Idea 2: Grow a culture conducive to employee engagement. This is not as hard as it sounds. You can make some small changes around the office (mostly to priorities) that will help you show the team you care about them over everything else.
Step 1- First, if you don’t already, make sure to implement an open-door policy. Not just keeping your door open but rather, making your employees a priority to whatever you are doing. They also need to know that they can come to you any time with ideas to improve the group, to discuss frustrations or just to vent.
When an employee comes in to your office put down what you are doing, look them in the eye and politely ask how you can help them. Most issues can be resolved in a couple minutes, but you will quickly build trust by showing you truly care about your team. I’ll admit I didn’t realize the impact of this policy until I recently heard one of my employees tell my boss that the thing they appreciated most about my leadership is that I will drop everything and spend the time needed to help the individuals on the team.
Step 2- Make it part of your routine to walk around the office each morning and say hello to the team. Or if they are off-site, shoot an e-mail or office communication just to say hello. Ask a couple quick questions such as, “What’s exciting in your life today?” or, “Is there anything I can do to make your job easier?” Also, if you took good notes in the activity in Idea 1 you will know a lot about your team. Try asking specific questions such as “Hi Jane, how did John’s football game go?” This doesn’t take long but shows you care. Also, after a while doing this you start to get more answers as you build trust.
Potential roadblock: Make sure as you walk around that it does not appear that you are just making sure they are working. If the employee seems suspicious of you dropping by, just let them know you wanted to say hello and will be available if needed. Slowly they will come around. Some employees had negative experiences with a prior manager or may not be comfortable around people. The point is to show that you care and make yourself available to help, no need to push it and don’t take it personal if they aren’t interested in seeing you right away.
High level engagement: As you start doing these things you will notice that your Emotional Intelligence will improve. By building trust, listening and communicating with your team you will start to pick up on emotions that you may not have seen before. For example, you may notice Jimmy seems frustrated or tired. You ask a couple questions and realize you have been giving Jimmy 30% more work than everyone else. Or, you may notice that it seems like a country club out on the floor and you need to push the group harder.
Step 3- As you hear about new opportunities outside of your group or when you need help with something, think about the team and who would be a good fit for the opportunity. Instead of just asking for a volunteer from your team, give some thought about who would like the opportunity and tell that person you thought of them because they would be great. “Jane, a very interesting teaching opportunity came across my desk. The Area is looking for a specialist to train the entire region. I thought about you and think you do a great job. I could help you prepare if you would like? Are you interested?”. Jane goes home and tells her family how excited she is for this opportunity. She most likely will work hard to see this is a success so she will have future opportunities. This is easy and only takes a minute but makes a huge difference. Note- to be fair, send out the opportunity to everyone and make sure you are selecting the best person. Even if you don’t end up selecting Jane, she will appreciate that you thought of her.
Step 4- Reduce the wait time for anything your team is depending on you for. For example, if you need to approve something for an employee, put it on top of the list of priorities. Like Step 2 above, this shows the team they are the priority and you care. Tell this to the team constantly and then walk the talk. I have a goal of getting to their work within an hour of it being submitted to me. This is one of the first things someone noticed when they are new to my team. Jane submits something to me electronically that she spent 2 hours preparing and 5 minutes later I am over at their desk giving her feedback. This shows the employee that they are a priority.
Step 5- Recognition is extremely important to improving employee satisfaction. I will devote an entire article to recognition because really there are so many ways to recognize your team. For now, though, you should try to recognize someone for something almost every day, even if you are just thanking them for their hard work. Start small and when you see something good tell the person they did a good job or thank them.
Recognition tip: Another easy way to recognize your team is to spend 5 minutes in each group meeting recognizing team members. I create a meeting agenda at the start of every month and as I see something I want to recognize throughout the month, I simply add it to the agenda. By the time I hold the meeting I usually have 6-10 employees who I thank at the end of every meeting. I also give the team a chance to recognize a teammate. This is a great way to end each meeting.
Wrapping up Idea 2: If you follow the steps from Idea 1 and Idea 2 you should see a difference in the culture after just a few weeks. Some may be skeptical at first but trust me they will slowly come around as they see that you are the real deal. Celebrate success early and often and build on any early success. Please let me know if you have any questions or difficult issues. Idea 3 next week will talk about aligning employee goals with those of the group, further solidifying buy-in from the team. Good luck and let me know if there is anything I can help with.