Be Good to Your Staff, and They’ll Be Good to Your Business
You’re the boss. That’s great, but it also can be challenging and can saddle you with a great amount of responsibility. In order to run your business most effectively, it’s important to have good foot soldiers, whether you own your business or you’re a high-level manager. The best way to gain loyalty and stellar efforts from your staff is to make them like you and want to work for you.
So how do you gain that respect and engender that “walk through any swamp or minefield for you” mentality within their ranks? The obvious answers are: a generous salary, plenty of vacation time, a great medical plan and other financial perks. As a small business, however, you are often limited in what you can provide for your team in those areas. That doesn’t mean it’s a lost cause, however. Much of that loyalty can be earned through the way you treat your personnel and how you make them feel about the company and themselves. After all, happy employees are closely linked to business profitability.
The Gentle Force of Clarity
One of the first rules for any employer is to avoid being a jerk. If your modus operandi is to yell at staff members, disparage them, publicly berate them or otherwise work with a “shoot the messenger” philosophy, chances are they will tune you out and have no interest in going that extra mile for you or your company.
Another important trait of good management is to set clear expectations and communicate them so that they are understandable to your team. Let them know, in no uncertain terms, what is most important to you as well as the high level of your standards. Make sure your people know what the company’s concrete goals are.
Employees also appreciate good, clear feedback. That doesn’t mean nit-picking everything someone does, but rather providing wise, constructive advice. Let your staff members know what they do well and which areas need improvement. Sometimes this will require addressing performance problems that occur from time to time. Though not a pleasant task, it’s your responsibility to let that person know where the problems lie and how he or she can make noticeable improvements.
Personal Attention Goes a Long Way
Person-to-person interaction is key, so try to set up regular face-to-face meetings with your staff as well as informal coffee discussions with your direct reports. This helps everyone to feel involved as a vital member of the team.
Employees particularly appreciate an open-door policy where they feel comfortable coming to your office to discuss a special matter. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day minutiae and give off that vibe that you’re too busy to be bothered. So try to establish right away that you’re interested in them as people and that you always have an open ear. Don’t be afraid to chat with them, from time to time, about things going on with them outside of work.
There’s a difference, however, in being interested and being chummy. It’s still important to establish a certain distance because it’s your job to keep the working atmosphere positive by minimizing the drama. There’s nothing to be gained from a group of employees that skips from one crisis to another, engages in workplace gossip and seems to thrive on interpersonal conflict. Just remember that you are the one who sets the standard, so avoid your own dramatic moments at all costs. Your office culture will be that much better for it.
Live Up to Your Role
Perhaps more than anything, you should always keep your word. Say what you’re going to do, then do it…just as you said you would. Stick to the timelines you outline and commit yourself to follow through on every promise. This is true whether it’s a raise that’s due, a project deadline, a meeting you’ve set or a lunch date you’ve made with a team member. When they know your word is as good as gold, this eliminates the confusion of “What does the boss really mean?”
In the end, you are the one who’s left to make the tough decisions. That means setting rules for particular reasons and knowing when to bend those rules when the situation calls for it. Some decisions will be tremendously agonizing; that’s the nature of the game when you’re running a business. But your job is to solve problems, not avoid them. You’ll find in the long run that, if you avoid a problem so that you don’t upset an employee, you will upset them even more by your indecisiveness and timidity. It’s your business – if you can’t make the decisions, who will?
Much of gaining your employees’ trust and respect comes down to common sense and treating people with honesty and dignity. Your people can sense if you like them and you like the business you have chosen. When they know that you do, they’re more than willing to become your biggest ally.