Leading a productive and successful business is a complex job; one filled with roadblocks and daily challenges. Equipment breaks down, assets get misplaced, and processes fail. But, at the end of the day, the biggest hurdle many leaders face will be with their people. Your workforce stands to be the keystone of the organization or the reason the whole house crumbles. An active and engaged workforce begins with you, their fearless leader, who they will look to for both guidance and support.
You likely did not just find yourself in this management position; you earned it through hard work and dedication to the company’s mission. But, as the business environment evolves, so too do the complexities of managing this very dynamic workplace and workforce. Outside factors, such as technology, the Internet, and a team comprised of 4 very different generations means intuitively understanding your people, places, and things and how they are all interconnected. Through insight and structured planning, you stand to unleash the full potential of each, with the end result being your organization working like a well-oiled machine. This type of operational excellence begins with your people.
But, what can you do to unleash the full potential, within your workforce, without being overbearing, yet still supplying the proper managerial guidelines?
1) Develop a Partnership & Involve Your Workforce
Regardless of the size and scope of your workforce, each employee is part of the company’s team. Remember that old adage “there’s no ‘I’ in team”? That includes making yourself the “I”. A surefire way to show your team you do not trust them is through micromanagement. Constantly looking over shoulders isn’t a positive for your employees. Instead, foster an environment that focuses on partnership. Let each team member know they are a valued asset and allow them the freedom to make decisions and set their own workplace parameters.
Part of building and encouraging this partnership means involving your people in the process. And I don’t mean just giving them a job to do. I mean involving them in the intricacies of day-to-day operations. Invite employees to join cross-functional team meetings, offer transparency regarding how the company is run and it’s vision moving forward, as well as where they fit in to the overall vision.
The result: more committed and engaged employees who feels a sense of ownership. And since;
“ownership is the essence of engagement, then creating an engaged culture means pushing ownership down throughout the organization. Empowerment is not enough because it merely gives employees ownership over their own jobs, not commitment to the overall enterprise.” -Mitch McCrimmon
2) Be a Mentor
The most successful leaders recognize that there is always room to learn and improve. Thus, if you wish to foster leadership within your workforce, it stands to reason that you must encourage learning amongst employees, as well. To maintain an active level of engagement, management must not only seek out solutions for their workforce, they must become facilitators, coaches, and catalysts for career development.
Catalysts for Career Development:
- Encourage continuing education
- Teach their team the importance of networking (and how to do it)
- Consider their management duties and seek out ways for their employees to gain experience in these areas
- Recognize individual strengths and weaknesses and find ways for employees to gain experience in both
- Allow employees to struggle a little, offering gentle guidance
- Encourage disengaged individuals to seek out other opportunities within the company that might better fit their professional needs
- Are open to fresh ideas and suggestions, fostering an environment where individual ideas are valued
Remember, being a mentor isn’t just about teaching others everything you know; it’s about learning and growing with them. Consider growth opportunities, such as holding a monthly one-on-one meeting where you discuss your employees’ goals, professional challenges they are facing, or ideas they would like to implement. By meeting with them on an individual, regular basis, you give voice to their ideas and create a potential learning environment that goes both ways.
3) Provide Consistent Feedback
Part of being a great leader is being able to diplomatically identify any areas for improvement and helping to create solutions. Regularly set aside time to meet with your team regarding individual performance, including both weaknesses and strengths. Then, by taking it a step further and working with them to develop ideas on how to improve, you prove to your workforce that they are supported and considered a valued asset to the organization.
Being a valued mentor also means being open to constructive criticism within yourself. Ask for feedback from your teammates regarding your management qualities, as well as processes that might need to be improved upon.
4) Evaluate & Measure
The most successful companies recognize the need for consistent evaluation and never-ending improvement. To keep your workforce productive, evaluate organizational progress and identify what dis-satisfies (and satisfies) your employees. By evaluating and encouraging input from every level, you get to the root of the problem, thus enhancing processes, boosting morale and engagement, and reducing employee turnover.
5) Create a Productive & Positive Environment
Anyone who has ever worked in a negative work environment will tell you, employee engagement and productivity starts at the top.
A recent study by Gallup revealed that approximately “50% of the 7,200 adults surveyed left a job ‘to get away from their manager.’”
For a workplace to be successful, it must be open, trusting, and fun. A place where individuals are encouraged to speak up and where innovative ideas are born.
Often, a bright spot for employees and a key to continued success is to offer and commit to regular managerial training. By ensuring that managers understand the needs of their employees, retention rates for valued staff increases, and your people once again are reminded of their importance in the organization. Furthermore, engagement and ownership is bolstered across the board. And by listening to the needs of your people and providing the proper workplace tools to ensure successful work conditions, the entire team wins.
Managing people is a tricky job. Emotions and opinions will always be in the mix and can cause real problems, if not consistently and fairly addressed. The wants and desires of the staff have to be considered and not simply compartmentalized through managerial jargon. People want to know that other people care about them and what role they are playing. Set goals, give feedback and be real with your team to truly foster and cultivate leadership.