Invest in Your Employees - 10 Dos and 5 Don'ts
To create a high-performance work culture, you should follow 10 dos and avoid 5 don'ts.
The following scenario may sound familiar to you. A customer moves up a critical deadline or has last-minute changes which are almost impossible to implement for the next meeting. But if you don't make it by this meeting, your bid will be disqualified. You are ready to give up on this important contract and call the customer the next day to let them know you need to withdraw your offer.
However, when you come into the office the following day, you find a revised proposal and an updated customer presentation on your desk incorporating all changes from last night. Your team has done a miracle.
At one point in your career, I am sure you have experienced this level of commitment, dedication, and generosity that exceeds all expectations.
But what do you have to do to create this unique high-performance work culture? Here are ten dos and five don'ts.
1: Be Part of the Team
Even if you are the owner or a manager, you are part of the team. You are not above your employees like you show in your organization chart. Based on your position, your role in your team is to remove roadblocks, make decisions, hire competent team members, and ensure everyone has the tools needed to do their job well. Your job is to foster collaboration, tolerance, and accountability.
2: Trust Your Team
If you do your job as owner or manager well, you can trust your team to make the right decision without you telling them what to do. If they are with an unhappy customer and need to discount an item, give them some leeway without requiring them to ask you for permission. If you have trained them well on how to react in such situations, they will do the right thing.
3: Listen, Listen, and Listen
Since each team member constantly solves problems with customers, suppliers, or internal staff, they know what's working well and what doesn't. If they make suggestions on how to improve the workflow, listen. They are not criticizing you. They want to make things better and faster. If they require you to change a process or expand their decision-making authority, discuss it. Why not? Try it out. If you hesitate, ask yourself what's the worst thing that can happen. If it turns out that the idea didn't live up to its promise, then at least you tried. But if the idea is really good, your team has improved the current situation. They will also feel that you respect and value their input.
4: Allow Mistakes
Many owners and managers are so terrified of making a mistake that they only allow changes if there is no other way. But a team that fears mistakes won't improve. Instead of avoiding mistakes at all costs, create a culture that accepts mistakes as part of your team's growth journey, as long as you openly and without blame discuss within your team what led to the error and what would have been a better approach.
5: Give Your Team the Tools They Need
As anybody working hard can probably attest: It is gratifying to look at the progress you have made when you have the right tools. However, it can be highly frustrating if, for example, you have a slow computer and the software takes an unnecessarily long time to render your work, requiring you to stay late often. That is even more so if a faster computer would solve the issue.
6: Be Compassionate, Fair, and Flexible
Your employees are not robots. They have a life, a family, and children. They need time off to take care of things. Asking them to stay late or come in early multiple times a week can make their schedule unpredictable and create additional stress, especially for parents who need to find a babysitter to watch their kids. As a leader, put yourself in their situation and think about what you — your company — can do to make it work for them. Can they work remotely? Can you extend the deadline for non-critical assignments? Ask for their input. Be open to adopting a novel solution. But most importantly, trust them; they will get the work done.
7: Encourage Constructive Feedback
I don't know what is harder, accepting or giving constructive feedback. Very often, feedback is sugarcoated out of fear of hurting your boss or teammate. A better way would be to ask for feedback about ideal behavior instead of your own. Reframing the question that way will encourage a more honest discussion.
8: Give Your Team Credit
It always struck me as odd if owners or managers attribute success solely to their skills and not their employees. When a company grows to a size where you cannot do everything on your own, you'll realize that your success largely depends on your team. Instead of claiming the spotlight for yourself, take a step back and recognize your team's contributions. They deserve it.
9: Balance Competence With Social Skills
As the owner or manager, you make the final decision about who to hire into the team and who to let go. You could hire the most competent employee, but if this person didn't show the social skills to collaborate effectively with the other team members, your hire would not be a good addition to the team. When screening applicants, look for a balance between competence and social skills. You can also invite your team to interview candidates and get their input about who they think would be a good fit.
10: Focus on Getting Things Done
Sometimes, teams over-think, over-plan, and over-analyze a task and waste valuable time in meetings where the same arguments are repeated again and again. If discussions lead to a better outcome, they are probably okay. But often, they just steal everyone’s time. As a leader, encourage a thorough dialogue, but once all the pros and cons have been discussed, it's time to decide and execute the decision.
1: Don't Expect Peak Performance All the Time
If you expect your employees to do all-nighters regularly, you will eventually burn them out. Peak performance is a gift, not an expectation. Working hard is not the same as working smart. If a team constantly works overtime, it's not good for their health. It also stifles their creativity to find the best solution for their customers because their workload is just too much.
2: Don't Micromanage
It may not be an easy admission, but you are not an expert in everything. You are a manager and have a different role. Your role is about setting goals and leading a team of experts. Contributing your perspective is okay, but telling your employees how to do their work is not.
3: Don't Play Favorites
Favoritism is often a matter of perception. Team members can sometimes construe a person's promotion, a raise, or a coveted assignment as undeserved or unfair. Try to be as transparent as possible about why you promoted that employee or assigned a particular project.
4: Don't Make Informal Threats to Fire Employees
Shouting across the room, "If you don't get this done by tonight, don't bother coming in tomorrow," is a sure way to lose the hearts and minds of your team. Even if you didn't intend for this threat to be taken seriously, your team might do.
5: Don't Play the Blame Game
If something isn't working out the way it should, don't blame one of your team members for the error. Everybody shares some responsibility. When people work, mistakes happen. Instead of looking for someone to blame, gather your team and try to find the root cause of the error and prevent it from happening again.
Being surrounded by creative and motivated team members is a blessing. But it is also a big responsibility to do everything in your power to keep the assignments exciting and challenging and the work environment healthy, positive, and productive. That is sometimes easier said than done. But, as a leader, if you try hard to do your part, they will appreciate your investment and trust in them and exceed your expectations when it matters most.
Thanks for reading Digitally Explained! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.