Avoid Becoming “That” Manager. Engage Your Employees.

It’s funny how a simple demonstrative adjective can suddenly take on a completely new meaning. “Oh, you work for that manager.”

If you’ve ever worked for that manager, you know what I’m talking about — the managers who fail to inspire, motivate or, for that matter, show any interest at all in their staff. Not surprisingly, this lack-lustre management style can lead to diminished employee engagement, lower productivity and retention issues.

Speaking of employee retention, if you’ve seen research on the topic, you also know the one of the top three reasons employees leave their workplace is because of the poor relationship with their direct manager. You could say that people leave their manager, not their organisation.  If you think someone you know is in jeopardy of becoming that manager — here are some ways to help them get back on the right track.

Tip #1: Establish rapport and build trust

Do you think your employees would describe you as “being on their side” and “committed to their success”? If you’re not already doing so, here are some ways you can demonstrate that there’s no question about it:

  • Maintain an ongoing, two-way dialogue about performance where you can share your expectations, provide coaching, answer questions, support employee performance, and solicit feedback on your own performance.
  • Clearly communicate your organisation’s vision, mission and values. By communicating these things, management defines where it’s going and how it’s going to get there.
  • Focus on shared, rather than personal goals. When employees feel everyone on the team is working together to accomplish a common vision — rather than a series of personal agendas that have no connection to the big picture — it goes a long way in establishing a culture of collaboration and trust.

Tip #2: Never stop giving feedback

People need to know how they’re doing — the good, the bad and the ugly. This is why it’s critical to give your employees regular, ongoing feedback and coaching on their performance. When doing so, it’s important to focus on desired behaviours and outcomes, and opportunities for development. Remember, without feedback, your employees don’t always assume they’re doing well. In fact, they might think that you don’t value, care about or notice their contributions. Here are some ways you can make feedback an integral part of your culture:

  • Book one hour each week in your calendars to make notes on employee performance over the past week. Reference their notes to give employees feedback verbally or in written form.
  • Hold frequent formal and informal meetings with their employees to discuss performance, check in on goals and development plans, provide coaching, etc.
  • Communicate to employees that they should expect ongoing performance feedback. Also let your employees know that they should feel free to ask for feedback.

Tip #3: Provide ongoing development opportunities

Get to know your employees and work with them to develop a career progression that’s right for them. Employees need to feel that they have a future with the organisation, and a professional career path that helps them further develop their knowledge, skills and abilities.

In addition to making employees feel engaged and valued, an investment in development can help your organisation:

  • Build alignment
  • Increase productivity and preserve organisational memory/knowledge
  • Establish domain expertise and maintain a competitive advantage

Development can take a variety of different forms — from formal training courses and more challenging work projects to mentoring and leadership programs. Find out what works best for each individual on your team and go from there.

In addition to supporting employee development, your organisation should also have a succession planning program in place that identifies high-potential employees from across the organisation, and prepares them to play key roles of the organisation. You can create talent pools with specific performance criteria and development paths, and assign high-performers to these pools for further development and assessment.

Some final words

With a few exceptions, no one really ever wants to be labeled as that manager.   The good news is that with some solid talent management best-practices in place the odds are slim to none that it will ever happen.

Sean Conrad is a senior product analyst and Certified Human Capital Strategist at Halogen Software, where he has helped hundreds of customers to implement employee performance and talent management solutions.  Sean has spoken at numerous industry events sharing his unique blend of technology expertise and understanding of HR-specific challenges through his Halogen blog posts.

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