Things for Leaders to Do Now
Leaders, I’m going to say some things that might make you uncomfortable, but could have a big impact on your success. Consider these ideas:
- Save your people from e-mail. Did you know that e-mail was in charge of your office, not you? Most people in my sessions are overwhelmed by e-mail and feel they must check it continually throughout the day. For some positions, this may indeed be the main function of their job. For most, other tasks should take higher priority. Leaders need to help people put e-mail in its place by making it okay to only check it at certain times of the day, by having a discussion about response times, by helping employees prioritize their work. This also means you can’t expect them to instantly respond to every e-mail you send. Also realize that if you are sending e-mails at all hours of the day and night, you may be inadvertently sending the message that your people are expected to do the same. (You might consider saving yourself from e-mail while you’re at it.)
- Review your staffing levels. Did you run lean and mean during the recession, cutting back and asking everyone to pitch in and do more? Maybe they did and you think, “Sweet! They clearly weren’t working hard enough before!” This is a great time to look at staffing levels and make sure they are appropriate. Or maybe you cut out training and travel and other perks. Maybe it’s time to add them back. Here’s the problem – hiring is creeping back up and employee engagement is low. This means your best people might be ripe for the picking. You can’t afford to lose them. Do something now!
- If you don’t do it already, link reward to performance. It’s just not fair that your top people get the same rewards as your slackers. Or that mediocrity gets the same reward as excellence. Stop checking e-mail and make some hard decisions! How can you measure and reward excellence? This is the job of leadership. And don’t give me a bunch of excuses. If you are afraid of upsetting the mediocre, you need to be more afraid of losing the excellent. The mediocre might be inspired by your rewarding of excellence, but they aren’t going to improve because you gave everyone a prize.
- If you haven’t recently, survey your employees. I don’t care if you just have one direct report. If you want to keep them, you need to determine if they are happy. Leaders are usually surprised when someone quits. Don’t let that be you – be proactive, because being reactive in this situation is usually too little too late. Questions you might consider – what could I do to help you with your work? What do you like most about your job? What do you find most frustrating? What are your professional goals? What are your personal goals? Obviously the questions will vary based on the company culture and your leadership style. If you have an HR department, they can help with this (call me, I can too). I work with leaders all the time who are certain they know what their people want and who wind up being completely surprised by survey results. This doesn’t mean they are bad leaders. It means they are crummy mind readers. Just like the rest of us.
Also – just because you say you have an open door policy does not mean your people think they can come and talk with you. A well-designed survey is a better use of your time anyway. Stop deluding yourself! You can’t read minds and you can’t bend spoons without touching them. Send out a survey.
- Do something fun. If you already do this, good on ya. If not, please consider it. I don’t care how grouchy your workforce is, people enjoy fun. What you do depends on your team and the budget you have, but there’s really no reason I can think of not to do this. It could be something as simple as a BBQ or an ice cream break on a Friday. Seriously – going to the grocery store, getting a bunch of ice cream sandwiches and giving your people a 30 minute break to laugh together and eat is not going to break the bank. But they’ll remember it. And I bet you’ll get a boost in productivity to offset the downtime. Everyone wants to feel appreciated.
- Give them some time. The holidays are coming. Can you find a way to give them some time off? If profits are up, but you can’t give raises just yet, can you give them some time? Just an extra hour off could mean a lot.
Okay, leaders! I hope you felt enough heat to do at least one of these. Some of your people are unhappy right now and might even be looking for another job. It’s not too late – but you have to act now! Go get some ice cream!