‘Managing Employee Relationships’ Category


Managing Employee Relationships: Leading with Fun

Vicki Noel

What are the barriers to doing this?

Achieving results in today’s business environment is really hard.  And as a leader you are held accountable for the results of your team.  Some leaders may think that having fun at work is goofing off and distracts from productivity.  Other leaders may cope with the stress of work by  “knuckling down” and tolerating humor even less.  Some managers fear that if they allow fun at work that their workforce won’t respect them or take them seriously.

Why is this important to do anyway?

People have the need to have to play.  All work and no play really DOES make Jack a dull boy…and a stressed out one too.  Work-related stress has been linked to increased rates of heart attack, hypertension, and other disorders, easily matching the loss in productivity from physical injuries.  As it turns out, laughter really is one of the best medicines.  Laughter releases pleasurable endorphins, lowers blood pressure and helps us tolerate more pain.  Fun also increases the number of days your employees will spend at work.  Fun and laughter have been linked to less absenteeism and fewer sick days.  An environment of fun is serious business and when present can have a direct correlation with creativity and innovation.  Fun also gives the brain a break from the monotony of routine tasks.  Laughter is one of the strongest glues that bring a team together.  And when morale is strong, the team is more resilient and can take on even the most challenging problem. So why have fun?  Well…it makes our tough jobs a little easier.

How can you do it? 

  1. It starts with YOU.  Lighten up, will ya?  As a leader, your behavior sets the boundaries.  If you allow yourself to loosen up and have a little fun, you are giving your employees permission to do the same.  Your workforce will take their cues from you. Now I’m not suggesting that you act goofy all of the time.  Rather, just lighten up enough to allow others the freedom to have a little fun.
  2. Be willing to laugh at yourself.  Certainly not everyone is a comedian…and PLEASE, don’t try to be one.  You have to be mindful of “safe” humor, so avoid telling jokes because you never can be sure what may be offensive.  But one of the safest and most powerful things all of us can do is to not take ourselves so seriously…to laugh at yourself.  This signifies humility which draws people to you.  Instead of covering up your mistakes, quirks or challenges, find the lighter side and share them.  Your staff will love you for it.
  3. Tell stories to keep the laughter and learning alive.  We have learned from stories from the time we were born.  Stories can share a lesson, a challenge and a laugh.  The best kinds of stories…have all three! Every organization and department has their unique culture and stories associated with the work that they do.  In Human Resources we have sick “HR humor” that allows us to relieve the stress of dealing with problems all day long.  When we encounter one of these “you can’t make this stuff up” situations, we try our best to share that story for us all to learn from but more importantly…to have a shared hearty laugh.

What are some other strategies you use to inject fun into your work and that of the department you lead?

Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.

Managing Employee Relationships: Leading for Connection

Vicki Noel

What are the barriers to doing this?

Some managers may hear the word “connection” and think that I am suggesting a “love fest”.  Well, I am…sort of.  True connection takes investment which comes from emotional energy.  Some leaders are not comfortable with the idea that they have to “invest” some of their self into their team.  Other leaders are convinced that a high-performing team is one where their employees just do what they say without question.

Why is this important to do anyway?

One of our primary psychological and biological needs is to build emotional bonds with others.  Our brain chemistry is wired for connection.  Connection with others also helps us find meaning and purpose.  Most of us who work full time spend the majority of our waking hours at work.  Meaningful connection within a group unleashes powerful social forces that influence behavior.  Great managers realize this and give careful thought to protecting and building their team.  A healthy team will provide an inspiring work environment, while a dysfunctional one will quickly erode morale and engagement.  A leader’s job is to do their best to encourage a “sticky” team environment.  Here are a few things a leaders can do to support an environment where the team pulls together.

How can you do it? 

  1. Shine a light on the “purpose” of the team and their work.  A sticky team must center on something larger than itself.  No amount of superficial “team building” exercises will accomplish this environment.  Teams want to achieve something.  Regularly clarify the goal or target your team is shooting for and give the team feedback on their progress. When leaders create an environment of shared success, it helps team members to realize purpose and feel relied upon by others.  Hold each team member accountable for their part to make sure each is pulling their own weight.
  2. Support and environment of energizing discomfort.  When there is absence of conflict that is NOT a good sign that your team is sticky.  A team full of quiet “go-a-longers” will have mediocre performance at best.  You want to support and environment of trust, where team members can have respectful disagreements over process, share their opinions, thoughts and concerns without a fear of isolation or retaliation from you or the team.
  3. Remove team members that are “solvents” to your team’s stickiness.  Whether you have a slacker, whiner or bully on your team, please hear this…you will NEVER have a sticky, high-performing team as long as you allow them to continue. Period.  These individuals are caustic and will dissolve any bonds your team may have developed.  Great team members will leave as soon as another opportunity is available if you do not address these employees.  Work with your HR team on a plan to successful manage or extrude these members from your team.

 Think of the “stickiest” team you have been a part of…what are some of that team’s characteristics?

Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.

 

Managing Employee Relationships: Leading for Growth

Vicki Noel

What are the barriers to doing this?

I had a manager say to me once that he would rather supervise robots.  Robots are programmable and they do what you tell them to do and only needing a power source.  While people are “messy” to lead compared to a robot, they have the capability to grow beyond their programming with the proper care.  Leaders are often too busy with their own responsibilities to think about the ongoing development of their employees.  Managers can also fall for the trap thinking that all of their employees just want to come in, do their job and go home…so why bother to develop them further.

Why is this important to do anyway?

Despite the security and predictability our routines may offer, we were meant for more.  Deep within each human being is the need to grow.  The opportunity to grow is one of the highest drivers of employee engagement.  If your team members want to grow and there are no opportunities in their job or organization, they will look elsewhere for that growth.  As leaders we must understand what our role is in the growth of those we serve and then act on it – for the sake enrichment, engagement and retention of the talent within our workforce.

How can you do it? 

  1. Provide clarity for growth.  Don’t get trapped in the thinking that development is limited to training methods such as seminars or courses.  The how training is administered is not as important as the what training is experienced.  Before you can answer the “what” or the “how”, you need to be clear about the development need.  Ask yourself “where do they need to grow in order for them to be more effective than they are now?”  Identify what the development gap is – knowledge in the field, technical job skills, career skills (i.e. resolving conflict, coaching), or personal behaviors (non-verbal communication).
  2. Look for opportunities that create discomfort. Very little growth takes place inside someone’s comfort zone.  Growth requires stretching and trying new things.  Once you have identified where your employees need to grow, work with them on experiences that will challenge or test their ability to perform.  While initially your employees may be hesitant about these “growth opportunities”, when survived they will be building blocks for their confidence and growth.
  3. Show your support.  When you get out on a limb, it’s easy to lose confidence.  When your employees are out of their comfort zone, give them an extra dose of support.  Model the way.  When your employees see you doing the same task, it increases their confidence.  When one of your team members gets stuck and they don’t have trust in their abilities to move forward, remind them of similar challenges they have overcome in the past.  Give them a word of encouragement and reassurance.  When your employees doubt their own abilities, they may need to borrow some of your belief in them, just until they get back their own.
  4. Give them feedback.  Because growth is often hard for us to see in ourselves, we often rely upon outside information to confirm whether or not we have made progress.  Remember the growth chart on the wall when you were a kid?  As a leader, you need to serve as the growth chart for those you serve.   Give your employees feedback on their progress.  Let them know “if they are there yet” and if not, what course corrections they may try.

What is the most effective  growth opportunity you have experienced in your leadership journey?

Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.

Managing Employee Relationships: Leading for Autonomy

Vicki Noel

What are the barriers to doing this?

The biggest barrier to allowing those we serve to have autonomy in their work is our need for control as leaders.  We are in leadership roles for one specific reason – to produce results.  Because we are ultimately accountable we think we should control the way in which those results are produced to ensure the outcome.  Because of this control need, we often result to a KITA approach to motivation (“Kick them In The You know What”).  Frederick Herzberg classified these as “carrots or sticks” or extrinsic motivators.  They follow a simple “If-then” formula – if you do this, you will receive that.  And as a leader, we control what is given and this meets our need.  Sticks are used to threaten, in hopes of spurring people to do what we want or they receive a consequence.  Carrots are used to pull people toward completing a result for a reward.  The problem with using this type of leadership only is that it is leader-sustained, not workforce-sustained.

Why is this important to do anyway?

Abraham Lincoln was quoted as saying “Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.”   When we are free, we have autonomy.  Autonomy is our desire to be self-directed, and it is very motivating.  With extrinsic motivators if you remove the reward or the punishment, the desired behavior stops or significantly reduces.  Extrinsic motivators can have the tendency to bring out the worst in your team, if not balanced and if not aligned with the values of the organization.  A far more powerful source of motivation is intrinsic – coming from within.  Instead of carrots or sticks, think energy drinks.  Intrinsic motivation is what pulls you to act on your own regardless of what anyone else may be doing to push or pull you in a certain direction.  Our perception of how much control we have exerts an incredible impact on our motivation, happiness and overall well-being.  Patients who are given control over administering their own morphine report less pain that those who receive the same amount automatically.  When we feel in control and have choice, we work harder, are more creative and are more proactive when dealing with challenges and stressors.  If high performers are what you seek, then you definitely need to leverage the power of intrinsic motivation in your workplace.

How can you do it? 

  1. Give choices when possible.  Choice and autonomy go hand in hand.  Find ways to give your team a greater degree of choice and flexibility in how they carry out their roles.  Your job is to define the result you are trying to achieve, but if there are numerous ways to get to that result, what is the harm in letting people choose their own path, as long as it gets the same result?
  2. Give an opportunity for input whenever you can.  When employees are asked for input, it not only makes them feel respected and important, but it gives them a chance to affect their work environments.  This can be hard for leaders that are controlling by nature.  Remember that not everything has to be done your way.  A caution with this – if you ask but never implement input, then you will be seen as insincere and not listening.
  3. Put your workforce in charge.  While you might not be able to promote each of your employees, you can still find creative ways to help them take on greater levels of responsibility.   When asked to take on new responsibilities, it is feedback that they are contributing and valuable to the organization.

 What are some of the ways you balance your need for control and the need for autonomy of those you serve?

Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.

 

Managing Employee Relationships: Leading with Purpose

Vicki Noel

What are the barriers to doing this?

Leaders have a huge responsibility to define the work that needs to be done, create the schedule, and make their performance expectations clear.  In that normal management pattern, whether or not the individuals performing that work have an understanding of how important their job is to the customer is probably not in the forefront of concern.  Tasks need completed and results need achieved.  Some leaders do not see the need to “connect” the work to the mission because of the belief that their staff is only working for a paycheck, or that the leader’s direction should be followed because “they said so.”

Why is this important to do anyway?

Most people have the need to feel significant…to have purpose in our work.  Yes, we all expect to be compensated fairly for the work we do.  That’s a given.  But when there is a clear purpose to the work we do, when there is meaning beyond the tasks we are performing, that’s like a second paycheck.  The second paycheck stretches further than the first one.  It keeps you from overdrawing or defaulting when there’s a particularly rough day.  Purpose is the magic of why we chose our profession to begin with…and when we have a clearer line of sight with that purpose it helps us put things in perspective when imperfect.  Ideally, as a leader you would hire those with a clear sense of purpose.  But for those you serve that may have lost their way, you can attempt to connect them to the “why” behind the “what”.

How can you do it? 

  1. Connect to the people served.  Sometimes in our work lives we forget who is at the receiving end of the work we do.  We organize our work flow based on our own convenience rather than thinking of the customer we serve.  Leaders need to regularly assess their department’s processes to make sure they are designed with the customer in mind. Leaders also need to consistently connect their team with the “person” behind the work through sharing stories, customer feedback and recognition.
  2. Connect to the job hired to do.  The strength of a person’s engagement with a task increases when they can connect their piece of the work to a bigger picture.  The difference in engagement between a block layer who sees his job as laying block and another who sees his job as building a cathedral is significant.  Share the “why” behind tasks and be prepared to paint the picture of what the end result should look like from each person’s effort.
  3. Connect to the difference made every day.  Beyond connecting with who is being served and what the work should look like at the end, people want to know if their effort is worth it…is it really valued.  Take the time to share stories or examples with your team of how their effort made a difference for a particular person or department.  Stories or examples connect with people’s emotions which tap into the magic of that “second paycheck.”

Question? What are some methods you have used successfully to connect those you serve to “purpose”?

Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.

 

Managing Employee Relationships: Leading with Recognition

Vicki Noel

What are the barriers to doing this?

As leaders we have all heard the phrase “what behavior gets rewarded and recognized gets repeated”, so why don’t we do it?  Well, probably the most common response is time.  Personal, meaningful recognition takes effort and leaders have so many other tasks and fires that recognition gets pushed to the bottom of the to-do list.  There is also the thinking that employees are just doing their job and the leader sees no need to recognize beyond a paycheck.  Some leaders may be so concerned with the perception of favoritism that they shy away from recognizing high performers.  And believe it or not, some leaders are uncomfortable with recognition and just do not know how to do it.

Why is this important to do anyway?

Recognition helps meet a fundamental need deep within each of us to know if we are needed and significant.  Recognition can act as a source of fuel which can propel those you serve to try harder, persist longer in the face of challenges and to invest more energy in their work.  We are hard-wired to receive recognition.  Whenever we receive praise or recognition, our brain releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain in charge of stimulating our pleasure centers.  And you do get what you reward or recognize – you want certain behaviors to continue and be repeated, so thank people for their effort.  When you consistently appreciate your employees, it strengthens the bonds of goodwill which are essential for trust, your currency that allows you to lead effectively.

How can you do it? 

  1. Recognize specific achievements.  Frederick Herzberg’s research on motivation found two powerful motivators that when combined, has potential of explosive results – the desire to achieve and recognition for that achievement.  Regularly reflect on the achievements of those you serve, no matter how big or how small, and thank them for it.  Leverage the power of cause and effect by specifically connecting the feedback of recognition with outcomes.
  2. Recognize specific behaviors.  As a leader you are in the business of managing behavior.  Many managers get the negative side of this and clearly grasp the use of corrective action to manage ineffective behavior.  But don’t forget the power of the positive.  Recognition is a force that reinforces effective behaviors.  Ovid is quoted with saying “A prince should be slow to punish and quick to reward.”  Provide a balance of recognition and correction with your team.
  3. Recognize specific attributes.  Recognizing good work and effort shows that you appreciate and value people for who they are as well as what they do.  Avoid using overused phrases such as “good job” or “keep up the good work.”  Rather, be specific about “what” they did, but also recognize the “how”.  For example, don’t just thank Ted for getting the report done, but recognize some of the attributes of the report (quality, accuracy, professionalism, etc.)  The more specifically appreciation is expressed, the more power the effects are on the receiver.

Question? What are some recognition strategies that have been effective that either you have received or have delivered?

Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.

Managing Employee Relationships: Leading for Mastery

Vicki Noel

What are the barriers to doing this?

Early in my career I had a leader emphatically state that most people just want to do their job and go home with the least amount of effort. While I agree that human nature is inclined to do what we WANT to do rather than what we NEED to do, the belief that members of the workforce want only the “easy” way out may translate into leadership behaviors that can pose a barrier to promoting mastery.  If you think your staff doesn’t want a challenge, you don’t create challenges for them.  If you don’t believe they care about achieving the goals, you may stop asking their opinions or ideas on how to improve.

Why is this important to do anyway?

Another primary need that every human has inside of them at some level is the need for mastery.   Mastery is described as our desire to overcome a challenge, and in doing so find meaning or purpose in the work we do every day.  It is not a leader’s responsibility, nor is it practical, to light every employee’s flame every single day.  A leader’s job is to create an environment and support a set of circumstances that creates the tension for challenge and potential for achievement.

How can you do it? 

  1. Set clear goals and expectations.  People you serve need to see the challenges ahead clearly if you want them to have a chance to overcome them.  Our job as leaders is to make clear what outcome the team is striving for, why it is important and when the team needs to achieve the outcome. This provides the path, or opportunity to achieve a meaningful outcome.
  2. Create an optimal challenge.  Hard, “Big Hairy Audacious Goals” (BHAGs) are great to fire up those you work with who live for an underdog challenge, but no one wants to feel hopeless.  A leader’s job is to strike a balance between challenging and over-the-top hard.   Break the bigger goal into smaller goals that have a possibility of being achieved in the circumstances.
  3. Give consistent feedback.  Are we there yet? While the need for mastery is met by achieving a goal, no one wants to feel lost along the way. Leaders need to give regular feedback on your team’s performance toward the goal, reminding them of “why” the goal is important (the light at the end of the tunnel) to help get them through the challenging path toward achievement.

Question? What are some strategies you use to give consistent feedback about goal achievement to those you serve? 

Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.

 

Managing Employee Relationships: Leading with Care

Vicki Noel

What are the barriers to doing this?

I had a manager say to me once that this “caring” stuff wasn’t necessary as his employees were getting paid for their work and that should be enough. This view of the connection between those he serves and the organization as merely transactional limits the possibilities a more balanced relationship can yield.  As referenced last week, everyone has needs that are prioritized differently.  A leader may not personally have a need to know that they are more than the work they are producing, which may be a barrier for extending care to others in the workplace.

Why is this important to do anyway?

Because leadership relies on your ability to influence others to achieve results, it is important to consider what you can do to build trust.  If your employees do not trust you, they may only follow you so far.  Most every human has a primary need for care – the need to be more than a number or a resource to be used.  When employees feel that they count, that their organization cares about them as individuals, they are more likely to invest or engage more of themselves in their job.

How can you do it? 

  1. Make a genuine effort to “know” those you work with.  Your goal here is to learn some “vital statistics” of those you serve.  The more colleagues you interact with the harder this can be, but it is worth it.  Develop a system, or log, for keeping track of a few vital basics – what their job is and key results they participate in, names of family, life events, hobbies, etc.
  2. Regularly round with those you serve.  Now that you may know more, show some interest in those you serve – in the work they are doing and in them as a person.  Go to their place of work and interact with your direct report 1-1 regularly.  (At SOMC we ask leaders to do this at least quarterly.)  While you may follow-up on operational issues during this time, make sure to genuinely check-in with them on a personal level (not like a telemarketer! Ha!).
  3. Be willing to lift a load.  Plato is quoted with “Be kind, for everyone you meet is carrying a heavy load.”  In your interaction, you may learn of a particular issue (personal or professional) that is getting in the way of them being able to perform.  A simple inquiry, offer of encouragement or unexpectedly helping your colleague through a tough situation will not be forgotten.
  4. Show an interest in their future.  Ask those you serve “what’s next” in their career. Try to learn what long-term goals they have (even if it is not in your department).  Be supportive and look for ways that they can work toward their goals while in your care.  This support shows that you do not wish them to be indentured and will be appreciated.

Question? What are some other behaviors you can demonstrate to show you care for those you serve?

Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.

Managing Employee Relationships: Leading with Awareness of Needs

Vicki Noel

What are the barriers to doing this?

The amazing, and incredibly frustrating, aspect of relationships is that each of us looks at situations differently, through lenses shaped by our experiences and our needs. Sometimes actions and decisions have to be made too quickly to fully appreciate different perspectives.  Leaders can get too busy or too focused on putting out fires to step back and consider the thoughts of others.  And, sometimes leaders care only about their own needs and achieving the ends, with disregard for the means and the people who produce them.

Why is this important to do anyway?

There are certain principles of the human condition that appear to remain true regardless of race, generation, culture, etc.  These principles, or basic needs, are present in all of us, and are part of what shapes our thoughts and behaviors.  When a leader acknowledges the different needs of those he serves, he communicates to his team that he “knows” them and that they are accepted and their perspectives matter.  This basic human respect is at the core of trust and can impact the amount of engagement your team is willing to give in order to produce the desired result.  Leaders who do this well are those supervisors, teachers, coaches that you would follow anywhere…that you do not want to let down.

How can you do it? 

  1. Be clear about your priorities.  This is such a simple to-do that is so easy to stray from in our day-to-day tasks.   Identify the high-level priorities for your organization/department.  Then, rough out the high-level “how’s” to achieve these “what’s”.  No matter what curve balls that will get thrown in the course of a busy week, the team you serve are counting on you to stay focused on what is really important to achieve these results.
  2. Be aware of your needs and those of the colleagues you serve.  Each leader serves a team of people who will then execute these “how’s”.  Be willing to get input from your team and understand that each person’s perspective (including your own) comes in part from needs that we have.  Accept that we are all mixed bags of strengths and weaknesses and do your part to capitalize on the strengths each brings.
  3. Balance your energy between being “present” and focusing on tasks.  Benjamin Franklin is quoted as saying “The absent are never without fault, nor the present without excuse.”  There is a delicate balance between how much energy you place on people vs tasks.  You cannot invest your time completely in meeting everyone’s needs at the expense of results.  And…you can’t ignore the needs of those you serve and expect to achieve results (at least in the environment we prefer at SOMC).

Question? What are some strategies you have used to balance your focus on people and results?

Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.

Managing Employee Relationships: Leading with “Weighted” Relationships

Vicki Noel

What are the barriers to doing this?

Leading others is a heavy burden.  This responsibility “weight” can be overwhelming to some leaders and paralyze their actions.  That people’s lives are affected by the heaviness of leadership decisions can be more than what some signed on for when they became a manager. This weight also has power and the potential to arouse in some leaders their desire to control others.  The fact that a leader is now “in charge” can be an intoxication that fuels a person’s need to dominate.

Why is this important to do anyway?

And…this weight has the potential to inspire.  A leader, a teacher, a parent has the potential to truly make a difference in the world, in their organizations, through the influence they have with others.  Leaders who understand the principle of “weighted relationships” take the responsibility of leading others seriously and understand that they have the power to add to someone’s quality of life or take away from it.  A Saratoga Institute study found that a manager’s behavior was the number one factor in determining an employee’s satisfaction at work, and a Gallup study found that and employee’s relationship with their manager has a strong correlation with an employee’s turnover with an organization.  Leadership is a heavy responsibility and we need to be aware of ourselves in order to most effectively leverage this weight to help those we lead achieve results.

How can you do it? 

  1. Be aware of “your way”.  Everyone has a certain way of doing things.  This “way” can be referred to as a culture or brand, or simply the certain style in which you behave shaped by your beliefs, values and past experiences.  You “way” spills over into your team and helps shape the micro-culture within your organization.  AND…people care more about what happens in their local communities than at the state level.  Choose your “way” intentionally.
  2. Be aware of your words.  Your words carry weight.  Those you serve want to hear from you – expectations, praise and correction.  What you say means more to your direct reports than the same words from the CEO.  So be careful – mean what you say and say what you mean.  Language shapes perception.  If you regularly use phrases like “they work under me or for me” then be aware of the stage that sets for your workplace culture.
  3. Be aware of your actions.  You are always on stage and your actions carry weight.  Those you serve are not only listening to your words, but also watching your behavior.  When words and behavior are incongruent, our colleagues will believe behavior every time.  Make sure YOUR behavior matches what you expect in others.  You must be the change you wish to see in the world. – Mahatma Gandhi

What other suggestions would you share with a leader in effectively managing the weight of their influence on others?

Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.