06 Aug Five Ways to Take Care of Your Employees
Americans are hurried. Most of the time, we are always in pursuit of the next big thing.
We live incredibly busy lives, and we do so while connected to our cell phones, emails, and social media. In the workplace, we obsess over delivering quality service, eliminating deficits and ensuring returns for our investors.
In the hustle and bustle of our lives, it’s easy to forget the importance of taking care of ourselves, as well as the people around us. In fact, vacation is often a revolutionary act, and studies show that many Americans feel guilt when they avail themselves of their well-deserved vacation time.
For the people who ditch the guilt and take time away, many do so while still connected to work through email.
If you’re a leader, your role is to help fulfill your company’s mission and to support and care for the people around you.
Simon Sinek points out in his book Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t, “And when a leader embraces their responsibility to care for people instead of caring for numbers, then people will follow, solve problems and see to it that that leader’s vision comes to life the right way, a stable way and not the expedient way.”
Before you ask team members to invest in your vision, you must invest in them. Here’s how:
1. Model self-care.
It’s pointless to admonish your team members to take care of themselves if you aren’t modeling self-care. People take cues from their leader. If they see the boss routinely burning the midnight oil – e.g., sending emails early in the morning or well past working hours – they believe they must replicate that behavior. Failing to measure up or maintain the pace of an overzealous boss can lead employees to feelings of disappointment and discouragement. In addition to modeling work-life coherence, model coping strategies, such as coherent breathing, to navigate stressful situations.
2. Respect their time away.
When they are on vacation, taking maternity/paternity leave, or have simply left the office at the end of the workday respect that time that they have away to recharge and rejuvenate. Unless you’re a medical professional facing a life or death situation with a patient, few things are as urgent as they appear. When setting deadlines, think about each team member’s load and whether the deadlines are realistic. In fact, rather than dictating deadlines, ask team members when they believe they can complete a task. Empower them to set their own deadlines. This boosts their sense of control and helps them account for the various projects in the pipeline. If, as a manager, you must set the deadline, try to do it as cooperatively as possible, and do it while being mindful of the other responsibilities on the employee’s plate. This reinforces your support of them and their time once they’ve left the office, whether it’s just for the evening or a longer vacation.
3. Be effusive with praise.
Regardless of how your team members perform, they are human beings who deserve respect and recognition. Good managers are always on the lookout, seeking to catch their teams doing something right. They understand that lavishing (authentic) praise on their teams boosts confidence and well-being. When people feel appreciated, they return the favor by being more engaged and more productive. There’s something about praise that inspires people to work harder. Without the burden of feeling disliked or unappreciated, team members are free to focus on what truly matters: the mission and purpose of your company.
4. Direct what they need to do, but give them autonomy to do it.
Most likely, you’ve hired smart, hard-working professionals who know their craft. As the leader, your job is to provide direction to the team – i.e. provide the guard rails and identify the goals and projects that need to be accomplished and by when. However, it’s critical to leave room for creativity in terms of the “how” the employee should get things done. Sure, there are times for strict adherences to processes (like filing a tax form) but most work can accommodate autonomy. In response to an employee asking her manager if she could revamp a report, the manager had always said “we’ve always done it this way, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” However, she summoned up the courage to ask her new manager if she could make changes to the report. Her new manager gave her the parameters (who it needed to go to, what it needed to include, and when it needed to be delivered) and said “have at it.” Sure enough, the employee was able to streamline the report, make it more visually impactful, increase the usefulness of it and reduce the time it took to produce.
5. Get to know them.
In a socially connected world, it can be tempting to underappreciate the role of relationships, but building quality, authentic relationships is critical to taking care of your employees. Everyone has a need to be seen, heard and accepted, and that intrinsic need doesn’t evaporate in the workplace. To truly care for your team, you must know the team members. You should know what motivates them, what disappoints them and what they need to be successful. Simply addressing a colleague by their name enhances the quality of the relationship. Grab your coffee and spend a few minutes in their office or cube asking about their evening. Take a walk around the block for your next 1:1 – you’ll be surprised what you learn about your team member. To know employees, you must build quality relationships with them.
At the Virgin Group, their CEO, Richard Branson has a very simple philosophy “If you take care of your employees, your employees will take care of your customers, and your customers will take care of your shareholders.” Reach out and share how you take care of your employees. I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Shaara Roman is founder and managing partner of the Silverene Group, a boutique firm that consults with organizations to help them create amazing workplaces. The company supports leaders as they build engaging cultures. Follow them @SilvereneGroup.