It is often amusing to observe the bickering that goes on between most managers and their staff. But it is never amusing if you are the manager though. The manager wants nothing more than to get the job done. He too answers to someone in most cases and he has just as much pressure on him as he is applying on the staff. But they just don’t get it do they?
What if there was a way to achieve balance and to get the job done while still retaining the trust and loyalty of the staff? What if there was a way to act so that you avoid all the pitfalls managers often fall into and keep your staff both productive and happy?
Having been a manager myself in many organizations, I know that the requirements remain the same across board. The manager expects speed and delivery while the staff expects consideration and empathy… these tips will help create that balance.
1. I do the "double face act."
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One of my tricks is to have a certain "two-facedness" with my staff. For instance, I have an official e-mail thread,and another thread where I can accept complaints and address them in a friendly or “elder-brotherly” manner.
I make it clear that both threads are separate and that the presence of the milder thread will not stop the queries on the official thread.
What this does is that it gives them the empathy that they need when they feel my humanity, but they still have to face the sternness required of a manager.
In other settings it might mean organizing a once in a while dinner or hangout with the staff where you put on your “friend face”. But remember to always put on your game face once you are back at the office.
2. I invite criticism and suggestions.
I dread this option at times, but since it always delivers, I had to incorporate it into my monthly routine. At the end of the month I request the monthly account along with a “mail of suggestions” to better improve our relations and performance.
I have gotten some amazing responses and sometimes some downright infuriating ones.
The key here is to never defend yourself. Accept the criticisms and suggestions in good faith. Ignore what you consider crap and learn from what you consider gold.
3. I always respond promptly to enquiries and mails.
I learnt that while I may be busy, the staff are the engine room. They are the hands that keep the clock ticking. So I prioritize them.
I made a resolve one day after a series of “You don’t respond to my enquiries promptly but expect me to respond to you at the drop of the hat” complaints, to better organize and manage my email for greater productivity.
First thing I did was to create a folder for all correspondence with my staff. This way I could respond almost immediately to any mail even if I am on the go.
4. I encourage my staff to relate with one another.
The feel that you are a team leader running with a team gives the staff more confidence than the feeling that you are a manager with employees. In my own case, I started sending out memo’s to all staff to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries and milestones for all other staff.
This way, my staff always feel I am one of them while I still keep a respectable distance.
The truth is that this is not possible for most managers unless they set a reminder round the clock. It might be a good suggestion to include setting up all the events in your reminder as one of your early year routines.
5. I appreciate exceptional performances.
The art of alternating between stern demands and lavish praise is an art every manager should perfect. I am not conservative when an employee does well; I make it a big deal.
Yes, I am lavish in my praise. The trick is to handle it in such a way that the next day my tone says, “the celebration is over.” This way the staff can focus on tasks ahead and still aim for excellence in delivery.
6. I engage the uniqueness and creativity of staff.
For a long time I fell into the deception that they had to do everything the way I wanted it to be. So I ended up doing a lot of work for them. I noticed that this reduced their confidence in their work.
I had to learn that sometimes it is best to let them engage their creativity and ideas. I have learnt a lot with this approach: the picture in your head is not necessarily the clearest. This way they feel trusted and can engage themselves fully.
There’s nothing stopping you now.