10 Ways to Help Develop Employees

Image courtesy of Waag Society's photostream

Image courtesy of Waag Society’s photostream

I firmly believe that the #1 item on every manager’s to-do list should be to develop your people. The greatest success you have as a manager is your employees growing, succeeding, taking on new responsibilities and getting promoted.

Your employees are an extension of you and the company you work for or own. How they perform is a direct reflection of you. Their success is a direct reflection of you. Some companies I have worked for have a policy that the current manager has to approve any promotions to a new position or department. Most of the time, this approval happens behind the scenes, without the employee knowing. I have heard of managers denying promotions for their employees. I do not understand that. Even though it is challenging and time consuming to recruit, hire and train new employees, too bad. It is selfish and a complete disservice to your team to hold someone back.

Every employee will make mistakes or do something you wish she or he hadn’t. That is to be expected. But if you find yourself commenting that your team is incompetent, lazy or inexperienced as a whole, then the answer to the problem lies in your mirror.

Here are 10 ways to help develop employees:

1.    Start by micromanaging. WHAT? That makes most top 10 lists of things not to do as a manager. But in the beginning you need a bit of micromanaging to learn what your team does well and where improvements are needed. I manage a Help Team that shares an email account. Every day I read over some number of emails that my employees have sent not only to ensure the answers are correct but I also review for things like grammar, tone and follow-through.

2.    Provide scripts or verbiage. When appropriate tell your team what to say. If they say something incorrect or in a way that doesn’t best represent the company, make sure to tell them what to say next time instead of just what not to say. If you cannot think of a better way to say it then it is completely unfair to expect that of your team.

3.    Plan training opportunities. Maybe it is time management skills, grammar or conflict resolution. If you are qualified, implement the training yourself. If not, invite resident experts. One thing I have done in the past is invite different executives to present to my team on how they stay organized. The team was able to see various techniques of very successful people so they could adapt their own style. Cost: $0!

4.    Praise and recognize. Celebrate successes, say thank you and recognize small changes. Praise every day. Period. If your team is not doing things every day that you are proud of then there is a problem. With you.

5.    Instill confidence. It took me a solid six months to get to this point but one of the most powerful things I say to my employees is, “I trust you.” And I do. I trust that I have laid the foundation and set the expectation that my employees will far more often than not, handle a situation as I would hope. I no longer need to have them run every idea past me. They can be trusted to make decisions.

6.    Brag. In the past, I made a statement that one of my employees was “weird.” A trusted co-worker quickly pointed out that just because he had different interests from me, did not make him weird. When I let that sink in, I started to recognize that what I used to consider “weird” was really symbolic of being passionate, dedicated and thoughtful. Once I recognized these traits, I was sure to share them with others.

7.    Transparency and Communication. As a manager, there are things that need to be kept confidential. However, that should make up a very small percentage of what is occurring within your business. It is often said that customers want to work with people they know, like and trust. The same is true of employees. Be honest so they know they can trust you to tell them crucial information. For example, I am very transparent with when I am going to be out of the office or working remotely. If you feel the need to not tell your employees when you won’t be around in order for them to act appropriately, again, look in the mirror. There lies the problem.

8.    Protect them. Being transparent does not mean telling them EVERYTHING. Protection may come in the form of stepping in to help if employees are getting bullied by other employees or customers. It may also come with being discreet about what you share. For example, a former boss once called me “blondie” in a corporate meeting. He later apologized for it and we continued to have a great working relationship. I never shared this information with anyone on my team as it would have impacted their perception of him and wouldn’t have done anything to foster a positive work environment.

9.    Review progress on regular basis. In most companies, yearly reviews are the standard. Personally, I do not understand this policy. People are our greatest resource and they deserve structured attention and feedback more often than every 365 days. I sit down with my employees on a quarterly basis. We review their goals so that they have plenty of time to make modifications and advancements before getting “dinged” on their yearly review. I set them up to succeed instead of fail.

10.    Recognize that they bring value to the table. I have more than 15 years of leadership/management experience. I do not know it all. Not even close. Every member of my team brings value. I am not afraid to praise them for how they handled a situation or admit that I made a mistake.

If developing your team has not been at the top of your to-do list, you may find that reorganizing your priorities makes the rest of your to-do list shrink. I do not care what industry you are in. People are your greatest asset. Be sure you are treating them that way.

I would love to hear your comments on how you develop your team. Leave a comment below to get the conversation started!

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