What does it really mean to "bring out the best" in your people? Most managers want employees who show up every day ready to work, to contribute, and to produce—and do it with enthusiasm. It's actually pretty easy, and inexpensive, to make that happen. In fact, it's free! Here's what you need to do.
- Set a good example. The buzzword-y phrase for this is “tone at the top.” All it means is that you need to lead in a way that makes others want to follow you. Be evenhanded and ethical, and your employees will respect you. Play by the same rules that you ask them to follow.
- Promote career development. Your employees will be highly motivated if you show them that you're interested in the course of their careers. Share with them your plans to help them gain the skills they need to succeed, and your employees will reward you with loyalty. But don't forget to follow through on your promises! Invest in training and try to find opportunities for them to use their new skills on the job.
- Show them the bar. Set your standards high, but not to an unrealistic level. Have and share ambitious expectations, through both formal job objectives and informal day-to-day expectations. Help them achieve the competence that breeds confidence—don't just tell them what you expect, tell them how you expect them to do it.
- Help them stay the course. If your employees aren't receiving regular, honest feedback—if you only talk to them about their goals and progress once a year—how can they fix anything that's out of sync with your goals and standards? Be candid but positive. Don't ignore the hard stuff; just learn how to present it constructively. And when your employees do well, make sure they know it!
- Find their currency. Currency doesn't necessarily mean money. It can mean what's important to, or what motivates, your employees. Get to know your team. You need at least a basic understanding of what interests them, what bothers them, what they care about, and what they're after. Do they want more money, more responsibility, or just more time with their kids? There are a multitude of possibilities. The better you know your people, the better you can motivate them.
- Open your ears. You can encourage employee communication by showing them that you can listen, if you encourage them to talk to you while you listen carefully and fully to their words—setting aside your own thoughts and agenda. It's rare these days for people to listen; a manager who does so will earn employee respect and trust.
To read more on this topic, see our article, Leadership Strategies of our Nation's Top Performing Companies.