How to Manage Employees to Achieve Great Things
By Valerie Grubb
Managing employees can be one of your most challenging–and also most rewarding–responsibilities as you move up within a company. When your management works and you see your employees surpass even their own expectations, it’s wildly exciting and incredibly fulfilling!
Fortunately, you don’t need a big budget to inspire your employees. Your management style alone can motivate them to achieve great things. The other side of that coin, though, is that it also has the potential to demotivate them and lead to massive turnover. (After all, as the old saying goes, “Employees join companies and leave managers.”)
Motivating employees to achieve exceptional results requires you to step up your management game in the following five areas:
Effective goal setting is the foundation for great management. If employees don’t have a clear picture of your expectations, it’s hard for them to meet those expectations (and it’s also difficult for you to hold them accountable). So your first responsibility is to use SMART methodology to set clear and concise expectations:
- Specific–Targeting an identifiable, observable goal
- Achievable–Moderately difficult, but within reach
- Relevant–Meaningful to the individual and to the organization
- Time-bound–Accomplishable within a specific time
Because employees are more committed to their goals if they’ve helped to establish them, be sure to involve them in this process.
Why delegate? For several good reasons:
- It frees you to think strategically.
- Developing employees allows them to take on more responsibility.
- It creates a succession plan, thus allowing you to move on to other roles and responsibilities.
- It motivates your staff!
Effective delegation involves three critical elements:
- Responsibility. Rather than tell your employees how to achieve the goal or complete the project, give them the responsibility to figure it out on their own.
- Authority. Give your employees the authority they need to get the job done. (This can be the toughest aspect of delegation!) Unless your employees are able to make the decisions relevant to completing the project, you’re basically just giving them a task to do and not actually delegating a project for them to complete. Keep in mind the project’s ultimate goal, and if different routes lead to the same outcome, allow your employees to choose their own paths.
- Accountability. Hold your employees accountable for their actions, decisions, and results.
Finally, understand that delegating a task does not mean that you “dump and run” and disappear. Effective delegation includes coaching your employees to get the project done. If you don’t check in, you’re sending the message that you don’t care about the project (or the employees).
An important concept to understand when managing employees is that they will be motivated to engage in behavior to the degree that they believe that the behavior will lead to an outcome they value. As management consultant Michael LeBoeuf so aptly declared, “You get what you reward.” If you want to cultivate employee motivation, you need to follow these steps:
- Identify the behaviors you want to see.
- Determine what outcomes your employees value (money, promotions, autonomy, leadership positions, etc.).
- Show your employees how performing the desired behaviors will lead to their desired outcomes.
When it comes to motivating employees, though, those steps will get you only halfway. Employees value autonomy, so you need to give them that, too. (FYI, if you’re a micromanager, your employees are probably looking for their next positions even as you read this.) Empowering your employees will make them more motivated and give them a higher degree of commitment to achieving their goals. To empower your employees, here’s what you need to do:
- Articulate the goal, then cut your employees loose to solve the problem.
- Galvanize their enthusiasm and confidence in their ability to accept the challenge of a stretch assignment and think outside the box.
- Encourage them to achieve outstanding results and push themselves beyond their comfort zones.
- Publicly tout your employees’ achievements to everyone!
- When needed, coach employees to help them develop their skills and overcome hurdles.
With its focus on future behavior, coaching is developmental in nature. It helps employees move ahead by releasing their potential in ways that work best both for the organization and for the individuals. Effective coaching includes these elements:
- Support and challenge your employees. Coaching comes from a place of support, but at the same time you should be pushing your employees out of their comfort zones.
- Listen at multiple levels. Don’t stop at the facts–listen for what your employees are reluctant to say (and pay attention to nonverbal communication).
- Ask powerful questions to get to the root of what’s going on. The goal is to get your employees to figure out next steps without you telling them how to proceed.
- Widen the range of options. As the old saying goes, “Two heads are better than one.” Share perspectives with your employees and encourage them look through different lenses to solve issues.
- Create ownership and accountability. Coaching isn’t a therapy session or a friend-to-friend conversation. Both parties should be invested in the process and its outcome.
Whereas coaching is forward thinking, feedback focuses on past behavior. Evaluative in nature, feedback is used to help employees change behavior in prescribed directions that works best for the organization. Providing feedback yields many benefits, including the following:
- Reduced uncertainty
- Problem solving
- Trust building
- Stronger relationships
- Improved work quality
- Forward momentum for projects
Effective feedback has the following characteristics:
- It is knowledge-based. It’s based on firsthand experience and observations of job performance.
- It clearly identifies the action or behavior that worked (or didn’t work). It cites specific examples that illustrate how the employee’s performance was (or was not) completely effective in certain instances.
- It provides an alternative action or behavior that would result in improved performance. It delineates between the actions/behaviors that were observed vs. what is preferred/required in the future.
- It details an acceptable benefit. It pinpoints an area in which you and the employee believe improvement would benefit her or him, the department, and the company.
- It is followed through. Feedback is effective only when you follow up on it and make sure the individual progresses toward improvement.
It’s time to step up your management game: you ask your employees for their best, so now give them your best!
Valerie Grubb of Val Grubb & Associates Ltd. (www.valgrubbandassociates.com) is an innovative and visionary operations leader with an exceptional ability to zero in on the systems, processes, and personnel issues that can hamper a company’s growth. Grubb regularly consults for mid-range companies wishing to expand and larger companies seeking efficiencies in back-office operations. Her expertise and vibrant style are also in constant demand for corporate training classes and seminars. She can be reached at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org.