BY CHRISTINA FIORENZA
Imagine that you’re an avid stamp collector. You spend your free time bidding on rare stamps, organizing your stamp collection, and participating in the American Philatelic (a fancy word for stamp collecting) Society. When the holidays roll around, everyone knows what to get you. You feel loved and understood by your nearest and dearest.
But what if your gifts for your loved ones are all stamps? Stamps for your mountain-biking mother; stamps for your sweetheart who loves travel; stamps for your techie nephew. It’s likely they would not feel loved and understood because you haven’t taken their own interests into account.
In the same way, being a manager who truly connects with your staff is harder than you may think. Each individual is different and needs different pieces of your personality to foster the manager-employee bond, which will then bring out the best in your staff. Some people need respect, others need to feel heard, and others crave appreciation. The book What People Want by Terry Bacon contains a survey of 500 U.S. employees who were asked what they needed from their managers.
“Some people need respect, others need to feel heard, and others crave appreciation. The book What People Want by Terry Bacon contains a survey of 500 U.S. employees who were asked what they needed from their managers.”
Honesty and trust topped the list. Just as you value and demand honesty from your staff, they expect the same from you. Trust is created through honesty. We seek sincere and trustworthy people in our personal lives, so it’s no surprise that both managers and employees look for these qualities in their work lives, too.
Fairness, which ranked third, is the essence of what it means to be a good manager. Holding employees to equal standards and making them accountable for their actions—while holding yourself accountable to them—creates an environment of trust. Fairness means being honest, not playing favorites, communicating, displaying transparent management, and making the tough decisions. As the French novelist Victor Hugo once wrote, “Being good is easy; what is difficult is being just.”
Respect is paramount in the qualities of a good leader. After all, are you going to perform well or give extra effort to someone you don’t respect or who hasn’t earned your trust? Respect, honesty, fairness, and trust all go hand in hand in creating a solid working relationship between not only co-workers but also employees and managers. There’s nothing complicated about it: As humans, we all respond well to those who treat us well.
Dependability was neck and neck with respect, and with good reason: Part of earning someone’s respect is conveying dependability. Your staff needs to see that you follow through on your promises. Therefore, keep commitments, be as punctual as you expect them to be, arrive at meetings prepared and ready to participate, create action items, and meet deadlines. We expect dependability from our employees; they should expect it from us, too.
When was the last time you sat down with your team, posed a problem, and asked for their input on how to handle it? You’d be surprised at the ideas they bring to the table when you operate in a collaborative way. Just because you are the manager and ultimately responsible for your department or company doesn’t mean that your team can’t be part of creating success. Allowing everyone to take part in the problem-solving or procedure-making process creates buy-in and a sense of ownership. Allowing for group decision-making gives everyone the ability to contribute to the success of the team.
“Thank you for staying late.”
“Job well done on closing that account for us.”
“That was a great analysis of our top 50 clients.”
Have you used similar phrases in the past few days? Weeks? Months? Showing appreciation is essential to ensuring your team knows you value their work and their contributions. Appreciation can be shown in many different forms and fashions. Some individuals simply need the words, while others may respond to an additional PTO day or a spot bonus. The difficult part of showing appreciation is figuring out what drives each person to do their best, which is why one-on-one time with each employee is crucial in developing a manager-employee relationship.
Listen, understand, and respond. As managers, we do a lot of talking, a lot of directing, and a lot of follow-up, but do we take the time to listen and understand what our employees are saying to us? And do we respond accordingly and in a timely manner? When an employee takes the initiative to talk to you, truly listen. You’d be surprised at what you can learn about people, their thought process, and their dedication to the company if you simply take the time to listen. Take this true story as an example: Senior VP of a data company meets with one of his assistant VPs for his mid-year review. As a seasoned leader, the Senior VP knows he needs to allow his employee time to discuss his needs, so he asks, “What do you need from me?” The answer: “I need your undivided attention during our one-on-ones.” I daresay there are only a few individuals who would be comfortable enough to say those words to their manager, but how many are actually thinking it?
As a leader in your company, it’s up to you to set the tone and standard for communication, collaboration, and teamwork to elicit the best everyone has to offer. Remembering that honesty, respect, dependability, responsiveness, fairness, and appreciation are part of your everyday responsibilities can be daunting, but it will go a long way in bringing out the best in talented people. [CD1017]
Christina Fiorenza is the HR Director for The LMC Group. She can be reached at christina@LMCpeople.com.