Managing Employee Relationships: Valuing Followership and ConnectionPosted on October 13, 2013

Vicki Noel

What are the barriers to doing this?

During the Industrial Revolution, Frederick Taylor developed theories about the “modern workforce”.  He wrote in The Principle of Scientific Management that workers are inherently lazy and do not enjoy their jobs.  Taylor then suggested that to get any productivity from these disengaged workers, management had to break down work into small tasks and control everything.  Unfortunately some of these “Taylorisms” linger on in organizations today, more than 100 years later.  I have heard managers refer to their workforce as “bodies” filling a schedule or “cogs” in a process.  This limiting and depersonalized view of members of a workforce gets in the way of creating real connections that promotes engagement, and contrary to Taylor’s view…productivity.

Why is it important to do anyway?

A relationship is give and take – you only get back what you are willing to give.  If you think of your workforce as a whole as people that will do as little as possible unless you micromanage every aspect of their work…what do you suppose you will get?  Certainly, you will get compliance.  Your workforce will do their tasks.   But for the members of your team that are self-motivated and wanting more from their work…the kind of workforce we need in today’s highly competitive environment, this leadership style is highly dissatisfying.  According the Great Place to Work Institute, the characteristic of leaders making meaningful connection moves people’s perceptions of their workplace from good to GREAT.  If you want those you serve to see beyond their tasks, to critically think and to innovate new solutions, you must find a way to connect, or tap into the “individual” behind the name badge.

How can you do it?

  1. Show those that you serve how their work connects with the mission of the organization.  Leadership exists to produce results.  To achieve results we need those we serve to understand what results we are striving for, but more importantly how each individual’s job impacts the results we seek.  Most people want to do a great job every day…one that makes a difference.  Leaders who value this understand their primary responsibility is to “connect the dots” with each individual and the mission of the organization.
  2. Recognize that those you serve have a life outside of work.  Members of your workforce are not “bodies”.  They are individuals with varying backgrounds, experiences, education, personal lives, and motivations.  They manage multiple roles everyday – mother/father, daughter/son, partner, friend AND employee.  Trustworthy leaders understand the complexities of the “individual”, and acknowledge the need to know the whole person they serve.
  3. Reach out to have sincere, genuine conversations.  This may seem obvious, but talk with the people you serve.  Ask them how they are doing, what needs they have…and really listen.  Actively participate in the conversation and be willing to share of yourself as well.

Describe other leadership behaviors that demonstrate a willingness to make a “connection”.

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