One of the things managers often struggle with is how to get their employees to perform at a higher level. Not because their people aren’t doing good work, but because they can do better work. And getting better work is part of a manager’s job. It’s easy to chalk it up to an inherent ability to motivate and inspire, but there’s no magic to helping team members be their best. Good managers strategize about how to create a stronger work force. Here are three of the methods they use.
Know your employees and recognize their strengths. In the words of management expert Marcus Buckingham, “Great managers know they don’t have 10 salespeople working for them. They know they have 10 individuals working for them …. A great manager is brilliant at spotting the unique differences that separate each person and then capitalizing on them.” Resist the temptation to always have employees working on skills they need to improve. Having them achieve goals using their strengths not only makes for happier employees, but happier employers. According to a 2015 Gallup poll, employees who use their strengths at work are 8% more productive and 15% less likely to quit.
Remember that people want to “sign their own work.” Which is to say, they want to have ownership of the process by which they do the work as well the final outcome. So let them; give your employees more authority so they can own projects from start to finish. When that’s not possible, give your employees some responsibilities that are generally reserved for managers or take out some of the layers of approval required to finish a project. The more ownership of the work an employee has, the better the job they’re likely to do.
When in doubt, ask them. “What would make your job better?” “Is there something you’re doing at work that distracts from the main focus of your job?” People are eager to be recognized and heard, so if you’re going to ask, you have to really listen to the answer. Your employees know the nuts and bolts of what they do better than you do – and have likely already thought about what they’d say if asked. Brian directed the project managers at a family-owned manufacturing firm. At the end of every month the project managers were all supposed to send in a report, and every month the reports trickled in one or two weeks late. From everyone. Brian was new and so he asked why. It turned out that the report they filled out was formatted in Microsoft Word because that’s what the firm’s now retired founder could use most easily. Using the report was almost impossible and took many hours longer than necessary. Creating a new reporting system took some time, but it saved the project managers days a month and let them focus on their real work. (And the reports now come in on time.)
Motivating employees is as much a science as it is an art. What all the tips above have in common is that they enable employees to be a part of their work in more significant and meaningful ways. So the next time you ask yourself, “how could I motivate my team?” consider how they would motivate themselves.