Keeping Your Team on Track

Most of us either love working in a team environment, or loathe it. Some people work better independently, while others thrive in group settings. Regardless of your personal preference, the majority of jobs require you to work with others from time to time. With a mix of different personalities and work preferences, keeping everyone on track and on the same page can be a challenge at times.

Much like self-motivation, teams often start off on a great note, but along the way the group can falter and can need a little extra nudge to get back on track. How do you not only get, but keep your team motivated, particularly when you may have individuals who require different things to stay engaged?

  • Create a Common Goal – Clear expectations are a vital part of managing employees. Especially when working with a team, everyone has a different way of doing things and has different methods and techniques used to reach the goal. When you clearly communicate what that common goal is, it helps keep everyone on the same page, with employees putting aside their individual differences to work in unison to reach that end result.
  • Appreciate their Work – Just like you should strive to praise individual employees for their achievements and accomplishments, compliment your team for a job well done. When they know that you are genuinely interested in their work, and invested in their success, team morale and esteem is boosted which results in a more loyal, dependable, and engaged team.
  • Team Building Activities – Taking the time to strengthen the relationships amongst your team members can lead to increased productivity and quality of work, enhanced job satisfaction, a reduction in wasted time, and improved communication overall. There are countless activities you can participate in with your team, including group discussion sessions, employee feedback activities and surveys, day trips or parties, and small celebrations of team successes.

Taking the time to keep your team motivated and engaged can result in a more dedicated and trustworthy group of individuals. It is your job as their leader to set the example and to inspire your employees to strive for and achieve success. Be there for your team and focus on being genuine and building respect. When they feel you have their best interests in mind, the results will be mutually beneficial for you, the team, and the organization as a whole.

I’m Not Your Supervisor!

Ever since her supervisor returned from a week long camping trip this summer, Jeanne has noticed that his usual interactions with his employees have been faltering. Where he typically would encourage and inspire his team to perform at their very best, Dave has been seemingly in his own world, letting his employees have free reign over projects and assignments. While autonomy to some degree can be a great motivator in and of itself, throwing your workers to the wolves is quite another story.

The team lead of Dave’s department, Jeanne is aware that Dave has been dealing with quite a lot in his personal life, and knows from personal experience how hard it can be to get back into the groove after a relaxing vacation. However, Jeanne needs her supervisor to step up and retake his managerial duties, which she has been picking up during his physical (and frankly, mental) absence.

A common situation many of us face in the workplace, what do you do when your supervisor, or someone who you wouldn’t necessarily manage (whether that be a coworker, your own manager, or a supervisor in another area) needs a bit of extra motivation to get them moving in the right direction again?

Show Your Appreciation – Managers. They’re just like us. When we get praise for a job well done, it boosts our self-esteem, leading to higher levels of productivity and more engagement in our work. Managers are no different. Let them know you appreciate their hard work and give thanks when they go the extra mile to help you out.

What Makes Them Tick? – On the flip side to motivating your employees by finding out what makes them tick, take the time to learn what gets your supervisors and coworkers going. So often in team environments it takes a village, and whether you’re at the top of the ladder or just starting out, when we all work together to stay engaged and driven we reach the end result in a happier, more effective manner.

Practice Empathy – Everyone has bad days. Your car breaks down, you’re late dropping the kids off at school, the cat gets sick, you get sick, etc. Any number of things can happen to put you in a funk. Remember that the same thing happens to managers; they’re human too and not holding them to unrealistic expectations and ideals means less stress for everyone.

Don’t Be a Thorn in Their Side – When your supervisors are already lacking the drive they need to perform at their best, the last thing they need is their employees causing even more problems. Be a part of the solution; try not to give them more to worry about (e.g., poor performance or behaviors) and work to provide ideas and suggestions that may give them the push in the right direction to get back into their groove.

We are all human and regardless of where we sit in the chain of command, what department we work in, or who we work under or with, everyone needs a bit of motivation from time to time. When we put our differences aside and work as a cohesive unit, the job gets done in an efficient manner, productivity doesn’t falter, and moods across the board stay elevated.


A Push in the Right Direction

As a manager, motivating your employees and encouraging them to be productive and meet the expectations of their positions should be a top priority. Productive employees are typically happier and have a higher sense of morale, contributing to a more pleasant work environment overall. However, this isn’t always easy, particularly for those employees who struggle with self-motivation. How do you motivate and engage these employees who need that extra push to steer them in the right direction?

Communicate – If your employees don’t know specifically what you want out of them, how can you expect them to perform at a satisfactory level? Communicate your expectations, whether that be the functions of their job, performance standards, or behavioral factors that they can work on. Communication should always be a two-way street. Give and receive feedback in a way that is productive and mutually beneficial.

Lead by Example – The “Golden Rule” applies to the workplace just as much as it did to the schoolyard as children. The simple concept of treating others as you would like to be treated means so much when applied in a work setting. Work on creating this kind of environment for your employees. Put yourself in their shoes and work in a way that would make them want to give back and put forth a genuine effort.

Be Fair and Consistent – Everyone likes a fair, unbiased boss. Apply policies and procedures the same across the board, and try not to play favorites when administering rewards or discipline. Many employees get discouraged when treatment is unequitable and when favoritism abounds. Really focus on how inequitable treatment affects others and be deliberate and unbiased with how you assign tasks and deliver praise and criticism.

Provide Opportunities for Growth – Many employees will respond well to an opportunity to obtain training. Use training and other learning opportunities as incentives for fine work. Select your most diligent or outstanding employees to attend outside seminars and conferences where they can pick up new job skills and spend time mentoring a dedicated employee for an hour or two a week as a reward for excellent performance.

Always keep in mind that each employee is a unique individual and what may work for one person won’t necessarily work for the other. Be observant and learn what makes them tick. Some employees are motivated by power and praise, another may just want some respect and to have their voice heard. Take the time to learn what you can do to help each employee succeed and reap the rewards of more engaged, productive, and an overall happier team.

Avoid Micromanagement Mistakes

Taking the time to make nurturing your employees a priority can result in a more engaged, productive, and overall happy team. When things aren’t going as ideally as you would hope, employee disgruntlement is often caused by management not giving them the freedom to do their jobs.

As we discussed last week, micromanagement is one of the top four factors that can cause a less than ideal relationship with your employees. Being micromanaged can cause the morale of any individual to suffer, leading to severe employee disengagement. Constant nitpicking and “suggestions” on how to do their job can leave your employees feeling inadequate and disparaged. Micromanagement can drive a wedge between you and your employees with a loss of respect and autonomy leading to high levels of turnover and burnout.

Micromanagement is often not an intentional managerial approach. Managers feel like they are merely doing their job by keeping tabs on their employees, intending to ensure that they are doing good work and meaning to offer constant feedback and support. However, this lack of autonomy can lead to your employees being unable to grow and develop as professional individuals.

This managerial technique is completely avoidable. Try these methods to ensure this is not an issue within your team:

  • Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff – Priorities! Take a look at the big picture and don’t let yourself get bogged down with the little things that don’t matter in the long run. Focus on departmental and organizational goals and how you, and your employees, can work in the most productive way possible to meet those objectives.
  • Learn to Delegate – A difficult skill for some to master, let your employees help you meet those overarching goals and objectives. Delegating can be beneficial for both managers and employees, in that managers have fewer duties on their plate, and employees feel trusted to take on new tasks and are offered chances to learn and build their own professional skills.
  • Communicate – Instead of constantly requiring and asking for status updates, talk with your employees about the best methods for appraisal on overall performance and project progress. If you’re not directly involved with a particular task, cut back on required updates while still offering your support and guidance.

Giving your employees autonomy over their work and the freedom to make (appropriate) decisions will help your employees gain confidence in their work and will help build their problem-solving skills. Learning not to micromanage not only will benefit your employees and team, but will help you further develop your own skills as a respected and effective leader.

Follow along next week as we discuss another factor that hinders the development of strong relationships between managers and employees: Favoritism and Inequitable Treatment.

Nurturing Strong Relationships

It is no new idea that happy, engaged, and fulfilled employees are more loyal, productive, and efficient in their work. Every manager should hope that their employees are all of these things, but with many responsibilities and duties to be dealt with on a day-to-day basis, nurturing your employees is often a task that is pushed to the back burner, whereas this duty should be a top priority.

Just like you would nurture a garden in the spring, tending to each aspect of development and ongoing maintenance, you need to foster the growth of your employees from the very start, and make certain to listen to their needs and concerns and respond accordingly. When you truly listen to what they have to say, you can tailor your management style to ensure mutually beneficial results.

Some of the most common needs and concerns employees have of their managers, issues that can potentially hinder the development of these strong relationships, include:

  • Micromanagement – Being overly managed and not allowed the freedom to grow as an independent professional, and being constantly nitpicked often leads employees to feel as if the work they are doing just isn’t good enough.
  • Favoritism/Inequitable Treatment – Double standards, favoritism amongst employees, and not applying policies and expectations fairly can easily cause tension and resentment.
  • Lack of Communication – Employees need to be regularly communicated with about the expectations of their jobs and provided with feedback regarding their performance as an individual and as part of the team.
  • Underappreciation – Feeling unappreciated can wreck the morale and drive of anyone. Taking the time to praise your employees (both publicly and privately) and to communicate how much they are valued is a win-win.

Follow along this month as we address these four common areas of concerns employees have with their managers and discuss what you, as a manager, can do to ensure these are not issues within your team, impeding the development mutually beneficial and long lasting relationships with your employees.

Employees: Partners versus Resources

For years, HRCentral has held the belief that your employees are your most valuable resource, and as such we strive to help you work with your employees to achieve the end result of mutually beneficial relationships. While we still hold true to this idea as it applies to many workplace situations, it is also true that our employees are so much more than a resource. Our employees are our partners.

In leadership roles, we are so often taught how to effectively manage employees. How to coach and mentor, how to train to ensure productivity, and how to effectively discipline when things go wrong. While these are in invaluable skills that every supervisor should have in their arsenal, there are times in which it pays to treat your employees as equals rather than subordinates, proving to them that you are just as willing to work for them as they are to serve you.

Elle was working overtime one week trying to finalize a new batch of operational manuals she had recently finished editing for her team. Her manager, Stephen, had offered to help her finish printing and binding the documents for an upcoming training, but Elle told him she had it covered. The night before the training, Elle was still at work at 8:00pm, when the printer decided to no longer cooperate. Stressing about her looming deadline, Elle reached out to Stephen who was in the office within 30 minutes. With the two of them working together to resolve the printing issue and teaming up to finish preparing the bound copies of the document, the job was done within an hour versus an extra three had Elle finished the project alone. Elle developed a new found respect for Stephen when he stepped up to assist her in any way he could, feeling that her work was valued, and that he appreciated and truly cared about her as an individual.

Earning the respect of your employees doesn’t take a lot. This can be accomplished by relatively minor actions, including: taking the time to truly listen to their concerns and suggestions; communicating with your employees on a regular basis and keep them well informed; and taking the time to work with them, proving that you are willing to get down in the trenches and work alongside them as equals.

Treating your employees as equals, as partners (when appropriate) can prove to be the difference in merely managing a group of individuals and managing an efficient, productive, and engaged team. Invest your time in your employees. When your employees feel that you truly respect them, that you value their work as well as their worth as individuals, the results can prove to be advantageous in countless ways.