We recently stumbled across a 2013 Gallup report on the state of the American workplace. There’s a lot of useful information in the study, but here’s what stuck with us:
According to the report, 25% of workplace teams (the best managed) versus the bottom 25% (the worst managed) have nearly 50% fewer accidents and have 41% fewer quality defects. Furthermore, teams in the top 25% incur far less in healthcare costs.
What this seems to suggest is that disengaged, poorly-managed employees are not only less safe, they are also less healthy and more likely to create defective products!
Rather than dwell on the unsettling findings of this report, we’d like to offer 10 simple ways leadership can improve their relationships with employees. The following has been adapted from James Harrington’s book, Resource Management Excellence.
Treat employees as adults
Poor managers ask employees to blindly follow procedures and check their minds at the door. Excellent managers encourage critical thinking. Why? Because they know they cannot be successful alone; they know that they need the ideas, input and criticism of their employees.
Competent managers trust their employees. Furthermore, they never punish the majority of honest employees because they cannot trust the few that are dishonest.
Effective leaders reject the myth that information is power. Because they trust their employees, they are confident that employees can handle confidential information in an appropriate way.
Appreciate their viewpoints
In his book, Harrington profiles a secretary that worked for him at Ernst & Young. While many might disregard input and criticism from a secretary, he encouraged it. Why?
“She was a single mother with two children she was putting through college on a salary of $25,000 a year. I know I couldn’t have done that. Certainly a person who can manager her life as effectively as that can provide good input into the way we should manage our business.”
Be genuinely interested in them
We trust people who show genuine interest in our lives. Excellent leaders know their employees; they know about their families, their interests and their concerns. “How’s the family” is easy to say, but it takes genuine concern to actually mean it.
Be concerned about them in their careers
Employees spend nearly 50 percent of their waking hours at work. Some may see their job as a placeholder, something they’ll do until a better opportunity comes along, but most employees genuinely care about their jobs and careers. The management team has a responsibility to help these employees grow and develop their talents.
Tells them why
Self-respect is important to us; we also want to be respected by others. The more you respect an individual, the more time you take to explain why he or she should do something. Excellent managers do not fall into the trap of telling their employees what to do without explaining why it’s worth their time and effort to do it.
Do it with a smile
Effective leaders know that when they have smiles on their faces and sincerity in their voices, the energy level of the department surges. We are naturally drawn to those who are friendly, likable, and have positive attitudes. Too often, under the pressures of the job, managers forget that everyone looks to them to set the attitude of the organization.
Competent leaders know why they have two ears and one mouth: so they can listen twice as much as they talk.
Harrington suggests that we make effective use of silence to encourage employees to talk. Here are some useful guidelines:
- Gather as many ideas as possible before making a decision
- Look directly at the person who is talking to you
- Use words of encouragement: “Yes, I understand” and “Tell me more” work nicely.
- Put your phone on hold when someone comes in to talk to you
- Ask probing questions and withhold judgment
- Take time to chat with co-workers
Does not withhold bad news
Excellent leaders do not hide negative trends or major problems from the rest of the organization. They do not sidestep difficult questions because they trust and respect employees enough to be honest about the entire story.