Managers have a tremendous responsibility. Our work lives and our private lives are so closely intertwined that anything that happens at work is going to have an impact at home. That means that when you manage a team, you are responsible for the lives of your employees. You’ve got to take your responsibility seriously beyond just the obligation of things you have to do to follow the letter of HR law!
Creating an amazing work environment doesn’t have to be an expensive or an exhausting exercise – a few simple shift can make a world of difference.
Here are the few things that I think every manager should be doing.
Create a safe space
We know that psychological safety is the silver bullet to building effective teams. At the most basic human level, if we are worried about our safety – keeping our job, the consequences of rocking the boat, a negative review from the boss for speaking your mind – we cannot perform at our highest level because creativity, innovation, and drive cannot exist in a place where you are constantly watching your back.
What does a safe space look like? Here are some ideas:
- Cultivate ideas come from everywhere: You’re in the same boat as the people you work with, and if you’ve got a hole you need to plug in the bottom of that boat, does it really matter where someone sits in the org chart if they can solve the problem? Sometimes the best ideas come from people who are completely removed from the project at hand. Encourage them! It will result in more creative and innovative ideas down the road that you may never have received otherwise.
- Encourage diverse views: When you have a roomful of people, it’s simply unrealistic to think that everyone is going to agree all the time. But how often do people who disagree speak up in meetings? How often are those diverse views explored through discussion? Highly functional teams are ok with being vulnerable with each other, and have conversations where they disagree. You have to create a safe environment to have those productive disagreements and show your team what collaboration and compromise looks like. The more you do, the more those quiet folks in the staff meeting will speak up with their contributions and the entire team is better off.
- Allow people to fail: The only time we truly fail is when we don’t learn. If your team doesn’t feel that they can throw things at the wall and see what sticks without the threat of retribution, they will never move from average to extraordinary. This is a long-term play – learn what you can from the small failures and use it to make incremental improvements. You’ll be rewarded when your team brings you innovative ideas without fear down the road.
Kick obstacles out of the way
I firmly believe that the core job of any manager is this: Set the people on your team up for success. Make sure they are empowered to do their jobs, have the resources they need, and the organizational support to get it across the finish line. That means that you have to know what’s getting in the way! Use your weekly one-on-ones (yes, you should be having them weekly) to make sure you know where things are at and what’s going on. And then get their input on what they need from you – just ask, “How can I support you?” Brainstorm together about how to move those roadblocks and then go kick them down!
How it happens is contextual. Sometimes, you should let your employees fight their own battles; sometimes you should be the one bringing the hammer down; and sometimes it should be a combination of the two. But above all, make sure your team knows that you have their back and they can rely on you when they need help.
Managers set the tone for their team, and you’ve got to model the behavior that you want to see. Bringing a positive attitude to the office isn’t just about warm fuzzy feelings. Research shows that a positive outlook leads to 31% more productivity, a 25% better performance rating, 23% less stress, and a 37% increase in sales!
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How much of your communication with your team focuses on the negative? On the problems? On the things that are holding you back? You’re in the power position and that means that it’s up to you to flip the switch. Make sure that the majority of your communication is on positive things – things that are going well, wins people have, opportunities to look forward to.
And anytime you talk about more negative elements, make sure you focus your team on solutions. Research tells us that if you just talk about a negative element, creativity decreases, but if you talk about the same negative element and then focus your team on finding solutions for that element, creativity increases. We’ve all heard “don’t talk about problems without bringing solutions” – put that into practice in your day-to-day team management.
Say “thank you”
Recognition is a key tool to bringing humanity back to the workplace. It’s the easiest thing in the world and it doesn’t have to cost a dime – just say thank you.
No one ever hears to the words “thank you” enough. Research tells us that only 20% of employees have received a piece of positive recognition in the last month. Only 30% have received positive feedback in the last six months. “Thank you” is one of the most powerful phrases in the world and when people receive positive recognition, it’s deeply impactful: 92% feel appreciated, 86% feel prouder of work, 86% feel happier.
How would you like to say that the vast majority of your staff feels appreciated, proud of their work, and happy? Create a culture of gratitude and that can become your reality.