3 areas that will have a major impact on the efficiency and productivity of your workplace (part 1)
I’ve read several articles on tips for creating a productive workplace. Most of the advice given in these articles relates to creating harmonious environment for employees so that they can thrive in doing their best work. There are three areas these articles suggest to focus on. They are:
1. Leading and managing effectively;
2. Encouraging fruitful relationships among employees; and
3. Providing the parameters for work within which your employees can succeed.
It’s advisable that in relation to all these areas you draft appropriate policies and other relevant documents and store them in a good document management system.
This article will consider how you can lead and manage effectively and the following two articles in this series will consider the other areas noted above.
5 ways to lead and manage effectively
There’s a saying that no one leaves a bad job, they leave bad managers. Poor management within an organization is probably the number one reason for there being toxic workplace environments. The tone of an organization is set from the top!1. Lead by example
One of the most important things you can do as a manager, if not the most important, is work out how you would like your employees to behave and work and lead by example! For example if you are looking to foster an atmosphere where employees take pride in their work you should take pride in your own work and show your staff that you are doing so! One way you could do this is by keeping them informed of milestones towards which you are working and celebrating with them when those milestones are achieved.
It’s a good idea to document your methodology so that you think through the purpose behind your behaviors and have a clear idea in your own mind about how you aspire to behave and interact and the reasons behind this ideal. Should you document this you can use this when on-boarding other members of your executive team and refine it as you go in light of developments or incidents that occur within your organization.
2. Respect, listening and empathy all go a long way
Other integral attributes of a good manager all relate to treating your employees with respect and in the same manner as you yourself would like to be treated. They include being a good listener, being empathetic when your employees express how they are feeling e.g. about different aspects of their work or changes in the workplace that affect them such as physical moves or new policy or technology implementations. Treating your employees in this way will ensure they feel valued as people and not as replaceable objects. Employees who feel more valued will be more willing to go the extra mile to do exceptional work. How you intend to ensure you interact with your employees in this way should be included in writing in your leadership methodology.
3. Reward and discipline appropriately
You can also ensure your employees feel valued by rewarding those who do good work and disciplining, or otherwise appropriately addressing, underperformance. This will also ensure workers are satisfied that their work environment is one that is fair. Details of how you you intend to reward and discipline employees should not only be included in your leadership methodology but in other workplace documents such as an employee handbook or even included in employee contracts and other onboarding documentation. Having this clearly set out sets expectations for how employees are expected to behave.
4. Become aware of your biases
A lot has been written and discussed lately about “unconscious bias”. An example of acting through unconscious bias would be expressing praise for one person’s work and not another’s when you perceive their work to be better when in fact it is not. Another employee may have completed a project to the same standard or even higher but because you identify more with the workstyle of another you perceive wrongfully that it is better. In order to ensure you don’t act on any of your unconsciously held biases and in so doing create an unfair working environment, you need to become aware of what are your own biases.
Several training courses and books are available to assist you in this process. Here is a good article in Forbes by Ellen Huet about how the issue of unconscious bias is being addressed in workplaces - Rise of the Bias Busters: How Unconscious Bias Became Silicon Valley's Newest Target. Also, a best seller on this topic is Daniel Kahneman’s book "Thinking Fast and Slow". Letting your employees know you have undergone unconscious bias training and that your workplace has a policy to work towards eliminating unconscious bias in management decisions demonstrates your respect for them. This is because you are educating and training yourself so that you don’t unfairly and unconsciously discriminate against them. For this reason it is a good idea to include that you have a commitment to undertaking this training in a written document such as your leadership methodology (if you decide to make this available to your employees) or a document that outlines the missions and values of your company, which we will consider now.*
5. Outline your company's mission and values
Another way you, as a leader of your organization, can set the tone is by clearly outlining the mission and values of the company. Getting everyone “on the same page” will go a long way to eliminating confusion about what’s truly important. This should also promote pride amongst your workers. This is because they will have more visibility into how they are working towards achieving “the bigger picture” and give them a greater sense of purpose. Also deciding upon the values on which to base your organization will help you to crystallize your idea about the types of people you want to recruit as well as attracting the right talent. Those people with the same values will be attracted to and will want to work for your organization. The mission and values should be stored in written form, drafted within a good document management system, and accessible to all people within your organization at any time.
So there you have some ideas for how you can foster a productive workforce by improving your leadership and management skills - leading by example, making the company’s mission and values clear, listening, empathizing and being fair. Being a good leader and manager is a lot about being a good human being. Investing in your own self improvement so you are more aware of who you are and how you react to things goes a long way to enabling yourself to be one. Making sure you delineate your ideals and strategy for interacting with your employees and your company’s mission and values in written documents is advisable. Make sure when you do, you use a good document management system for easy accessibility and editing.
What are your thoughts on this? Have you been in a position of leadership and seen a change in workplace productivity due to a change in the way you have managed your organization / team? Have you participated unconscious bias training? Did you find it useful? Did it impact how you managed and led your organization or team?
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*As well as developing your awareness of your unconscious biases and learning to resist inappropriately acting upon them, being a good listener as well as being an empathetic leader are also skills you can develop and improve upon. Diane Schilling writing for Forbes Magazine proposes 10 steps for improving your listening which include simple tips such as picturing what the speaker is saying, trying to feel what the speaker is saying, maintaining eye contact and asking clarifying questions. If your mind is very active and you have difficulty focusing it may be useful to also practice meditation techniques such as mindfulness so you are more in command of your thoughts. Roman Krznaric, Ph.D a founding faculty member of the School of Life in London proposes some tips for cultivating your empathy which include developing a curiosity about strangers, entering into the experience of another person’s life and exercising your imagination.