Best practices dictate that managers treat all employees equally. But managers are still people who have affinities and pet peeves, and tend to connect better with those who share similar values and interests.
As a leader or manager, you must walk that fine line between thinking, “I want to be friends with that person”, and supporting each employee to become their best selves. How you approach your leadership style will set the tone for the company as either a network of people who are all equally responsible for contributing to big-picture success, or a group of individuals who are all competing with each other to impress you.
15Five offers managers a solution for receiving employee feedback and responding in a way that aligns teams around company goals. Not only does this result in the success of your business, but open and honest professional relationships can develop between everyone at the company.
Teams working under group-focused leadership are more likely to feel connected to their organizations and are more committed to overall objectives. They are happier within their roles, are hopeful for the future of the company, and are generally more loyal to their supervisors.
That’s not to say that an effective manager shouldn’t know the strengths of every person on her team, or have personal interactions. Managers just shouldn’t treat star performers any differently than other members. Each person should receive feedback commensurate with their performance. Employees who are challenged should be provided with support, and employees who perform well should be acknowledged.
When providing feedback, it’s important to be aware of the manner in which we’re communicating:
– Ask open-ended questions. These will allow you to dive deeper into the issues at hand. Instead of just asking, “Is the company strategy clear to you?”, ask “Are you clear on the overall company strategy and how you fit into it? If not, what would help you get clear?”
– Be action oriented. The individual receiving the feedback should feel receptive, even empowered by your feedback, not discouraged and criticized.
– Focus on the issues. Be as specific as possible. A general comment isn’t going to incite the necessary change of behavior, or prompt the employee to step it up.
If the feedback is negative, focus on how you’d like to see the work improved, encouraging the employee to see that it will be entirely possible for them to do better next time. Specifically request a change and offer support, otherwise you’re simply giving them generalized negativity.
Saying “I was disappointed in your reports”, does not help a person to improve. Instead try, “Thanks for getting those reports in on time. There’s just one thing – you’ll need to start double-checking your math. A few of the figures were inaccurate because of an incorrect formula in the spreadsheet. They’ll need to be right next time or our projections could be off. Is there anything I can do to support you? Perhaps a training session with Susan, who is a whiz at Excel?”
The best thing you can do is ask your employees questions on a regular basis. That way you can base your feedback on their direct experience, not interpretations of what you think might have happened. Making entirely incorrect assumptions will only serve to aggravate the situation.
It is essential that all team-members have a thorough understanding of the work that is being done on the entire team at any given time. Clearly communicate expectations and goals. Every team member “owns” specific tasks, but this way everyone can be aligned with team and company goals and hold each other accountable.
Shropshire Council Web Services Team is a five-member group who inspired the organization and navigation of the main UK government website. Thanks to open communication and togetherness amongst teammates, everyone operates at peak efficiency. Members jump in to help out others when there’s a lull in their own work.
Maintaining a clear communication channel becomes more difficulty as teams grow. Wharton Management Professor Jennifer Mueller, found that individuals within a large group are likely to be less productive simply because it becomes more difficult for them to find the resources and agreement within the company to do what they need to do.
Mueller discovered that stress level seemed higher for members of larger teams: “On a smaller team, people knew what resources were available and felt they could ask questions when things went wrong. The situation was more controllable. But in these larger teams, people were lost. They didn’t know who to call for help because they didn’t know the other members well enough. Even if they did reach out, they didn’t feel the other members were as committed to helping or had the time to help. And they couldn’t tell their team leader because [it would look like] they had failed.”
Whether you work at an early-stage startup or at an established business with years of success under your belt, supporting employees to do their best work can be challenging. Lead each team to establish objectives that are in-line with company goals. Give individuals the space to do their best work, and provide them with regular team feedback so that they can work as a cohesive unit on moving the company forward.
What is your leadership style? Are you a group-focused leader?
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