Are you a manager in an organisation faced with the challenges of meeting targets, increasing performance and retaining staff in a competitive climate? It is no wonder many of us leave the building in the evenings, our heads in a spin after a day of heavy fire fighting but without any feeling of real accomplishment.
Think back to why you became a manager in the first place. What inspired you to step up to this role? and have your expectations been met?
1. Are you in the zone?
Are you in a positive place, mentally, yourself? It is an important question because if you are not, it is almost impossible for you to motivate and inspire your team. On a recent airline flight I was told:
“Fit your own oxygen mask first before helping others.”
Check your own levels of motivation, loyalty, performance and commitment. Give yourself a hit of oxygen – are you happy with the direction your organisation is going? Are you feeling inspired and motivated yourself?
If not, fix these problems first by getting yourself a mentor or coach who can encourage you. Open up the lines of communication with your boss. Embark on some personal development for yourself. Find the value in what you do and how your organisation helps the wider world.
Check your own loyalty and commitment levels. If you are not genuinely loyal and committed to the organisation, your department or team then your staff will spot it immediately and your attempts to generate loyalty and commitment from them will fail. “Walk the Talk. Be a good role model.”
2. Who was your best boss?
Now think back to the last great boss you had. What was it about them that made them so great?
We have conducted research and asked this question to over 150 UK managers. The answers frequently show the same patterns each time we ask.
The top ten responses are as follows:
- They showed genuine interest in me as a person.
- They were always approachable.
- They made time to really listen to me.
- They asked for my ideas, opinions and input.
- They were firm but fair with everyone.
- They did not have an ego problem, power or control issues – they put the organisation and the team before themselves.
- They were open and honest; if the answer to a request or idea was no they explained why.
- They showed respect, both for themselves and everyone else. They treated everyone equally – regardless of ‘status’ or role.
- They coached me through questioning, not ‘telling’.
- They were sociable but always ultimately professional.
It is interesting to note that the qualities shared about great bosses are similar to those identified by Avolio and Bass in their ‘Transformational Leadership’ model and by Alimo-Metcalfe in her model of what is needed for true ‘Employee Engagement’. The concepts are both robust and have the same purpose – to develop leaders that will motivate and inspire employees to give their discretionary effort. Towers Perrin Research (2004) found that organisations that achieved employee engagement showed a 17% improvement on operating profit.
3. What do you do with that extra 20% of effort?
We know that each of us have in us approximately 20% discretionary effort each day. On a good day we may choose to give that effort. On a bad day we hold it back – we just cruise through the day in survival mode.
- Are your staff giving that discretionary effort or is cruising allowed?
4. How might your team’s performance be different if you changed your focus?
As an effective manager you must give feedback – both positive and adjusting, so that your staff know the standards required. Positive feedback should be specific, public and genuine. Look for something to praise a member of your team every day and rotate the team member receiving the praise fairly. You may have to go looking for things to praise but it is a good habit to get into. Ask their internal customers for feedback, earwig into conversations, and ask for ideas, opinions or volunteers. All of these create opportunities to praise.
5. Do you have a clear understanding of the ‘psychological contract’?
That is the mental set of expectations that new starters have when they join the organisation. This is different to documented terms and conditions and may include a whole set of feelings, ideas and opinions about what it means to work at your organisation. If the psychological contract is breached then people will be miserable and will leave – and you may not even be aware of what is wrong.
Consider Stacey*. She joined a blue-chip organisation as a graduate. She had a psychological contract that included being in a nice office environment (where she was interviewed) and having the latest laptop, mobile phone and exciting training and travel opportunities. When Stacey arrived on her first day no one seemed to know she was starting, then she was taken to a different building out the back (a Portacabin) and told to find a desk for herself and look in the store cupboard for a ‘phone that works’. When she finally got a computer, the system was three versions behind what she expected and she had to research and negotiate her own training opportunities. In terms of travel she never went further than the county border on business. Stacey left within 12 months of joining at an estimated cost of £18,000 to the organisation.
Review the data from exit interviews and take action! Ask new starters what their expectations are and have quality inductions.
It costs approximately half of the first year’s salary to recruit and train every new starter. What is it currently costing your organisation?
If you invested this in reviewing salaries, benefits and conducting training it might stop the continuous cycle of recruiting and replacing people.
This could leave you with less fire fighting to do and more time to focus on the strategic elements of your role that were the reason you became a manager in the first place. Remember those?
*Stacey’s name has been changed.
Thanks to Carolyn Blunt from Real Results Training – a consultancy providing people development solutions.