April 7, 2014

5 Ways To Have More Productive Employees

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Tags: Culture

Straight talk. No filter.

It’s what always followed when Mom and Dad used your full name in a stern voice. It’s how shock jock radio hosts and TV’s most polarizing pundits have “cut through noise” to ruffle feathers and boost ratings for years.

And it’s how you need to communicate with your team.

Evaluating job performance and providing feedback are two of a manager’s most difficult tasks, which, of course, is why they’re also among the most important. Giving praise can be fun and easy (who doesn’t like a high-five and a “gold-star?”), but when it comes to giving criticism, many leaders would rather chew on glass.

There’s a belief that offering criticism and addressing issues will be poorly received by employees, potentially making a bad situation even worse. In reality though, 57 percent of those polled in a recent study by the Harvard Business Review said they prefer corrective feedback over praise and recognition.

I think five out of five dentists would also recommend you do that over chewing glass (or maybe four out of five — there’s always one in those studies that refuses mainstream thinking).

It’s also becoming increasingly important for managers to have these conversations, positive or negative, considering Gallup’s latest poll on the “State of the American Workplace” shows that 52 percent of employees consider themselves “disengaged” from their workplaces. Another 18 percent consider themselves to be “actively disengaged.” Gallup estimates that this costs the U.S. between $450-550 billion in lost productivity each year. (Tweet This)

How about that for some straight talk?

People want to know how they can achieve more and advance their careers. And they want to hear it from their leaders.

I make it my goal to be up-front and honest with all of our employees and encourage our other managers to do the same. If you’ve struggled with these situations in the past, here are five ways to help make them more productive than eating glass:

5 Ways To Have More Productive Employees

1. Don’t waste their time

When an employee is underperforming, they usually know it. Trying to act like you’re unaware of their struggles or attempting to lighten the significance of their shortcomings only wastes time and productivity. We’re all adults with a job to do. Leave the sugar-coating for their birthday treat of choice (which you should be providing) and start talking about how we can do things better.

2. Make your reasons clear

While many employees may want to hear constructive criticism, that doesn’t mean it’s always easy. Be respectful and be sure to explain that the purpose of your feedback is to not just to boost team performance, but also help them develop individually and achieve their personal career goals.

3. Don’t ask them to solve problems themselves

Starting the conversation with questions like “How do you think you’ve been doing lately?” or “Why do you keep making these mistakes?” puts too much of the focus and pressure on the employee. If they could solve their problems themselves, there would be no need for this conversation. Managers should identify the areas that need to be improved, then work with employees to find solutions and execute them.

4. Set relationship boundaries

Giving criticism is hard enough, but it’s made more difficult by personal relationships. The line between being a friend and being a boss is a tough one for many managers to walk, but boundaries have to be set for both parties – and the company – to be successful. Strong friendships can force hesitation in addressing troubling trends, which can establish a troubling trend of its own. Be human and be a boss who cares about the people you hire, but also establish the limits of those personal relationships.

5. Reinforce your belief in them

It’s the old “compliment sandwich.” Or at least the open-face version of it. After addressing the issues and working to find a solution, be sure to remind employees that your involvement doesn’t end there. Let them know you’re going to be in their corner, and you’re still confident in their abilities.

Have some tips or some “real talk” of your own? We’d love to hear them in the comments section below (though keep that criticism constructive, wink wink).

If you’ve been avoiding a conversation on a tough topic, now’s the time to have it. Don’t wait until it’s too late to solve a problem or get a valued employee back on track. It won’t be fun and it probably won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.

That’s straight talk. No filter.

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