. And we should never underestimate the power of having a boss who cares.
#2 Keeping Everyone Accountable
Good managers don’t shy away from goal setting. And they aren’t afraid of holding their teams accountable to reaching the goals they set. But good managers also know goal attainment doesn’t only come down to the employee. Just like we talked about in Part 1 of this series, good business leaders maintain a vision. They share their vision with the team, get buy-in, and then stay in ongoing communication to make progress.
Managers should get everyone onto the same page by holding a team retreat to discuss the upcoming year. They should talk about what they want to achieve and the responsibilities each teammate will handle. At Keller Williams, we use what we call a GPS system during this annual retreat. With this system, we highlight one goal we want to achieve in the coming year, along with the three priorities that we need to zero in on to reach the goal and five strategies we’ll use to handle each of the priorities. (Download this form to use in your own meetings here.)
After you’ve met and are in agreement with your team, don’t send everyone off on their merry way and expect them to achieve everything on their own. The reality of good managers is quite the opposite. They stay in constant contact with their teams. There’s a good reason for this. Accountability results in success. When it comes down to it, people who write down their goals and share them with others are more likely to achieve their goals than those who don’t. A study done by Dominican University backs this belief up, finding that “those who sent weekly progress reports to their friend accomplished significantly more than those who had unwritten goals or written [yet unshared] goals.” This way, they can both hold employees accountable for their work and troubleshoot areas they may struggle with. Its proactive management before any employee gets too far off course. For this standard meeting, we suggest utilizing a 4-1-1.
4-1-1s are meetings that occur on a weekly basis between a manager and employee. They’re time blocked at the same time every week and are designed to help keep everyone “in the know”. During this dedicated time, an employee can expect to review both the progress they’ve made and any roadblocks they’ve found while pursuing their goals.
Each 4-1-1 form asks the user to define their professional and personal priorities for the year, month, and weeks ahead. One year, one month, and four weeks of goals, condensed onto one sheet of paper to be reviewed with a manager.
When a manager holds the team accountable to reaching set goal through ongoing conversations, it’s a win-win scenario. Doing so allows employees and employers to stay on the same page when it comes to knowing what’s expected of them.
#3 Communicating Effectively
If you’re meeting with your team, you’ll quickly understand the importance of effective communication. Not much productivity can happen without it. To manage successfully, we must embrace this truth.
Many believe it’s one of the most important skills we can have, not just in the workplace, but everywhere. As Greg Satell writes in Forbes:
“We often treat communication as if it were a discrete act, a matter of performance or lack thereof. Yet meaning cannot be separated from context. A crucial, but often overlooked, function of leadership is creating a culture in which effective communication can flourish.”
If we can’t communicate with the people around us, it’s unlikely we’ll see eye to eye when it comes to projects and goals.
When it comes to our businesses, we should communicate consistently – we’d argue daily – with our teams. After all, it’s through this ongoing contact that we learn what’s really going on. If you aren’t seen as approachable, you likely won’t get an accurate pulse of your organization. Gallup reported that 54 percent of engaged workers feel strongly that they can ask their manager any type of question. However, only 37 percent of all workers feel they can. There’s room to improve in this arena. Begin to establish a healthy relationship with your employees by communicating with them. Communication can take a variety of formats. But the more tuned in we are with how our employees are feeling, the more engaged they are likely to be.
Consider these formats for daily and frequent communication with your team:
- Other digital options
Show that you care about your employees in the way that you communicate. As Gallup reports:
“The best managers make a concentrated effort to get to know their employees and help them feel comfortable talking about any subject, whether it is work related or not.”
Be open to knowing what goals are important to them outside of work. We don’t work in a vacuum and neither do our employees. If something is important to a teammate, take the time to listen and absorb what they’re saying. Even if it doesn’t have anything to do with an impending deadline. Then make it a priority to help them achieve this goal outside of work. If you support employees not only as team members, but as people, they will thank you for it.
#4 Being Trustworthy
Trust goes a long way in any relationship. Whether it’s between friends, family or co-workers, it’s important to feel that you can rely on them. They have your back and you have theirs – and we can count on that to remain consistent when we have trust. Trust is hard to define. But it’s easy to spot the actions that can make us lose trust in another person. And once trust is lost, it can sometimes be impossible to ever rebuild it.
Instilling trust starts with being truthful. People generally want to hear news, both good and bad, in a straightforward way. As a manager, you may want to soften the blow of company news or inflate good results, but fluffing up news makes you appear less trustworthy. Moreover, employees may take offense to a manager who beats around the bush. Your team needs to see you as someone that is dependable with facts. Honesty is the best policy and it’s one you should live by. When we promote honest and direct communication in our actions, we can expect it in return from our team.
Trust also stems from the decisions we make as managers. We should base good decisions on productivity, not politics. We all hate politics, but if we aren’t careful, it can end up in much of what happens at an office. As Ben Horowitz writes in The Hard Thing About Hard Things:
“In all my years in business, I have yet to hear someone say, “I love corporate politics.” On the other hand, I have met plenty of people who complain bitterly about corporate politics—sometimes even in the companies they run. So, if nobody loves politics, why all the politics?”
Generally, business politics stem from decisions. Every decision we make has both intentional and unintentional impacts. It’s inevitable. Consider it the “Butterfly Effect” of office politics.
So how can a manager avoid an unexpected political outcome? When it comes to your team, this is where trustworthy communication is essential. Take compensation increases, for instance. When each individual knows what is expected of them, they’ll be clear on where they stand in terms of delivering on these goals. Performance evaluations should be done and reflect what they’ve accomplished. Then, compensation can be tied to the job they perform. When an employee receives a raise, their teammates know it is because they’ve delivered on expectations. When it isn’t a case of the squeaky wheel who got the grease, politics stay at bay.
#5 Overcoming Adversity
“We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.” Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture
Managing people definitely isn’t a walk in the park. Sometimes, you may run into a snag or two that bogs you down. Whether it’s a budget cut passed onto you from above, an unexpected change in direction, or an unruly employee, there are so many issues that arise day in and day out in your job as a manager. What makes a difference in the outcome is how you handle these challenges as they happen.
When an issue arises, confront it head-on. Sometimes we feel sorry for ourselves when problems arise. That’s natural. After all, no one wants trouble. Take a minute to have a small pity party for yourself. But that’s it. After that minute, release any leftover emotion and move into problem-solving mode. Think of it as using the five-second rule for moving past the things that threaten to weigh you down as a manager. Then, dissect what you’re facing. Define the problem and the people it impacts. Then, think about what you can do to impact it in a positive way. Every little step made toward absolving an issue is a step in the right direction. Taking ownership in this way acknowledges to the people around us that we take this adversity seriously and will work to address the issue.
When we reflect back on problems we’ve faced, we benefit from looking at them with a growth mindset. In other words, if we learn from issues that arise, we’ll never face the same exact scenario again. As Carol Dweck suggests in her book Mindset, “Picture your brain forming new connections as you meet the challenge and learn. Keep on going.” Think of problems you face as a way to grow not just as a manager but as an individual as well.
When all is said and done, employees follow managers they respect. Understand how your employees see you and you’ll be able to make positive changes that engage your employees at work. Learn what makes them tick. Hold them accountable to reaching the goals you both desire and then interact with them to stay on the same page. Show you are worthy of their trust and willing to meet challenges head on. By focusing on each of these traits, you’ll create an environment that no one on your team will want to leave.
For more ways to create a positive work environment for your employees, check back next week for our next installment of this series. For other must-have manager qualities, click over to our Facebook page and leave us a note!