Nobody would ever say that managing people is easy. If you're responsible for a team of employees, you may find it terribly challenging to motivate them and get them to do their best. Take a look at the five management practices outlined below and see if you can apply them to your own leadership challenges.
Make Sure Customer Feedback Gets Through To All Employees
Many healthcare companies are far less transparent than they could be. Doctors need to be protected from frivolous complaints, but sometimes that leaves them completely immune to important criticism. At the University of Utah, senior managers elected to increase transparency and make their doctors more accountable by making all patient reviews visible to the public. While some doctors panicked at the thought, those whose patients left negative reviews rapidly improved their level of service.
If your team is a little isolated from your company's end users, take steps to put them in touch with your customers so that your employees can see the effect their work has on them - both good and bad. In many cases simply making your employees aware of a problem can be enough to motivate them to correct it. Corporate training programs can help to resolve issues where the solution isn't immediately obvious.
Don't Get Bogged Down In The Meaningless Details
In the classic workplace comedy Office Space, low-level employee Peter Gibbons spends the first half of the film being constantly harangued by his manager Bill Lumbergh to file his "TPS reports". It's clear to the audience and everyone in the office that these reports are meaningless, but Peter's manager has chosen to make them his primary concern. The situation breeds (well-deserved!) contempt for the reports and for Lumbergh, and as far as good employee engagement ideas go, they obviously rank very low.
Your own team might well be facing some ordinary responsibilities that must be taken care of despite being relatively unimportant. While you might not have the power to sweep meaningless minutiae off your employees' desks, you can keep them focused on truly important goals by making sure you and your team understand the difference between tasks that truly matter and tasks that are simply routine.
If You Go "Into The Trenches" Go All The Way
Managers at every level like to paint themselves as members of the team, suffering through the same reverses as their employees and being not that different from their subordinates. Some leaders merely talk the talk, but the ones who get respect are those who back up their words. Jim Sinegal, the CEO of Costco, is legendary for living up to his claims of modesty. Jim answers his own phone, works in the bullpen with lower-level employees, and keeps his salary capped at no more than twelve times what Costco's entry-level employees make. His workers respect this genuine commitment to sharing their experiences, and Costco's loyalty (with the lowest employee turnover in retail) has become famous.
Pitching in right alongside your team members is a valid motivational tactic. If you tell your employees that you're right beside them in the trenches, feeling their pain, make sure you back up your words! If meeting your latest goal requires working long hours, you should work them with your employees. If your team works works hard and earns a bonus, make sure everyone's share of the reward is equal -- including yours!
Earn Loyalty By Being An Advocate For Your Subordinates
As noted above, many teams are plagued by responsibilities that ultimately contribute little to their primary goals. Good managers use motivational techniques to keep their teams focused on the really important things, but great managers actually go the extra mile to protect their employees from meaningless make-work.
Communication is vital in a healthy relationship between a manager and his or her
employees (see below). You should develop a good understanding of what your
team considers to be its primary obstacles in getting work done efficiently. Do
a little research on your own to find out if there's a good justification for
tasks that are sapping your team's productivity. If there isn't one, clear the
roadblocks away! Your team will be more productive and appreciate working under
a leader who makes their jobs easier.
Never Dictate; Explain If You Must; Collaborate Whenever You Can
The American car industry faced a host of challenges at the end of the 20th century. Problems abounded both internally and externally. At GM, workers were feeling seriously unmotivated due to a failure in management. They felt like cogs in a machine; a commonly-repeated complaint was that they had been hired to provide strong backs instead of talented hands. GM executives solved the problem by realigning management policy and ordering supervisors to work in collaboration with subordinates. Instead of dictating company policy or justifying orders, managers listened to their employees' ideas and used their experience to improve their workflow.
No manager who issues orders and demands unquestioning obedience is going to last long. Smarter leaders will explain the reasoning behind their instructions, but the really great ones will let their team members arrive at the right way of doing things on their own. You have to make time to listen to your subordinates and guide them gently towards the methods you consider ideal. It isn't as expedient as barking orders, but it leads to a much happier and more effective team!