How to Manage Your Staff Effectively1 December 2019
As a manager, it’s your responsibility to get work done through others. To do this, you need to know how to manage staff effectively.
If you do, you are likely to garner the respect of your team. If you don’t, your team will perform like a rudderless ship, going off in all directions without achieving much. And they will probably throw you, their manager, overboard.
So, here’s five ways to make sure you manage your staff effectively and be the captain of your ship:
1. Recruit well
Best we start from the beginning. A big mistake in recruitment could leave you metaphorically flogging a dead horse. So, how do you recruit well? The answer is worthy of a separate article (stay tuned).
But in short, a good placement articulates the requirements of a job, is promoted heavily in the right markets, attracts competent candidates with similar values, and has credible references to prove what they say is true.
2. Train staff on your policies and processes
Most new staff begin their employment with the best of intentions. But as time goes on, many are not shown the right way to do things. It leaves them having to ask for guidance repeatedly (which wears thin) or do what seems right without being sure, which leads to mistakes.
If an organisation had its policies and processes documented in simple, understandable language and staff were inducted into them at the beginning of their employment with a complete understanding of the expectations required, it would alleviate many issues.
Importantly, this presumes your policies and processes are proven to be valuable in increasing productivity. If they aren’t, you could have the opposite effect. To the degree your policies and processes are valuable and can be understood, you will have less issues in the future.
3. Monitor, guide, and coach
It would be easy to think if we recruited well, and trained staff on our expectations, we should be able to walk away, and everything would be fine. And it would – if we weren’t dealing with people.
As a manager, you always have the responsibility to inspect what you expect. People are not machines, we have feelings, and judgment becomes clouded. Everyone, managers, and leaders included need guidance and support along their journey. Even knowing someone is there and ‘has your back’ is often good enough.
Sometimes, complex problems can’t be solved by following a process, and it needs a manager’s guidance. As a manager, you need to be available for these moments if you want to add value to your staff, and it’s where you can earn their respect – a prized asset indeed.
However, guiding staff does not mean babysitting or micromanaging them. If you have the right policies and processes in place and train them well, this should help. Refrain from giving them the answers to everything, as otherwise, they will never learn for themselves.
So set your staff up to win, get out of their way, and monitor from a distance to make sure if they need help, you’re there.
4. Correct & gain agreement
Inevitably, there will come a time when mistakes occur. It’s inevitable, particularly when your staff don’t have all the answers as you encourage them to take the initiative. If you’ve given them the freedom to make decisions, consider mistakes as investments in their education and a part of growing into their role.
However, you can’t afford the same mistakes reoccurring. As a manager, when you see a mistake or a non-optimal outcome, you need to communicate and make sure it won’t repeat. But there’s an art to it.
For example, if a staff member errs, you, as their manager, could get frustrated and tell them what they should have done, i.e. provide the answer. But the staff member could feel guilty or even resentful, and may not take the initiative next time for fear of being reprimanded.
An alternative approach would be to take on the role of coach, asking genuinely, “what did you learn from that experience?” or “how could you approach it differently next time?”. It allows them to reflect, take responsibility, and commit themselves to a better way of operating in the future. Granted, this approach may not always be practical, especially when you need to act fast. But generally, it’s a more sustainable way to correct staff.
Do this consistently and you will have competent, loyal staff who have respect for you.
5. Deal with non-conformance
Even when you do everything mentioned above, some staff still struggle to conform. The same mistakes occur, everything is a drama, and nothing seems to fix the problem, i.e. serial offenders. A manager then needs to confront the issue head-on and deal with it swiftly and effectively.
In this case, a manager must always try to salvage the situation by applying points 2, 3 and 4. All staff should have every opportunity to succeed. Often, upon closer inspection, a staff member doesn’t have a policy or procedure for an area and thus no guide to operating. So one gets it created and trained amongst staff. End of story. Or, they’ve got a process but don’t understand or agree with it. Managers need to be tolerant here, spend time to get expectations agreed, and correct the situation that way.
However, if a manager still faces non-compliance, discipline is required.
It may come in the form of lost privileges, or letters of warning, but something must be done to alert the staff member that their performance or behavior is not acceptable. Worst case, they should be terminated legally to protect the rest of the team, and the organisation itself. Remember, your organisation has an objective, such as delivering value for customers, not the reforming of delinquent staff. So, cut your losses and don’t get caught in that trap.
Again, if identified and executed well, the manager can only earn respect. Conversely, a lack of action here will indicate weakness and an inability to control their area.
Interestingly, managers who terminate staff after being given every opportunity to succeed points to a failure in recruitment (point 1).
Most staff issues result from having a lack of documented and easily understandable policies and processes within their organisation for staff to follow.
When this happens, well-intentioned staff rely on their experience to operate or attempt to read their manager’s mind hoping to meet their expectations – a troublesome tactic.
Then when staff does make mistakes, managers get frustrated and deliver ‘answers’ as a form of correction, leading to terse relationships that look more like ‘parent and child’ than anything else.
In this instance, if staff haven’t already left (or looking to leave), they’re reluctant to seek advice from their manager, leaving them more prone to failure. Even worse, the manager fires their staff prematurely out of frustration and must start all over again.
But if a manager had:
· Recruited wisely
· Easily understandable policies & processes that outline expectations
· Inducted their staff in these policies and processes from the beginning
· Stayed connected and approachable, offering guidance and support
· And corrected non-conforming staff fairly and swiftly
They are unlikely to have any major issues. Quite the opposite – they will have earned their staff’s respect.
And the manager’s reward?
A legendary reputation and a large paycheque, sure. But also the opportunity to lead more people, in larger organisations, and make a bigger difference to the lives of others.
That’s what the best managers love to do.