In many companies, work has become a place of disillusionment. Employees start with enthusiasm and creativity, but day after day they feel more and more helpless, as if they don't have any real choices anymore. Employees are overwhelmed, exhausted and bored. They feel like they have been shot down. Complaining and ridiculing others becomes the norm. The ""romance"" is gone. If this scenario sounds like your company, don't despair. Deep down, employees are begging to gain a sense of hope and enthusiasm again, but they need your help. If you make a genuine effort to follow these ten tips, you will not only notice attitude shifts, but real changes in behavior among your employees. Give it a shot, and watch the fun return!
1. WALK YOUR TALK. Instead of talking about better communication, start communicating better. By developing open two-way conversations that are energetic and contagious, your employees will feel comfortable to speak their mind. Make sure you listen to what is not being said. Include employees in meetings to get their perspective. Make your meetings interesting by surprising your employees with a new incentive or a message of appreciation. These ideas show that you are not just the leader, but one who really cares.
2. BE SUPPORTIVE. Discuss the weaknesses in the system without blaming individuals. Look at employee wish lists and follow-up with their requests. Ask them what they need from management to feel more valued. Employees need to know that their concerns are being heard. They need not only constructive feedback, they also need positive comments. When employees meet deadlines or suggest creative solutions that positively affect the bottom-line, recognize the behavior immediately. Include their names in a company newsletter, write a personal note and send it to their home, or place an advertisement in the local newspaper showing how much you appreciate your great people.
3. BE A LEADER WITH VISION. True leadership requires foresight, integrity and trust from both sides. Leadership liberates employees, by giving them direction and letting them do the job. Set up periodic reality checks to evaluate their progress, to make sure they are moving in the right direction. They need to know you are willing to hear about ideas they have - to make the company better than it already is today. Share your vision with them so they feel in the loop. Employees tell me rumors and back- biting would stop if only leaders would share future goals and visions of the company.
4. USE STRAIGHT TALK. Straight talk means being able to communicate without alienation or hurt feelings. Many managers have found straight talk to be very difficult. They cannot communicate criticism or compliments without feeling uncomfortable. Managers and employees need to learn to be direct and truthful. Encourage straight talk by thinking about what you really want to say, writing it down and practicing it. After you've practiced, how do you feel about yourself? If you feel good, try it with your employees. If you still are not sure, start from the beginning and figure out a better way to communicate your message. Make straight talk a habit. The more you use it, the more comfortable you will feel. It is important to tell others what they need to hear, not necessarily what they want to hear. I encourage leaders to tell their employees that constructive feedback is a gift. This is an area that some people still feel uncomfortable with, however, necessary in order for us to continually improve and grow.
5. BUILD SUPPORTIVE TEAMS. Build teams within departments, and throughout the entire company, to allow an open discussion of dreams and obstacles. Remove job descriptions that keep people stuck in a box. Reward employees who help others and contribute to the company as a whole. There are many exercises that can help teams to find their strengths and weaknesses. These exercises can remove barriers and blind spots and move the team forward. The ""we versus they"" attitude must be eliminated in order to make the team work. We don't need tolike each other. We do need to respect each other's differences. The most successful teams are the ones with diverse members. They bring in different ideas and a variety of strengths.
6. ENCOURAGE CREATIVITY AND LAUGH AT MISTAKES. When employees aren't afraid to take risks, their creativity will soar. Feeling ""in"" on things is still a major concern of employees. They have great ideas, yet are afraid to voice them. This is such a waste of possible solutions to key challenges of a company. Front line employees have a different perspective and must feel comfortable to share their ideas. Encourage this creativity on a regular basis. Les Wexner from The Limited has meetings called ""The Hall of Shame,"" where he tells his employees the biggest mistake he made during the week. He then asks each employee to reveal his or her biggest mistake, and encourages them to describe how the entire group can learn from that mistake. This idea works wonders when the leader begins the process. The question following this exercise is, ""What did we learn from it?"" Make sure to add some fun in order to make people feel comfortable with this idea.
7. EMPOWER EMPLOYEES TO FEEL LIBERATED. Managers and employees need time alone, time to think creatively. Intense and important work requires reflection. Companies that are obsessed with productivity usually have little patience for the quiet time essential for profound creativity. An element of fun lifts morale and increases productivity. Have each employee bring in his or her favorite dessert one day, and listen to the laughter begin. Ask them what they need to do in order to improve morale.
8. HELP EMPLOYEES FEEL COMFORTABLE WITH CHANGE. Learn how to start over and let go of ideas that may have worked in the past, but are no longer effective today. Remind your team that status quo is the kiss of death. We need to constantly look for new ways of doing business. The minute that someone says how good you are is the minute you need to improve. Companies that fail start believing in their own hype! Confront today's challenges while simultaneously probing new opportunities. Eat change for breakfast, lunch and dinner!
9. INSIST THAT EMPLOYEES ALWAYS KEEP THE CUSTOMER IN MIND. You have a lot of competition. Make sure your employees know why customers keep signing your contracts. Realize that curiosity will always lead employees down new paths. Ask employees ""How can we exceed our customers' expectations by knowing their needs, emotions and wants?"" Get employees involved with customers. This way employees feel like part of the team. They will be able to get into the customer's shoes and hear what ""keeps them up at night."" They can take the ideas back to the team and figure out how to go the extra mile to help the customer. An employee with a customer focus will naturally be creative and intuitive.
10. KEEP EMPLOYEES FOCUSED ON THEIR CHEERLEADERS AND FANS. Have your employees make a list of ten clients or co-workers that are thrilled with them and the way they conduct business. Ask your employees to figure out new ways to service their clients to help them in any way they can. Employees will shape their own future as they build relationships with their fans.
These ten tips will WOW your customers and make your competition drool. Your employees will feel like they are part of the company, as they come to work energized and full of passion. Have fun being an intuitive and creative leader. Encourage others to follow in your footsteps. Don't be surprised if YOU end up falling in love with your job again.