Balancing Science and Art for Optimal Results in Employee Management
Throughout my years as a business owner and coach, and in my time networking, I have talked to a lot of business owners who have expressed that Employee Management skills are often a lot harder to develop and understand than their actual Business Strategy.
Part of the reason Employee Management can be difficult is the basic fact that everyone is different and they all have different strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, etc. It takes time to truly get to know people and learn what makes them tick.
Everyone who graduates from Harvard Business School isn’t a great leader. The same as how every child raised in a family doesn’t turn out the same. There is a science and an art to managing employees. Because we are all different, how we view ourselves, how we view others, and how we interpret what we hear and what we see all come into play.
Be Personal and Personable with Your Employees.
Whether you are running a company of five people or 500 people, most leaders don’t realize how they are viewed. The majority of their staff are often intimidated by their presence. You “control” their destiny so to speak. While you may feel like you need them more than they need the job, most employees won’t see it that way.
Whether managing a small team or a large organization, leaders often underestimate the impact of personal connections. Establishing a genuine connection through activities like shared meals, coffee breaks, or socially distanced walks can bridge the gap between hierarchy and camaraderie.
Can you imagine?: “The CEO came to my house to take a walk?!”
To get you started, try asking yourself the following questions:
- When was the last time you had a meal or coffee break with a staff person who makes less than $50,000 a year yet has a crucial position in making sure your company runs smoothly?
- Rather than tell them stories about how you used to do that job or how they should do their job, did you ask them how they do their job? And how do they view other departments?
- Have you ever sat down with an employee after six months into their tenure and asked them about their onboarding process? “Where did you struggle the most?” or “What could we have done better?”
- What is the most menial thing you do in your job? Do you make sales cold calls? Do you create graphics? Do you make collections calls? Do you run payroll? Making sure you are in touch with some aspect of what staff people do, keeps your connection level high.
Stop being Nice and Start being Kind.
Is holding the door for someone nice or kind? Well, that depends on why you do it.
If you’re holding the door to suck up, that’s not kind though the other person might think you’re nice. If you’re holding the door just to be helpful, you’re both kind and nice. Kindness, therefore, is about concrete actions to help others. Niceness is about being pleasing to others.
While it’s certainly not a bad thing to be polite and avoid unnecessarily ruffling others’ feathers, distinguishing between kindness and niceness is essential for effective leadership. Kindness involves concrete actions to help others, while niceness may merely be a facade. Leaders should prioritize kindness, offering support even if it comes across as gruff.
Or as Jordan Green put it, “Niceness is saying ‘I’m so sorry you’re cold,’ while kindness may be ‘Ugh, you’ve said that five times, here’s a sweater!’ Kindness is addressing the need, regardless of tone.”
Telling a flailing employee that they’re flailing intending to help them improve isn’t very nice, but it is kind. Calling out bias in a meeting isn’t nice (in fact it’s usually awkward), but it is also kind. Being chipper can even be actively unkind if your positivity is directed toward someone who is suffering and obliges the other party to hide their true feelings in the name of niceness (this is called toxic positivity).
“While niceness maintains a facade that our lives are together and assumes that same status quo for others, kindness gives permission for real success and failure. Kindness defaults to an understanding that life can be hard, but that emotional support helps.” -Project Happiness
No need to go wild and give yourself permission for endless grumpiness or gruffness. Niceness has its place, but kindness runs deeper and is way more valuable. If you need to choose between niceness and kindness, always aim for kindness.
Offer Sincere and Direct Feedback. And be amiable in receiving it.
Feedback is a cornerstone of employee management. Delivering feedback with the right intent, mode, and manner is crucial for employee development.
Effective employee management is all about helping other people realize their maximum potential by enabling and empowering them to put their best foot forward. Peer and supervisor feedback are powerful mechanisms to show employees how their work makes a difference in the pursuit of broader, shared goals.
Creating a culture of continuous feedback requires active participation from both managers and employees. A constructive feedback culture can go a long way in attracting, engaging, and retaining today’s employee population. Managers must, therefore, continuously work on their performance coaching skills.
Tips and Ideas for Developing Feedback Strategies
- Constructive or positive feedback is best given instantly for maximum impact and significance. Feedback must be continuously and intricately tied to recognition and employee development.
- Feedback need not be an elaborate affair. A check-in or a quick chat about how to improve can go a long way.
- Overly critical feedback can make employees lose confidence and trust in their manager, putting them into a negative ‘fight or flight’ mindset. Hence, managers must learn how to communicate failure effectively. Managers must learn to balance praise and reprimand, communicate with objectivity and empathy, and do so with employee growth in mind.
- Feedback should be specific and purposeful while providing the employee with a clear direction for course correction. Managers may often beat around the bush to avoid confrontation. However, discussing details of what went wrong, why it might have gone wrong, and how it happened, is critical to helping employees step up and improve.
- Effective feedback is a two-way street. Active participation of both parties is essential to build ownership and accountability in the feedback process. Managers must let go of the age-old tendency to simply “direct and instruct”, and must actively seek input and ideas from their team members.
Recognize Your Employees and Their Efforts.
Many employers miss the mark when it comes to employee recognition. It is easy to assume that getting a paycheck is enough for their work, but it’s usually not. People want to feel like someone cares when they come to work and someone notices their efforts.
According to a survey commissioned by OGO (O Great One!), 82% of employed Americans don’t feel supervisors recognize them or their contributions enough. This lack of gratitude takes a terrible toll on morale, productivity, and, ultimately, profitability. Notably, 40% of employed Americans say they’d put more energy into their work if they received more recognition for their efforts.
“Most workplaces suffer from what I call a ‘recognition deficit.’” -David Novak, CEO of OGO
To boost employee engagement, explore ways to provide proper recognition. From acknowledging individual achievements to offering tangible rewards and incentives, find opportunities to demonstrate how much you notice and appreciate their effort.