Employer-employee relationships have significantly evolved in the last few years. With constant access to information and opportunities, employees are interested in a mutually beneficial cooperation with employers rather than engaging in a mere dependency-based agreement. Leaders who fail to invest in their employees, gain their trust and loyalty will be bound to high employee turnover and high hiring costs.
Openness and transparency, along with effective communication are key to move in the right direction. Too often, leaders fail to effectively communicate new initiatives and organizational changes to their teams. With the pressure of targets and deadlines, meetings are full of “What’s” and “How’s” leaving too little time for the “Why’s” and the team’s contributions, questions or concerns. Occasionally, managers’ own excitement for their ideas leads them to unintentionally dismiss obstacles and ignore issues. And new managers, compensating for their lack of experience, often adopt a rather authoritarian position and simply reject criticism or advice.
The poorer the information available to the team, the greater the concerns and the resistance. Without understanding the “Why’s” of a decision, the team may feel forced to work on tasks that they don’t understand or believe in. If this happens too often, they will feel that their opinions are not valued, leading to a loss trust in the decisions made and posing a problem for companies in the long run.
Improving communication is not easy and can take some time to get it right. Luckily, there are a few things that you can do on a continuous basis to maximize your chances of success and gain your team’s trust in the meantime:
- Always be honest. You’re working with smart people. If they feel you are hiding something, they won’t trust you and will find their answers elsewhere. This might have negative repercussions on the work atmosphere and give way for gossip.
- Be transparent with the data you use. If you share your data and explain how it is being used, you will drastically reduce the amount of explanations you will need to give when making a decision or changing direction. Even when things get difficult, bad news will not come as a surprise if your team has been involved in the data evaluation on an ongoing basis.
- Encourage ideas and give freedom to try new things. Many heads think better than one. You are there to guide and implement the best possible strategies that lead to success. A good idea will help you do that, no matter where it came from.
- Delegate and trust. You cannot handle all. By delegating some tasks you will help others build some important skills while allowing yourself more time to focus on what only you can do.
- Leave your ego at home. Be open to constructive criticism and admit your mistakes (nobody is perfect). Your team needs to feel that they can talk to you if you are not helping them or if there is anything that can improve – whatever helps the team will help you, too.
- Help them grow. Train and coach your team on a continuous basis. Ask them what they want for their career and see how you can help them get there.
- Be fair and supportive. No matter how small a contribution is, give your team the recognition they deserve. Acknowledge their successes and help them overcome challenges.
- Be enthusiastic and positive. Having a can-do attitude can make a huge difference, especially during tough times.
- Reinforce your message and communicate all the time. Constantly remind them what you’re all working towards and why it is important.
- Don’t ignore their concerns. If something is unclear to them, try to your best to understand it and overcome the issue. Don’t avoid it.
- Don’t micromanage (unless you have no other choice). Everyone wants to feel trusted and be able to work independently. Focus your efforts on teaching them how to use data for their success instead of controlling every step they make. Should this fail and micromanagement was needed, your team will need to be in on the idea and understand that you’re only stepping in to help them return to independent work as soon as possible. The goal of micromanagement should be to get people back on track for independent work.
- Don’t project your own weaknesses on your team. It is very common for managers to think that their own challenges are their team’s challenges. Be aware of this and try to keep a close eye on the potential bias you might have.
- Don’t be authoritarian. If your team is not respecting you, shouting, being overly controlling or constantly lecturing them will not work. Instead try to understand why you are not being respected and try new ways to communicate your message.
- Don’t think you are too good to do their job. The worst thing that you can do is to lose touch with the job your team is doing. If you do not know their struggles, you will have a hard time helping them go over them and adapting to market changes as time goes by.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Having a second opinion can really help you speed up your work and see things you haven’t considered.
- Don’t wait to solve problems. If there is anything that is bringing your team down, whether it is results, internal conflicts or motivation, tackle the issue as soon as you can.
I am sure that everyone will have additional suggestions to include in this list. Managing is not always easy but keeping an open mind and always remembering that we work with people, not machines, will help us and our teams work in harmony and be successful together.