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The #1 Mistake Managers Make
A client of mine was fired by his board of directors last year for reasons he did not understand until we had worked together for several months. When he mocked all of this, he and I realized that his focus was on the performance and productivity of the staff to the exclusion of any personal investment in them as human beings. The end result? Some employees turned against him. They approached board members behind his back, chipped away at his credibility as a leader, and finally watched him pack up his desk. They clearly felt no remorse for their actions, which they believed to be justified. They felt betrayed, exploited and abused. Did these people use a good process to deal with a situation they thought they couldn’t live with? Not at all. Working on the sly side of the board is never a wise move, except perhaps in cases of proven theft or sexual harassment. But they did, and a dedicated, intelligent, sensitive, highly skilled boss lost his job. A boss who would have been exposed if the chairman of the board had been honest with him…
My client is usually a lower level manager. That’s how it’s wired. However, this is not enough to survive and thrive as a leader. It’s not enough to expect staff to get the job done every week and not care what it takes to make it happen. Not caring – and showing care – that someone’s husband just died, their grandmother is sick, their child has manic depression, was recently diagnosed with breast cancer, or is very tired today. It is simply not enough to focus on numbers and results. Authentic management requires a comprehensive, holistic approach that combines a business mindset with a very soft heart. It’s an art.
What does this kind of caring look like in the workplace? First, let’s be clear that caring does NOT mean letting employees off the hook for missing an important deadline, short on a project, mistreating a colleague, or offering a handful of excuses for being ignored. leave what they are responsible for. Caring is not about accepting what should not be tolerated. It’s not about relaxing standards. It’s not about turning your head away when you know someone is doing something wrong or wrong. Care in the workplace has a sharp vision. He sees things as they are, but also applies a compassionate lens. Then you act in the realm of compassion, still doing what you have to do, no matter how difficult or uncomfortable it may be.
The following are examples of possible forms of workplace care:
1. Stopping in the middle of a busy day to check on someone’s sick child
This type of conversation, which may only last three minutes, shows that as a manager you are invested in the employee’s feelings and well-being. Sometimes clients tell me they don’t have time for that. My answer is that you can’t afford not to make time for it. We are not talking about spending half an hour on the topic. We are talking about briefly demonstrating your humanity to a worried, tired and temporarily burdened fellow human being. At that moment, you are not the boss, and he is not your subordinate. The two of you are just partners traveling through a life that often throws curve balls that no one expects. Taking the time to engage in these conversations shows strength, not weakness.
2. On-the-spot praise
The fact is that all people want to be praised. There are no exceptions. People need it to keep going, to keep giving, to keep growing. People are dehydrated without it. Waiting to praise an employee during the annual review six months from now is inappropriate behavior on your part. Do it now. Don’t delay. Talk to this person at the first opportunity. Write a quick email. Leave a phone message. Would you wait six months or even six days to praise your five-year-old for doing a chore he didn’t expect? Barely. How ridiculous! Praise means the most when it is given spontaneously and on time, regardless of the person’s age. If you find yourself withholding praise from staff, look inward and ask yourself why. It’s not healthy for you or your employees. What should you do to overcome this less than desirable trait?
3. Asking someone’s opinion
People love to be asked what they think about things. not true? Make it a regular habit when you formally meet with staff, tour the physical environment, and have lunch with a small group. It shows that you care about other people’s ideas and beliefs. This shows that you are not narcissistic enough to “buy” that only you know the right answers to problems. This shows that you are open to lots of input from lots of different sources. Most employees respond very favorably to this type of leadership style. Use daily. Every time you ask a person what he thinks, he tells you that he values him: his skills, his creativity, his insights. It’s actually a way to pay huge compliments to the staff.
4. Take ten minutes to really listen
If you know that one of your people is struggling with a big problem at home, invite them to talk honestly about it behind closed doors. Why? This has several advantages. First, you show empathy. Second, you give him the opportunity to release some of the kettle when he feels like he’s bottling up. Third, he feels heard, he leaves. Fourth, you’ll probably be more productive at your job than pretending the situation isn’t happening and shutting him out. Again, clients often tell me that they don’t have time for this kind of listening, to set aside their daily responsibilities. You no doubt know that this is also part of your responsibility. As a manager, it is your duty to show empathy when it is needed, and it is your duty to do whatever is necessary to move the employee to a new location so that they can continue to work effectively. If he doesn’t, he loses, he loses, and the company as a whole loses.
5. Making eye contact
When talking to people, look them straight in the eye. We do not promote staring and making the other person feel uncomfortable. We are simply saying that you need to look directly at people so that they feel valued and heard. Focus on that individual as if they were the only person in the world at that moment. When you let your eyes wander around the room or look down at the floor, it subtly signals a lack of interest, lack of seriousness, or even disrespect for the person. This type of behavior means withdrawal to others. Consider how you feel when someone avoids your eyes during a conversation. You get the feeling that he doesn’t really care about what you have to say, right? Do you want to convey this message to your colleagues?
6. Building someone’s confidence
This can be done in many ways. Think both inside and outside the box. Let people know that you believe they can complete the task or project. Tell them they’re on the right track. Let them know you made their vision a reality. Send them an email explaining how they made you shine in front of your own boss and how it made you feel. Let them know that you have complete confidence in them to see you through your two-day absence. Things like that. Incorporate these into your daily routine. Are you feeling awkward? Why? Don’t you appreciate it when people build you up, believe in you, reach out to you, congratulate you? Do an honest assessment and make sure you’re not someone who wants trust-building efforts to go your way.
7. Conducting cultural surveys and/or staff satisfaction surveys
Whether you have money to spend with an outside party or are in a position to manage it internally, you integrate one or both of these every year. Don’t assume you fully understand your organization’s culture. Remember that the lens is limited. Look for this unfiltered view. It takes some courage, but you should do it unless you really want to walk around in a comfortable fog. As a manager, you don’t get paid to walk around in a delusional fog. So get out of your comfort zone. Take the risk to find out what your coworkers really think about you, the organization, the environment, or each other. You can’t fix something you don’t know is broken, dirty, or less than satisfactory. Be sure to use a process that protects people’s anonymity and encourages their honesty, especially if you’re trying to do this yourself. Getting fluff that isn’t useful and just feels good defeats the purpose of the whole exercise. Due to the results of well-successful surveys and evaluations, he is thrashing around. But it’s a great springboard for growth.
8. Providing opportunities for staff to improve their health
That might mean letting employees go an hour early once a week to a nutrition class, exercise program, or other fitness initiative. This could mean rewarding people for losing weight over a certain amount of time. This could mean treating staff to a healthy, delicious lunch once a month. This may mean that they hold smoking cessation classes. That might mean opening an on-site fitness center or providing dollar benefits to an established community program. Be creative. Ask the staff for an opinion. See what ideas they generate. If you have their buy-in, you’re more likely to see positive behavior and positive results. Healthier employees are a huge win for you and your organization, and for them as individuals. Don’t underestimate the value here.
Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric, once said that managers should be hard-headed in business but soft-hearted when taking care of people. You’re probably already focused enough on getting the job done; maybe it’s time to focus on ways you can show your co-workers that you really care.
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