You probably stay late and work weekends to make sure your projects come in on time and with all the t’s crossed and i’s dotted.
But do you take time to notice how much you engage your employees? Are you a go-getter career woman, who somehow keeps moving so fast you leave a wake behind you instead of a following of supporters and a network of people you can tap into?
When I first moved through the ranks of IBM, I was loved by my bosses because I got things done, got them done on time, and could be counted on. My peers disliked me most of the time because my achievements routinely made them look bad. It was a hard lesson I had to learn—gaining people’s support at a peer level actually could be as important as those above you. In fact, I later learned that my teacher’s pet mentality was costing me more than I knew.
But my saving grace was I always listened to and took care of my employees. I made sure they got projects they wanted, got opportunities to shine, and loved what they did. When they didn’t enjoy their job we worked on designing a new angle to the job that improved their satisfaction or I got them transferred or promoted into something they would love to do. I was hard in reviews and made sure employees knew where they needed to improve, yet I always was fast to praise what they did well. My relationship with those who worked for me is actually what helped propel me at IBM, later in the cellular industry, and finally in my own companies.
Today it is called engaging your employees. Nicole Alvino wrote a great article on why it pays to engage your employees in Forbes. What you call it does not matter. The three keys to creating a great employee base that promotes you, as a boss, and your company’s brand are the same.
First and foremost listen. Knowing how employees feel about their jobs, about the company, and about you will only come through listening. Not during an annual review where you officially ask them, but over coffee or lunch. Notice whom people listen to and follow, then talk to that person. How much do you know about the people who work for you? The bosses who know the most about someone’s personal life are also the bosses who know what will inspire and motivate someone. Get involved with your people, not as a weekend drinking partner, but as someone who truly cares about them beyond what they can do nine to five.
Create goals and even jobs together. Solicit ideas with your employees rather than just give them a job. This second key to employee engagement is easy, but often overlooked due to time and budget constraints. We think we cannot afford to take the time or probably cannot do what they will suggest. However, when people feel ownership of what they are doing they product better results in less time. I have always been amazed at the solutions my employees find to challenges when I turn it over to my team, rather than give them directions on what to do. Sometimes they come up with ideas we cannot afford or just won’t work, but the times they come up with a winning solution it is always better than anything I had yet conceived—usually at much less expense or much higher returns. Bottom line? Participation creates results.
Lastly, the key to successful teams is honest and detailed feedback. When employees do not know how they are doing they drift. Even though it is hard to give someone a negative review, it is tens times easier than firing them. And any disgruntled employee barely doing their job will sooner or later quit or need to be let go. We all know the costs of employee turn over—hiring time, training time, efficiency curve, the list goes on and on.
Although it is important to have regular reviews that employees can depend on; it is equally, if not more important, to give immediate and frequent feedback on the little tasks and projects as they progress or are completed. Don’t wait for a formal review to call someone aside and let them know what a great job they did, or how you would like to see things improve on the next one.
Even critique can inspire an employee if you do it with an attitude of concern and desire for the employee’s best interest. And this brings me full circle to my first suggestion to engage your employees. Listen. When you are giving reviews and critiques you are not interested in excuses and employees should know you do not want them. Yet, you are interested in how the job or project is going for them. What would make it more interesting for them? What are their goals and how could you develop projects that help them achieve those goals?
Give yourself a review, today! How well do you engage your employees? When was the last time you listened to their input? How much do you know about your employees outside of work? How many jobs are being done that employees have helped design, and how many are handed down to them? Do your employees know what your immediate goals as a company are? Could they talk about the company’s mission? How involved are they in formulating your company’s goals? How are you at giving employees constructive feedback? Do you have objectives for their jobs they know they should meet? Do you praise employees when you see something they do well? When was the last time?
Don’t put your personal review off until tomorrow. Improving your ability to engage your employees can make or brake a small startup, propel an established company to significantly higher profits and make everyone’s job more rewarding—including yours!