Gallup research has found that employees don’t leave organizations, they leave bosses.
If you could do only one thing to significantly improve your employee experience, hire better managers. Your managers and positional leaders will have the greatest influence on your employees and their experience.
That’s the simple answer. But in reality, hiring is only one piece of the equation. The next piece is how you train managers or really, the expectations you should have for your managers.
Here are some of the key strategies great managers use:
Conduct Consistent 1:1 Meetings
Research detailed in the book 4 Disciplines of Execution has shown that only 34 percent of employees can respond positively to the statement “I meet at least monthly with my manager to discuss my progress on goals.”
It’s no wonder that managers are clueless on how their teams feel.
Consistent 1:1 meetings give you (the manager) the opportunity to individually check the pulse of your team members and see how they are doing. It also allows you to get an update on their projects and communicate any relevant information they need to know. Finally, 1:1’s actually make you more productive as a manager. When your team knows they will have a touchpoint with you in the next week, they are less likely to interrupt you with non-urgent matters.
Motivate Through Vision (and Stories)
Employees need to see why their job matters. Research tells us that if you give an employee a handwritten note, you will motivate them on average for about two weeks. If you give them a raise, you improve their morale for about 6 weeks. Both of those things are important. But if you want to motivate someone for life, they need to be able to answer “yes” to this question: “Did I make a difference today?”
How do you show your team they are making a difference? Though stories. You need to become a story collector. Share positive customer reviews and testimonials with them and show them how they played a role in that customer’s experience.
Nourish Through Praise
Most people are malnourished when it comes to praise. Gallup found that 79% of employees leave an organization because of a lack of appreciation. And Dave Ramsey says, “The last time most people received praise was at their high school graduation.” You need to praise and recognize both your team as a whole and individuals when they succeed. The key to effective praise is being specific, genuine, and (when possible) rewarding the person publicly. (Here are some tips on how to give effective praise.)
Starve Through Feedback
“It’s what you tolerate that shows your leadership.” –Extreme Ownership
Too many leaders allow employees whose actions are not aligned with the organization’s values to thrive. Managers have to starve negativity, gossip, and anything else that distracts from the company’s culture.
The way you do this is through constructive feedback. The best way to think about giving feedback is like being a “rumble strip.” (You know, the bumps on the side of the interstate that tell you when you’re headed off the road.) They make a lot of noise when you cross them. As a manager, you need to cast good expectations so your team knows what is expected of them. Give them freedom “in between” those expectations so they can make projects their own. But when someone crosses that expectation you must restore them back in line with your organization’s values.
Remember “what gets rewarded gets repeated.”
(Want to learn how to give feedback effectively? I talk more about this subject here.)
Finally, the most important attribute a leader can have is empathy. As John Maxwell says, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much they care.” Your employees need to not just hear about how much you care but they need to see your empathy in action by the way you value them.
Do you meet regularly with your employees in 1:1 meetings? If not, I want you to start by meeting with them biweekly. In one of your first meetings, ask them “What is hindering you from being more productive and successful at your job?” And don’t get defensive if they talk about you. Listen and show empathy.