Beyond the management mask

I came across a great blog by Geoffrey James @ Sales_Force and in this blog Geoffrey was talking about the 10 Things Employees Really Need to Hear from You – a discussion that highlighted the things that make a significant difference to the morale (and the performance) of your business.

I believe that improved morale leads to performance and I am firmly of the view that there is a direct correlation between business outcomes and morale.  People drive performance, not systems or processes – after all if you don’t have an engaged workforce using the systems, the systems are not likely to produce results.

Geoffrey James describes how he came across a book by Todd Parkin who identified 14 phrases that really improved morale if they came from a manager, and he then took the ten that stood out the most to him.

I agree with Geoffrey James choices, so have listed them below and added some comments as to why I agree:

1. “I need your help”

Admitting that you don’t know everything and embracing your vulnerability will win more respect than if you pretend you know when you don’t – employees see through this.  I have worked with a client who saw admitting not knowing as a weakness and who adopted a “my way or the highway” approach as a means of deflecting questions about things they knew nothing about – the outcomes this person was getting were not good, and even more concerning was the lack of respect the team demonstrated behind the leader’s back.  The team was fragmented and had no shared view and this was impacting performance.  Once the client accepted that asking for help was not a weakness, team morale improved considerably and with it, productivity and results.

2. “What do you need from me?”

In some environments, especially ones where the organizational structure is rigid and the culture strongly aligned with this, employees may not feel comfortable asking for what they need.  This is more likely to be found in a workforce where there is a baby boomer skew – this generation will tend to defer to higher authority and not challenge or question whereas younger workers will be more outspoken.

Therefore in these situations, taking time out to ask employees if they need anything you extend permission for them to make requests – this does not mean they get it, but it gives you, the manager, an opportunity to work with the employee to find an alternate solution.

3. “I noticed what you did”

This is a huge morale booster.  Noticing the little things that keep the business or the team going.  The photocopier doesn’t automatically fill itself, someone does that.  In most offices that will be someone with a strong “S” profile (refer Extended DISC profiling and my other services) who is the carer of the team – saying thank you and taking time to notice these people in an appropriate manner goes a long way.  Be mindful however that this style does not like to be made the centre of attention, so make sure that your acknowledgement is done appropriately.

4. “Thank you”

Say thank you – everyone likes to hear positive feedback, so look for ways to give it.

5. “Hey, everyone – listen to what Joe just accomplished”

Everyone loves to receive recognition, so give it.  You will find that this feeds on itself and overtime there will be more and more opportunities to celebrate wins.

6. “What would you like to do here”

Over time business changes, customers change, and needs change, so why not keep job descriptions a little fluid and allow your staff to grow with your business – have your staff got development plans that look to not only their present role, but roles they aspire to.

7. “I have bad news”

Share the bad news – far better the employees hear it from you than from an external source or through watercooler gossip.  It may be tough news, but your honesty will pay off – you may not stop the watercooler discussions entirely but you will minimise them and this will minimise the productivity loss.

8. “What do you think?”

Employees are people and are not robots or cogs in a machine.  By engaging them in discussion and eliciting their thoughts, they will become much more engaged with you and the direction you want to take the business.

9. “That’s ok – we all make mistakes”

Holding lengthy interrogations into mistakes that end up with blame being laid does not serve the business – understanding what happened and learning from it does, but yelling, lecturing or subjecting employees to long winded lambastings will not move your business forward.  It will probably have an impact on productivity, creativity and innovation, certainly in the short term, and if lambasting is part of  your style, it will impact retention and also  productivity.

10. “I know you can do it”

Empower your people, give them the authority to make decisions and step up – I have worked with a client who was experiencing very poor performance from their team, and when we looked at the team in action, it became clear that the manager had created a fear based culture where team members were too afraid to step up because they didn’t want to deal with what happened if they made a mistake – therefore in their view it was easier not to make a decision and to do nothing.  Once we addressed the root cause of the performance, trained staff and let them know it was ok to step up and they were able to feel supported, performance improved considerably.

There are no doubt quite a few other steps that you as a manager can take, but for me the common theme is that by treating employees firstly as people, showing respect and by adopting the philosophy that your employees are a valuable resource you underpin your business performance.