As a manager, one of your biggest responsibilities is to inspire other people to be the best versions of themselves. If done well, everyone on your team will not only be more productive and efficient, but also happier with their jobs. One of the hardest challenges, especially for new managers, is to balance this leadership mindset (focusing on helping other people) while still finding ways to get your own work done.
Whether you have read countless leadership books, have been managing others for a long time or got thrust into a position ill-prepared, leading employees and empowering them to do good work is an art that can be learned just like programming skills or riding a bike.
While there is no prescriptive and guaranteed method to become the “best leader ever,” there are many actionable things you can do to ensure your employees are constantly headed in the right direction.
Here are 10 tactical ways to help your employees be more productive – a great foundation for future leadership success.
1. Be yourself
There is no replacement for authenticity. People can sense fakeness! Having to put on a face with your employees every day can not only lose their trust, but it also makes work less enjoyable for you.
There’s no need to overcompensate with certain leadership styles based off of how other people lead – especially if it is out of your comfort zone. Behaving in a manner that is consistent with your beliefs and values will give you more energy each day and it will send a message to your employees to be themselves.
2. Create a culture of transparency and feedback
While many managers are afraid to do this, admitting when you are wrong is crucial to building an honest and transparent culture where everyone can feel free enough to be their best at work. For me, this starts at the highest level. So if you’re the CEO, learn to admit when you’re wrong.
Sometimes, as we sit in a leadership role, we think have to demonstrate control and always be right. Yet, it actually shows more courage to admit when you don’t know the answer or that you made a mistake. Doing so will establish a layer of transparency with your employees and promote a culture of learning. In the long view, it will allow you to change your ideas and tendencies without needing to maintain your ego.
3. Get to know each individual
It’s hard to remember that Jan told you her daughter broke an arm and that Jose’s father-in-law was in town for the weekend. Following up on the little things every Monday morning demonstrates a genuine care for your employees.
Asking about something that you know has been going on in someone’s life or checking in on someone when they seem a bit down can build a stronger connection between you and every team member.
With this connection will come an opportunity to understand what motivates your employees, what they enjoy doing and what they are working toward. When an employee knows that their boss cares about their success, they’ll have more motivation to work and they’ll feel an obligation to work hard for you. Plus, it will make it easier to give constructive feedback when they know you have their best interests at heart.
I personally go on daily walks twice each day during work hours. I typically invite two or three people for each walk. This helps me get to know people with my busy schedule. Make time for it.
4. Appreciate good work
Giving recognition for work that was is lacking can set a bad precedent. While the line can sometimes be hard to draw, being attentive to the effort, growth and output of your employees will allow you to give them proper recognition.
Many employees are so caught up in their own worlds and won’t give each other the recognition they deserve, so being the one to applaud good work can keep motivation levels high and show much needed recognition.
You’ll be surprised how much a “good job” goes with some people. It can make the difference between a happy and productive employee vs. someone who leaves your company.
5. Empower them with the best technology
People often spend hours on tasks that can be automated or highly sped up with technology. Most of the time, it’s actually cheaper to pay for things like calendar automation than it is to schedule meetings manually. There are solutions for many things today that you might not even know exist.
Take a look at the tasks employees are doing, especially the monotonous ones that bother them. Spending the time to find solutions that can automate or speed up those tasks will not only make them more productive, but also a lot happier.
6. Encourage risk taking
If there were a 40 percent chance that a project one employee could take on would fail and a 60 percent chance it would succeed, then the decision to pursue the project will be largely based on their perception of the risk of failure. In a culture where failure is met with harsh criticism and fear of being fired, these 60/40 decisions that, overall, would benefit a company, won’t be enacted.
Employees face decisions like these daily on whether to try something a bit more ambitious than the norm.
Encouraging this risk taking will not only make employees more confident and autonomous, but it will yield more output within a culture of innovation.
7. Get everyone behind the mission and keep them there
One of the biggest challenges at a company, especially as it grows, is keeping each employee excited about the work that they’re doing. When people are working intrinsically and feel like the work that they are doing is the best possible way that they could be spending their life at the moment, their output is going to be exponentially higher.
If they’re basing part of their self concept on the work that they are doing and they care deeply about it, then each day they will be coming into work with the energy to give it all they have.
8. Give people freedom and autonomy
If people feel like they have to be doing their work in a particular way, have to wear certain things in the office, and can’t be themselves, they are going to be less happy and productive.
Having honest conversations about the type of work they want to do, encouraging employees to take a goal or idea and run with it, and letting them revolve their work around the lifestyle they want can create momentum in the office – encouraging employees to work harder on what they enjoy most.
9. Push people to do what they don’t think they can do
Autonomy is important, but without an overall sense of guidance, people might spend significant time trying to figure out what they actually should be doing.
Checking in and challenging them to ask questions like “why am I working on this particular thing? What else can/should I be working on? Is what I’m doing the best use of my time right now and is there a way to do this more efficiently?” can help accelerate their learning and productivity.
10. Hire the best people
It goes without saying, but in an ideal world you can hire people that are very passionate about the work they are doing, know how to deal with ambiguity, and know how to push themselves.
Often it’s not the case that everyone on your team is a shining star. Part of being a manager is helping to bring these superstar qualities out of normal people. That being said, knowing when the person isn’t a good fit and cutting ties is critical. No matter what tactics you employ, there are certain people that will never be a great fit in certain jobs.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
Facebook’s Utopia, Our Nightmare: Open Offices Are Destroying Productivity
The open office was an exciting innovation in 1900, and people didn’t like it then, either.
For as long as there have been businesses in operation, leaders have been looking for ways to boost productivity in the workplace. In 1856, the British government conducted a report on office space layouts.
The report said, “For the intellectual work, separate rooms are necessary so that a person who works with his head may not be interrupted; but for the more mechanical work, the working in concert of a number of clerks in the same room under proper superintendence, is the proper mode of meeting it.”
Fast-forward to 1906 and the opening of the Larkin Administration Building. Dubbed the first modern office, the building was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and highlighted an open office plan.
The open-office concept continued throughout the 20th century, but it really took off in the 2000s, thanks to tech giants like Google, Apple and Facebook embracing the open layout.
When Facebook unveiled its new campus in 2012, Mark Zuckerberg claimed it would be “the largest open floor plan in the world.” The campus, which is actually a single room stretching 10 acres, was designed by architect Frank Gehry.
Some Facebook employees, such as product designer Tanner Christensen, believe the new campus encourages productivity, collaboration and creativity. That’s because the open design focuses on mobility, empowers individual boundaries and encourages chance encounters.
Is open plan the right move?
That may be true in some cases, but most employees don’t share the same excitement. In 2015, The Washington Post published an article that boldly stated that the open-office trend “is destroying the workplace” at places like Google because it’s too “oppressive.”
In 2017, The Wall Street Journal reported that Apple wasn’t happy with the open-office design: “Coders and programmers are concerned that their work surroundings will be too noisy and distracting.”
While neither shares Facebook’s version of an open workspace, both articles highlight the fact that companies are prioritizing design over function.
What’s more, two-thirds of the 42,764 respondents to a University of Sydney study on workplace satisfaction found “open-plan layouts showed considerably higher dissatisfaction rates than enclosed office layouts.”
In fact, researchers stated, “Between 20% and 40% of open plan office occupants expressed high levels of dissatisfaction for visual privacy and over 20% of all office occupants, regardless of office layout, registered dissatisfaction with the thermal conditions.”
Besides employees being dissatisfied with open office plans, they’re detrimental to productivity. That spells bad news for Facebook going forward.
Harder to focus, with more distractions
This should be obvious.
Everyone has that one teammate who’s so loud (and perhaps so obnoxious) that he distracts the entire office. Instead of being able to close a door to enjoy uninterrupted work, colleagues are pulled to engage in conversations. Research has even found that hearing one side of a phone conversation is more distracting than listening to both sides of an in-person conversation.
Professors Anne-Laure Fayard and John Weeks note in their article “Who Moved My Cube” that “some studies show that employees in open-plan spaces, knowing that they may be overheard or interrupted, have shorter and more-superficial discussions than they otherwise would.”
Even more, as pointed out in The New Yorker, “Psychologist Nick Perham, who studies the effect of sound on how we think, has found that office commotion impairs workers’ ability to recall information, and even to do basic arithmetic.” Overall, employees claim they’re losing 86 minutes a day to distractions.
Stressed or sick? Probably both
A study conducted by Dr. Vinesh Oommen at the Queensland University of Technology’s Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation found that working in environments without offices “caus[es] high levels of stress, conflict, high blood pressure and a high staff turnover.”
Another study of 10,000 workers, funded by Steelcase, reported that “95% said working privately was important to them, but only 41% said they could do so, and 31% had to leave the office to get work completed.”
Of course, when more people get sick, there are more absences. The New Yorker states that companies with an open-office design can anticipate employees to take 62 percent more sick leave.
But that’s not the only way office mates in the open concept affect each other’s actions: Research from the Auckland University of Technology also shows that open offices often can lead to antisocial behaviors.
Researchers have found that in shared working spaces, there are increases in “employee social liabilities.” This includes “distractions, uncooperativeness, distrust and negative relationships. More surprisingly, both co-worker friendships and perceptions of supervisor support actually worsened.”
That’s because employees don’t feel as if they have supportive supervision. Additionally, between the lack of support and the noise, employees in open offices eventually “become more irritated, suspicious and withdrawn.”
Busyness as a proxy for productivity
As defined by Cal Newport in his book “Deep Work,” “In the absence of clear indicators of what it means to be productive and valuable in their jobs, many knowledge workers turn back toward an industrial indicator of productivity: doing lots of stuff in a visible manner.”
Newport goes on to explain: “If you send and answer emails at all hours, if you schedule and attend meetings constantly, if you weigh in on instant message systems… all of these behaviors make you seem busy in a public manner.
If you’re using busyness as a proxy for productivity, then these behaviors can seem crucial for convincing yourself and others that you’re doing your job well.”
This is what happens in an open office: Managers tend to evaluate their team members on how busy they appear. That’s because they look out on the floor and see people on their computers, but they could be playing a game or updating their social media accounts instead of working.
Ending the nightmare
If you’re designing a new workspace for your startup or business, you can consider some alternatives to an open layout.
Hub and Spoke is actually a hybrid of an open office and a closed office. While there are central spaces and hallways that are open, there are still individual offices. M.I.T.’s Building 20 is an excellent example of the Hub and Spoke approach.
Eudamonia Machine comes from Newport himself; in this concept, offices are divided into five spaces: the Gallery, Salon, Library, Office and Chamber. You must pass through each room to get to the next. However, each room encourages more concentrated and focused work.
Writer’s Cabin doesn’t have to literally be a cabin. It’s actually any location where you can get serious, uninterrupted work done. It could be your local coffee shop, the library or even a tiny house in your backyard.
Open offices may have sounded like a utopian dream to many entrepreneurs in the last decade, but seeing how they’ve played out in recent years proves they’re a nightmare for productivity.
Leaders looking to keep their teams sane — and working — would do well to explore other options. Design over function is a fun way to run a business, but it’s not a very smart one.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
Keep Up The Momentum
The year has kicked off with a whirlwind ride and already the first quarter is done and dusted. It’s important not to lose the momentum.
Motivational programmes that offer staff incentives have proven highly successful. They can generate a positive, productive atmosphere.
A powerfull driver
The statistics here are unambiguous and speak for themselves: Research shows that companies with motivational programmes outperform those that don’t by 30% to 40%. This figure is not to be overlooked. Increased productivity will mean, at the very least, lowered costs in production and improved profit margins.
The role of employee motivation is a significant element in the chain of value production. There are various means to increase drive, and ‘progression’ is one of the strongest among them. It’s important to note that ‘progression’ doesn’t only imply change, but the movement towards a target. This means that progress needn’t be confined to upward development: Instead, a manager may set up goals that an employee will find rewarding either in terms of:
- Personal development, or
- Tangible returns.
This last element is where incentives come to the fore. Incentives provide recognition and material reward to those who have earned it.
As an incentive solution company, Uwin Iwin has the necessary experience in achieving the optimum results.
Stagger the awards
It has been a long few months since the Christmas bonus and January, February and March are traditionally ‘lean’ months. It might be a good idea to have quarterly award payouts to just keep employees motivated to perform.
Increasing normal rewards
There is nothing that destroys motivation as quickly as boredom. Instead of the normal incentive programme, introduce competitions and make it fun. Increase normal incentives by 50%, for example, to motivate sales channels to perform at the highest levels possible. Keep it interesting and you will keep the employees’ interest.
A targeted approach
When it comes to deciding on targets, realistic goals need to be set. Goals must be achievable and fair, and the best way to determine them is to ask staff members to suggest their own. This means that their commitment to achieving the target is greater because they take ownership of it.
Businesses should not concentrate on rewarding top achievers in their workforce, but ensure the programme is designed to engage and improve performance across the whole team.
Reward categories could include Performance of the Month, Biggest Improvement, Best Comeback, to name a few.
The challenge that many businesses face when planning their reward strategy is what type of reward to give. Cash is appreciated by most employees, but runs the risk of being an ‘invisible reward’ — forgotten once it hits the bank account and likely to be spent on day-to- day necessities.
Money uploaded onto a gift card that can be used anywhere is much more rewarding. Uwin Iwin has the perfect solution in the Kudosh card (www.kudosh.com) that offers exactly that — cash on a branded card accepted by any vendor that accepts MasterCard.
Rewards beyond gift cards
Out of the ordinary rewards can be a very good incentive. One option that works nicely is earning days off (increased leave) that can be used outside peak seasons. Sending out questionnaires to keep your ear to the ground when it comes to preferred rewards will give you great insight into possible solutions.
Communication is key
Communication about the incentive scheme is especially pertinent. Regular emails, SMSes and even hard copy pamphlets outlining the increased rewards serve as a constant motivation. The trick here is make the communications so powerful that they keep the momentum.
Incentives are an extremely powerful tool that business owners and managers can implement to assist with motivation and performance. It has to be done properly though, which is why investing in a professional platform is an imperative.
Ask Uwin Iwin to help you relook your incentive programme. We will come up with the perfect solution tailormade for your company. For more information, visit www.uwiniwin.co.za, phone +27 (0)11 557 5700 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
5 Characteristics Of A Culture That Develops And Executes Breakthrough Ideas
Innovation happens by design. Build it in to your company, and it will show through in your results and relationships with customers.
Peter Drucker, the father of modern-day business management, noted that a business has only two functions: marketing and innovation.
Companies that have wholeheartedly embraced innovation – Amazon, Apple and Tesla among them – garner admiration, sales and additional marketing in the form of earned media.
And while businesses of all sizes know innovation is an important lever that will fuel their long-term success, many struggle to do it effectively. They get stuck in a rut of doing “what we’ve always done.” Others hop on the latest trends when they are forced to do so, rather than becoming pioneers in the space. No bueno.
Jeff Bezos credits a major part of Amazon’s massive success over the years to its people’s willingness to innovate. In his 2015 letter to shareholders, he explained the source of the $100 billion dollar company’s ability to innovate: “One area where I think we are especially distinctive is failure,” he wrote. “I believe we are the best place in the world to fail (we have plenty of practice!), and failure and invention are inseparable twins. To invent you have to experiment, and if you know in advance that it’s going to work, it’s not an experiment. Most large organisations embrace the idea of invention, but are not willing to suffer the string of failed experiments necessary to get there.”
If you want a business where innovation is the norm, you’ve got to create the right environment – one that’s conducive to change and diversity of experience as well as opinion. No matter your history, you can build a company that delights your customers with your products, services and experiences on a consistent basis. Here’s how.
1. Create a culture of experimentation
Articles, books, and other resources give the same account: Failure is a precursor to success. When you accept failure as a part of the learning process that helps you achieve your goals, you get more comfortable with this concept.
The key to making failure work for you is conducting experiments that are small enough you won’t be left shirtless if things go south. Creating a company culture that experiments on a regular basis thrives only when you’ve also developed a consistent feedback loop. This crucial communication tool ensures you’ll have the clues needed to iterate and produce something remarkable.
2. Make idea generation a habit
Innovation begins with an idea. And to exponentially increase the odds of producing a winning idea for your business, quantity trumps quality. Of course, not every idea will be a great one. But a large arsenal of thoughts from which to choose makes it easier to refine your understanding of what your customers want from you.
Whenever I write a new article, I generate 25 potential headlines. Pushing myself to generate more ideas forces me to think beyond the obvious and stretch my mind to come up with more creative options.
Work to make idea generation a habit in your business. Encourage team members to bring forth their own suggestions, and create a system to catalog what is presented.
3. Diversify your experiences
When it comes to innovation, realise that homogeneity is a liability. Steve Jobs knew this to be true. It’s why he encouraged others to branch out to take the road less traveled. “If you’re gonna make connections which are innovative … you have to not have the same bag of experiences as everyone else does,” Jobs said in 1982, as he accepted the “Golden Plate” award from the Academy of Achievement in Washington, D.C. He was 26.
Make it a point to step outside your comfort zone. Accumulate new experiences for yourself both professionally and personally. As you look to build a rockstar team, be intentional about seeking talent that brings to the table diverse backgrounds, experiences and ways of thinking.
The observations, skills and expanded frame of reference you obtain as a result will prevent you from being satisfied with the status quo.
Related: 10 Business Ideas Ready To Launch!
4. Encourage dissent
Want to improve the quality of your ideas? Encourage others to tear them down. A capable team of people whose opinions you value will generate constructive criticism to help make your idea better. You’ll produce a much better product or offering than you ever could have done alone.
Research backs up this principle. Data from UC Berkeley demonstrates that conflict improves the ideation process. A team whose members cosign everything you say can’t help you or your company become more innovative.
Consider setting up regular team meetings to solicit input on how to take an idea from good to great. Create an environment that assures team members their opinions are valued and welcomed. Once you do, they’ll feel comfortable enough to be more vocal about using their expertise to raise the quality standard for whatever your business delivers.
5. Obsess over your customers
Your business exists to serve your customers. The more value you provide, the more they will reward you with their loyalty. When you focus your efforts on knowing your customers intimately, you’ll gain a tremendous amount of insight into how to solve their problems like none other.
Talk to your customers every chance you get. Take the opportunity to walk a mile in their shoes so you can develop a deeper empathy for their issues. Seek out pain points at every step of their customer journey and brainstorm ways to improve the experience for them.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
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