Though I certainly did my fair share of household and outdoor chores as a kid (you don’t grow up in Wisconsin without learning how to use a shovel!), I started my first real job working at a family restaurant when I was 15 years old; then, during my college years, I was a Resident Advisor. Since then, I’ve been privileged to work in the EAP field for the past 23 years. I thought it would be interesting to reflect back on the past three decades, including my 20 years in leadership, and share some key managerial principles that I learned from some wonderful supervisors along the way. My hope is that some of these items will be helpful, regardless if you’re just beginning your career or if you’re someone who has been around for awhile. They are not earth-shattering concepts whatsoever; however, they are good reminders of what consistently works, if you want to be a successful manager:
Respect/Appreciate/Motivate – These three actions are really intertwined and in my opinion, what great management is all about. In essence, because you respect your employees, you then make sure to appreciate them on a regular basis, which in turn motivates them to remain loyal and work hard. Showing respect and gratitude not only increases job satisfaction and improves work confidence, but it’s the right thing to do.
Honest/Frequent Communication – Whether it is in-person, over the phone, or via email, there needs to be regular communication to your team as a group, as well as individually. Your employees should all be on the same page in terms of their responsibilities and relevant corporate/departmental updates. Check in with your staff, but not to the point of micromanagement.
Solicit Feedback/Give Credit – It’s critical to solicit suggestions from staff, but it’s just as important to really listen to them! If it makes sense to enact procedural changes based on that feedback, then go ahead and implement them, making sure to acknowledge the employee who came up with the suggestion. When your team realizes that when you ask for their opinion, you really want to hear it, people start to become empowered and invested in the company.
Fair and Firm – The truth is that there are people we have a stronger connection with and those who get under our skin! However, nothing can disrupt your team more than the perception that you’re showing preferential treatment to a certain employee. You may be closer friends with certain co-workers than others, but as everyone’s supervisor, you must treat each team member with the same respect and concern. This is especially true when dealing with a “problem employee” or any type of conflict. Be consistent, be fair, and don’t give anyone extra leeway because you like them better than someone else.
Role Model – It’s vital that you role model the behavior you want to see in others and lead by example. If you’re always complaining or focusing on the negative, this type of attitude will seep into your team and make it difficult for them to maintain a positive outlook, too. Also, don’t be afraid to occasionally help out your team by doing some of the tasks that they do on a regular basis. Not only will you have a further appreciation for the work they are responsible for, but you may discover ways to make the process more efficient. It certainly goes a long way to show your staff that every task is important.
Have Fun – It’s definitely ok to have fun and show your employees you can joke around, when appropriate. Try not to take things too personally and make sure the humor is never mean-spirited or vulgar. Keeping the mood positive and light makes people feel good about “clocking in”. They know that even though there will be hard work and occasional difficult situations, the atmosphere of the team and support of their co-workers will get them through the day.
It’s just as important to remember that when you don’t follow these guidelines or do the exact opposite, it’s so easy to lose the respect of your team and it can be very difficult to get it back. I’ve certainly had a few “less than stellar” bosses, but all of them further solidified my desire to make sure that if I ever became a manager, I would treat people the way that I wanted to be treated. Make sure to continually assess yourself, follow the advice above, and don’t be afraid to ask for feedback on how you’re doing as a supervisor, as well as what can be done to improve the culture of your team.
“The definition of management is literally ‘control’,
but the definition of true leadership is ‘love’.” Richie Norton
What are your thoughts? Do you have any personal stories you are willing to share? Please feel free to ask questions or share your experiences below.
Jeremy joined Empathia (then NEAS) in 2007 as Manager, Client Care Services, then became an Account Manager/Sales Consultant in 2012. He is also a certified wellness and tobacco cessation coach. Jeremy has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a master’s degree in Organizational Management. Prior to joining Empathia, he spent 14 years in the EAP industry in a variety of management/leadership roles with another behavioral healthcare organization. Jeremy enjoys reading, photography, music, and spending time with his wife and daughters.