Many people think that managing others isn’t hard and that they would be a pretty good boss given the opportunity, but creating an environment with good communication and healthy relationships where everyone does their best work won’t happen by accident. Your goal should always be to be the person that everyone wants to work for, because happy team members will work hard for you and they won’t jump ship. Wouldn’t it be great if your employees bragged to others about how great their job is? Wouldn’t it be flattering it people came to you and asked if you have any positions open because you have a reputation for being a great boss? These things are entirely possible, but you have to work at it.
Here are the techniques I use to lead my team members:
- Set Clear Expectations – There must a be a clear understanding between you and your team members about what you expect of them in terms of their quality of work, the volume of work that they complete and how they behave while they are at work or are otherwise representing your company. If both you and your employees are on the same page about these things, misunderstanding and miscommunication will be rare within your company.
- Communicate Regularly – Although my team members are remote, I touch base with them once per day to see what they are working on and how things are going. I try to encourage my team members to ask questions and tell me when they get stuck on something, so that I can step in and help when necessary. I also provide regular feedback about their quality of work so that they know whether they are doing well or need to step up their game. Our team uses a group messaging app called Slack (www.slack.com) to communicate back and forth throughout the day.
- Recognize that Their Failure is Your Fault – If one of your team members does something wrong, it’s more likely that it’s your fault than theirs. If a team member screws up a task, it’s probably because you didn’t communicate your expectations well or you assigned the task to the wrong person. When a team member makes a mistake, don’t scold them. Instead ask them and yourself what you both could have done together to avoid the same mistake in the future.
- Surprise and Delight Your Team Members – Every now and then, I will do something nice for my employees that I refer to as actions of appreciation simply because I appreciate them and want them to know that. Some examples of actions of appreciation include giving them an Amazon gift card, buying them movie tickets, having fresh flowers delivered to them or giving them an unexpected bonus. Actions of appreciation don’t even have to cost a lot of money. Spending $25.00 on movie tickets for your employee and their spouse a few times per year will be well worth the investment, because your employees will know that you value them and will work harder for you as a result.
- Don’t Get Defensive When You Receive Negative Feedback – If a team member (or anyone else for that matter), says something about you or your company that you don’t agree with them, don’t retort and tell them why they’re wrong. Your team members’ perception of you is their reality. Take anything that you hear as feedback for improvement rather than as a personal attack that needs to be responded to.
- Give People Challenges Just Above their Current Skill Level – Your team members should get better at what they do over time. The best way to do this is to give them challenges that are just beyond what they are currently capable of doing. Stretching them a little bit on each project will encourage them to learn new skills and will help them feel like they aren’t in a rut doing the same type of work over and over again.
- Help Make Your Employees Dreams Come True – One of the best pieces of advice I got relating to managing employees is to ask your employees what their dreams are, then help them make their dreams come true. If you can help your employees achieve their dreams, they will be loyal to you to like no other. For example, one of my employees told me that she wanted to do more than just design work and wanted to learn to become a programmer. I paid $3,000 for her go to through a local code boot camp program so she could get a good start on learning web programming. As a result of this investment, I have a higher-skilled, more valuable and more loyal employee working for me.
- Prioritize Your Projects – At any given time, I might have two or three months’ worth of work in queue for my employees to do. I do let them know everything that is currently on their plate so that they can think about their upcoming projects in the back of their mind, but I always make sure that they know which projects are the highest priority that they should focus on so that they are working on the tasks that will drive your business forward. You can use something as simple as Google Doc or a shared Evernote document to list the projects and priorities of each employee’s current queue of work.
Some of these techniques are unorthodox and aren’t widely practiced in the business world, but they have worked very well for my business. By setting high expectations for my employees, compensating them well and showing them how much I appreciate them, I have been able to get consistently good work out of each one of my team members.