Tactics For Bringing Out The Best In Your Employees
William Craig | Forbes
As a business leader, you can’t merely collect talent — you have to foster it. And that means knowing how to bring out the best in your employees.
It’s not really that difficult, to be honest. If you want to help your teams stay focused, engaged and enthusiastic about their work, you can make some simple changes, many of them subtle, to nearly every part of doing business. Start with how you hire employees in the first place.
Demonstrate Belief In Your Employees From Day One
As a business leader, you’ve probably sat in on your share of job interviews. And if you’re like most, one or two of them probably felt like an inquisition. One thing you might not spend enough time talking about is the degree to which you shape the expectations and the work ethic of your possible new hires based on how you conduct yourself at the interview stage.
The truth is, most businesses can’t afford world-class talent right out of the gate. That means you’ll need to find promising recruits, train them properly and help them put forth their best efforts.
Next time you preside over an interview where a clear front runner presents themselves for a position, stay conscious of the “atmosphere” in the room. Do you project the sense that you believe in this person? Have you communicated to them that you believe they’re competent enough for the position? Even if you do end up hiring them, they shouldn’t begin their tenure at your company thinking you’re at all ambivalent about them right from the start.
How you treat employees during the hiring and onboarding process sets a tone and a precedent. If your attitude tells your new hires that you will treat them with suspicion simply as a matter of course, or because they’re new and inexperienced, don’t be surprised if they have low expectations of their own abilities going forward.
Invest In Their Continuing Development
Here’s another situation you may have found yourself in once or twice throughout the years.
You had a promising interview, and you knew it. Your skill set wasn’t the 110% perfect match every employer wants, but you impressed them, and they’re willing to take a chance on you. Then, you get to Day One on the job and find yourself underprepared for your role. You ask for guidance, but there doesn’t seem to be any structure to the company’s training efforts.
Don’t let this happen at your own outfit. When your new hires present themselves for their first day, they should arrive feeling not just mentally prepared, in the subjective way we described above, but also literally prepared to do their work — or else have the confidence that their journey along the learning curve is backed up by caring trainers and a carefully considered training regimen.
You don’t have to operate too rigidly, like a boot camp might. The point is simply to create a culture where employees feel empowered to take on their tasks each day with practical and applicable knowledge — and if they wish to pursue additional or more fully-rounded responsibilities, you’ll help them do that, too.
In fact, you might go even further and take a serious look at what it would cost to provide tuition reimbursement for your employees. Apple, AT&T, Bank of America and Boeing all provide tuition reimbursement, to the tune of $3,000 to $6,000 per year. Chevron covers 75% of their employees’ college costs.
This investment will make your employees even more valuable to your organization and more confident in their own abilities. And even if they don’t end up staying with your company for many years, you’ll have succeeded in turning loose one more well-rounded adult into the workforce. That’s never a bad thing.
Commit To Simpler And Clearer Communication
Unfortunately, not all of the choices you make where employee empowerment is concerned are what you’d call “conscious” ones. It’s entirely possible you’ve been nursing some bad habits over the years that have compromised your employees’ confidence in their work — or their very understanding of what you want from them.
Be honest with yourself. Are you a good communicator? If you don’t trust yourself for a fair assessment, ask some folks in your organization with whom you’re comfortable speaking plainly and see how they feel about your leadership style. If they start telling you things like they sometimes don’t know what you want or how you wish something to be done, or that they have to seek outside resources for a task you’ve set them on, these are all red flags.
Your employees can’t do their best work if you’re not communicating with them simply and clearly. For complex tasks, especially, or ones where the outcome is particularly sensitive, none of your workers should find themselves wondering what role they play, or how they fit into the process. They certainly shouldn’t come to work on Day One with inaccurate expectations.
It might sound a little hokey, or like something that can’t really be taught in a formal setting, but we’re actually spoiled for opportunities to sharpen our communication skills as business leaders. You may be surprised by the return on this investment.
Credit Your Team For Your Company’s Success
Rather few businesses enjoy wild success unless they’ve given credit where it’s due. There are some remarkable outliers, of course. Consider Apple, Inc.’s cult of personality, circa the early 2000s, when you might be forgiven for believing Steve Jobs dreamed up each innovation personally and then sat toiling away in a hidden workshop.
Apple, Inc., circa 2017, is one where the chief executive spends far less time on stage himself and much more time letting the company’s innovators and team leaders showcase their own inventions. The real R&D heroes get to speak up about their ambitions and triumphs in their own words.
Can you see the difference? This baby step toward a more humble and transparently collaborative Apple, Inc. won’t win over any of the more entrenched Android fans, but it has softened the company’s image somewhat and made the whole outfit look more like an inclusive and cohesive team effort.
Do the same at your own company. You will likely be presented with many opportunities to frame your successes as yours alone as you make a name for yourself, but you should never miss an opportunity to generously and fairly spread credit to the folks who spent the most time earning it. Knowing you’re always ready to brag about them will almost certainly put an extra spring in their step and make them more willing to try new things in the pursuit of excellence.
Keep One Eye On Your Company’s "Legacy"
As we close, it’s worth circling back to the idea that everything you do in a business context to encourage greatness produces more capable and thoughtful people in general. So, before you balk at the work ahead of you, keep this in mind: The greatness of any company is determined in part by the strength of that company’s network of “alumni.”
Just like in an educational setting, where schools trot out their brightest graduates on a regular basis, you want the world to know what it looks like when you commit to bringing out the best in people.
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