Employee's Are Your Best Asset

Do employees need to be a headache? The short answer to this question is "no." But for those that work in management, the people aspect can sometimes leave you wondering "what the heck is going on?" on a good day. It is known among management circles that managing people is one of the most difficult leadership challenges in today's organizations and efforts to manage subordinates among first-time managers can be especially difficult. Tackling the complexity of a multigenerational, multiracial, and multiethnic employee population is the main target of this article.

It is no joke when it comes to the challenges of bringing a multitude of individual personalities together to focus on a singular goal, but it can be done by setting expectations for the outcome and not buying into the minutia that employees sometimes thrive on and can bring down a great team while causing those around them to lose sight of the goal. It is the manager's responsibility to bring peace when those around them feel chaos. Managing and motivating employees who have differing skillsets, values, ethics, motivations, and passions can be done by following a few simple and purposeful steps.

5 Steps to motivate employees

First, understand that those who surround you don't share in your motivations. You can't respond to their needs as you would your own so it's important to respect their differences as a starting point to employee engagement. Since no one model will work for all employees, develop a framework for motivation. I use a model that can be found in Daniel Pink's book, "Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us" and has three points: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. A side effect of this model can create a highly motivated team (self-managing) that also allows those who want to lead... to lead when they feel the need and become masters of their domain. This dynamic, if cultivated, will also build peer accountability into the system.

Second, listen without judgment. It is important that you build trust in developing the relationship. Employees have quite a number of personal problems as they are typically sandwiched between work, children, husband/wife, elderly parents, and a whole host of other daily issues. Pay attention to what they are saying and while it's not your responsibility to "fix or solve" their problems, it is your responsibility to provide feedback as necessary and demonstrate interest and concern. Employees just want to be understood and appreciated, not given answers. Be cautious here as you don't want to "nurse" the poor performer and it's important that you are not hindering business needs in your effort to create a balanced workforce.

Third, you want to create a vision. Articulate a vision that is simple, focused, and conveys passion. This vision should also motivate employees to pursue your expectations and engage them in their day-to-day activities. It seems almost comical that something so simple can move mountains. Employees are desperate at times to have a leader whom they can trust, respect, and follow. Giving them a vision (a singular goal) that they can respond to and rally around will also motivate them about the work they are performing.

Fourth, create a team that is responsible for its results. There are multiple benefits to creating a high-performing team including improved communication, peer accountability, and self-direction. By providing expectations (clear standards), outlining roles and responsibilities and creating accountability, you are also creating transparency. Additionally, poor performers can be dealt with more easily. Once the expectations and responsibilities are set and agreed to, having those critical conversations become much easier for the manager.

Fifth, create a support network. As a manager you are only as good as your last promise so develop a strong support network that can meet the needs of your employees. Whether it's ordering supplies, having IT personal available, or solving a training issue, make sure you can provide the support that's needed for the employee to succeed. View your department's organization chart as a tree with you as the support system (trunk and branches) while the employees are the producers (the fruit). We don't come to work every day to fail and neither do our employees. Be there and present, and know who you can reach out to if needed.

Paving the road for success

For aspiring leaders, the road to good management is paved with good intentions and while dealing with employees is often complex at the individual level, it doesn't need to be complex at the leadership level. Expect excellence from your employees and keep it simple: Vision, Direction, and Support. Additionally, understand that leadership is an exercise in repetition. As a manager, you can't just say it once, you have to repeat it until it becomes a cultural "norm" and institutionalized among all employees. Creating a workforce that can self-manage with a singular vision/goal and meet and even exceed your expectations will pave the road to your success.

©  Darrielle Ehrheart | December 2, 2014

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