One of the toughest aspects of managing people is drawing their best work out of them. Some supervisors are stern taskmasters that dangle threats and consequences over their employees’ heads to demand results. Others rest on their laurels, believing that they’ve hired talented people who can figure it out on their own. These are, of course, the two extreme ends of the spectrum; the best recipe for success lies somewhere between. Here are a few tips that will help you foster a creative and welcoming work environment that is conducive to inspiring great output from your staff!
Get Their Input Early
Managers are certainly in their rights to meet and bring down work assignments to their staff with clearly detailed instructions about how the job is to be done. In fact, sometimes this is necessary in every industry, whether you’re building missiles or marketing men’s wallets. However, if the situation is appropriate and the opportunity presents itself, it’s in your company’s best interest to involve staff members with strategic planning.
People who contribute to a plan are inherently more invested in it than those who are simply given marching orders. In the most perfect setting, you would involve as many voices as possible to craft your plans as you tackle a project or task. At the very least, ask open-ended questions as you develop your tactics. As you lay out the bullet points to your team, pause to say: “do you guys think this is a good idea?” and listen to feedback. If the ideas are sound, people will appreciate being asked. If they aren’t, they may give suggestions that save the day!
Praise Improvement and Accomplishment
One of the gurus of management, Dale Carnegie, said “praise the slightest improvement.” It costs a supervisor nothing to heap praise on someone for grasping a concept, completing a task, or correcting a mistake. But it can mean everything to an employee.
Positive reinforcement pays big dividends, from increased productivity to inspiring workers to go above and beyond, presenting innovative ideas and solutions.
Encourage and Provide Collaboration
Great leaders understand synergy and know that together, their teams are far stronger than the sum of their parts. They know that encouraging brainstorming, whiteboarding, and strategy sessions with lots of people involved will generate creative approaches to the tasks at hand. This doesn’t mean that all ideas are equal or need to be implemented. Managers always have the discretion to nix concepts that don’t fit the overall strategy. But thoughtful managers turn to their teams to weigh in on plans, which benefits everyone.
It never hurts to “get away” for a breakfast or lunch meeting off-site where people may feel freer to voice their concerns and ideas. Consider staff retreats and teambuilding exercises to keep people engaged as well.
Practice Blameless Problem Solving
Inevitably, problems will arise in any long-term business endeavor. Hopefully, they will be minor and easily fixed. Sometimes, they will be more significant. One of the hallmarks of great leaders and organizations is the ability to objectively tackle the problem before worrying about the problem-causer. If there is a breakdown in procedures, processes, or communication, there will be plenty of time to address it after the problem is solved. On the other hand, organizations that first assign blame and punishment are the very antithesis of productivity. They are too concerned about how an issue reflects on them than how to solve it for their client or customer. They should always be put first.
Keep the Creative Environment Fresh
Finally, a good supervisor must recognize that employees stagnate in a never-changing environment. Change planning meetings up, bring in guests, get off-campus. Anything to differentiate the work you do from monotonous assembly line function.
Leaders should never be afraid of empowering employees to speak up and share ideas. The key element is to emphasize they will be heard and considered, though they may not be implemented. But empowering team members creates a strong, supportive foundation for the entire organization!