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Advice for Managers: Listen to Your Best People

Advice for Managers: Listen to Your Best People

Which members of your team do you spend the most time with?  If you are the manager, then the natural thing to do is to delegate tasks to the best people and let them get on with the job.  This then frees you to spend more time with the poorer performers who need the most help and support.  This might be the obvious approach, but it can also be the wrong approach.

How would you feel if you went in to work tomorrow and your very best employee came in to see you with her resignation, and when you ask why, she says, “I have accepted a senior position at another company.  I liked the work here but I never felt appreciated or involved in decision-making.  It was good that I could get on with my job, but no-one asked me my opinion on strategic issues for the department or the company.” You try telling her how much you value her contribution, but by now it’s too late; her mind is made up.  Top performers want to the freedom to get on with the job.  They do not need to be micro-managed—in fact, they resent it—but that does not mean they should be ignored or taken for granted.

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Empowering

Empowering your best people is important.  You should delegate responsibility and give them the freedom to accomplish their tasks, but don’t ignore them.  Meet them regularly to discuss their progress, their ideas, their issues and their plans, and use your managerial authority to help overcome the difficulties that are impeding them from achieving even more. You could share some of the bigger departmental challenges with them and ask their input; ask their opinions and involve them in key decisions.  Above all, you should praise them when they do well, let them know how important they are to you, and how much you value their contribution to the team.

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Devote time for junior members

You have to spend time with the junior members and weaker performers of your team; they need coaching and support, but don’t let this get out of hand.  Devote time and support to a poor performer, agree on an improvement plan with them, and monitor their progress.  Discuss the plan and their performance with your HR manager, and if they fail to improve or consistently under-perform, then they should go.  You cannot afford to have them draining your time and pulling down the team’s performance.

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Balance

Aim for a balanced approach.  Spend time with every member of the team, getting to know their interests, frustrations, ambitions and job –related issues.  A good manager understands their team both as a group, and as individuals.  Every employee has different motivations, likes, dislikes, hopes and fears, and as a manager, you should know what motivates every person in your office.  Why do they come to work?  Every individual wants to be listened to and appreciated.

Listening

Most managers spend too much time telling and too little time listening.  They focus too much on their weakest subordinates without a clear plan for improvement.  They could get much more done with their team by listening more, fixing the things that hold people back and praising people for good performance.  Praise and encouragement are great things for weaker staff when they make improvements, but they are also important for the top performers who can often feel taken for granted and unappreciated.  Make sure that your best people know how much you value them.

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More by this author

Paul Sloane

Professional Keynote Speaker, Author, Innovation Expert

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5 Powerful Ideas on How to Be Productive at Work

5 Powerful Ideas on How to Be Productive at Work

Not being able to stay productive at work is a problem that everyone runs into at some point; no matter how much you like your job, there are certain factors that prevent you from staying at maximum proficiency throughout the whole day.

A lack of productive focus at work can lead to extra stress on yourself, missed deadlines, passed opportunities, raise denial, demotion and even termination.

So, if you are someone who has trouble with your productivity, here are five effective tips on how to be productive at work:

1. Take breaks

First and foremost, it’s important for you to take regular breaks. Trying to work throughout the whole day will tire your brain, which will then cause you to doze off and think about something else.

If you keep working your brain, it will fill up and get jumbled with information—sort of like a computer hard drive. Taking a break would be like resetting your computer so that it can start afresh, or de-fragmenting the data so that all the information is in order.

This is a great thing because it allows you to solve problems you were unable to solve previously, by seeing it differently; if you are able to organize your thoughts properly, you will be able to take in new information more easily.

There have even been studies about methods of saving time and staying proficient, and taking breaks is one of the leading factors.

According to Christine Hohlbaum, the author of The Power of Slow: 101 Ways to Save Time in Our 24/7 World, eating lunch away from your work area every day will greatly increase your productivity. Eating in your work area will give you the illusion that you are working, but whether you like it or not, your brain will begin to wander and think of something else and then you will be working tirelessly with no progress.

It’s important to take breaks before and during work too: if you come to work in a rush because you woke up late, your mind will not be mentally prepared for the day ahead, and you will spend the first 10 to 15 minutes trying to get organized and composed before you can actually start working.

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Instead, you should try to wake up 20 minutes earlier than the time it would take you to “just get” to work. Take that time to stare off into space and not worry about anything.

If you do this, your brain will be empty and ready for all the challenges it has coming for the next few hours.

If your employer only allows a set amount of breaks during the workday, that doesn’t mean you can’t just get up and walk around for a quick break every now and then.

Even if it’s only 5 minutes, it will refresh your brain and you will gain renewed energy to do your job.

Learn more about The Importance of Scheduling Downtime.

2. Pace yourself and balance your workload

One problem that most people run into is that they underestimate the amount of work they have to do, and end up doing 50% of the work in the last 20% of the time they have to do it. This is due to an issue of balancing one’s workload.

When you receive a project, or are doing a job you normally do, take some time to really plan out your work schedule.

Consider how much time it took you to do this last time; determine how you can break the project into smaller parts and which can only be accomplished on certain days, and whether anything might come up that could interfere with your plan.

All of these questions are important for starting on a project, and when answered, they will help you stay productive throughout each day.

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For example, if you needed to design a project to map out the amount of aid offered in various regions after Hurricane Sandy, you can break it up as follows:

You will need to know what organizations are offering help to begin with, how much aid those organizations gave or plan to give, which regions were hit by Sandy, and which regions suffered the greatest losses.

You start this project on a Thursday and know you have until Tuesday to gather this information.

In order to stay productive, you need to plan out your work week—now you know you can find out which organizations are involved in helping the Hurricane Sandy Victims any day since that information is online, but gathering information on the organizations may require you to call them.

Since phone calls can only be done during week days, you have to plan on gathering all of that information before the weekend comes.

That is just one example of a situation in which pre-planning your project will help you stay productive; had you researched the affected regions first, you would not have received the info on the organizations until the weekend, and may have missed your chance to call them.

That, in turn, would have wasted time you could have spent working on this project to finish it.

Knowing what you need to do, when you can do it, and how long it will take you, is important in balancing your workload and being more productive and efficient.

3. Put your work first

This is an issue that usually occurs with young people who are new to the workforce: they’re often tempted with offers to go out at midday, and then come back lost in thought and unfocused on their work-related tasks.

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While it is important to take breaks, your breaks should consist of you clearing your mind, not loading it up with other less important information—like sports.

However, that is not the only situation where you need to worry about putting your work first before all else.

In a work environment, the senior employees will oftentimes push some of their menial tasks onto the newer employees. If you fall into that category, you need to know that their work is not your work, so if you have tasks that need to be done, you need to do it first.

If you are a new employee, you must learn to say no to other people even when it means you may not be in their good graces anymore. You can help others out once your work is done, but you are paid to do your own work, not anyone else’s.

4. Don’t open your browser unless you need them

In this day and age, everyone is constantly monitoring their social network. This is a major pain point for companies, which is why many don’t allow employees to access their social networks on company workstations.

When you are at work, disconnect the internet from your phone and keep your browsers closed so you’re not tempted to log onto your social media accounts or browse any sites that are not work-related.

If you keep your browsers closed and phone tucked away, only to be used in an emergency, you will find yourself being a more productive employee right away. 

5. Try to be happy and optimistic

If you always have a negative outlook on life, you will be more distracted and less motivated to get work done, so it’s important for you to start your day off right.

This can be done by having a good breakfast or by taking time in the morning to watch one of your favorite TV shows before work.

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If you are happy, you will find yourself able to work much more productively as your mind won’t wander into worrying about something else.

Also, if you stay optimistic and keep telling yourself that you can do whatever you set your mind to, the tasks will seem much less daunting and will go by much more quickly.

Take a look at more effective ways to stay positive at work:

15 Ways To Stay Positive At Work

Happiness and optimism are the keys to being a productive and happy employee.

All in all, heed the five tips above and you will find yourself being one of the most productive people at your company.

While you do not need to master them all, each and every one of them will help you become a better and more efficient employee.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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