The best managers always seem to know how to get the best out of people and see the hidden potential in everyone. But great managers don’t have Jedi mind-control powers. They’re just people savvy. If you’re looking to boost employee productivity, you might want to start by taking a look at your people management skills. Check out these six things that you can do to improve your management skills and help your employees unlock their full potential:
1. Know your leadership strengths. While talents are innate, strengths are acquired. Your current strengths have likely been developed throughout your childhood and young adult life. Perhaps you played sports growing up and developed excellent teamwork skills. Or maybe you successfully balanced many part-time jobs while in high school and college, building great time management skills. Whatever your strengths may be, it is important to hone in on them and utilize them when you’re managing others.
Make a list of your top five strengths and how you use them every day. Then ask a trusted friend or peer to list your top five strengths. Compare the two lists. Are you being honest with yourself? Maybe one of your listed strengths still needs some work. You might even be really good at something you hadn’t thought of as a strength before. Take these under-utilized strengths and start using them in your management career. To get the most out of your talent, you have to bring your best self to the table.
2. Build on your weaknesses. Identifying your strengths may seem a lot easier than pinpointing your weaknesses, but finding these areas for improvement is crucial to your success as a manager. Just like you developed your current strengths through experience and education as a child or young adult, you can continue to develop new strengths as an adult. Maybe you’re great at customer service, but the way you give feedback needs a little work. It could be you have always wanted to be better at public speaking to motivate and inspire your employees. You can develop any of these skills to be a strength.
Think of all the areas you would like to improve on and ways that you could use these skills to be a better manager. Brainstorm on ways you could develop these weaknesses into strengths. Reading self-development books, attending workshops and conferences, listening to podcasts and audiobooks, and taking online courses are all effective methods to develop specific skill sets. Set SMART (specific, measureable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound) goals for each skill, then get going on your list. Working on your own career goals will improve your management skills and inspire your employees to set goals too.
3. Communicate effectively. We all communicate every day, yet many of us still struggle with the skill of tailoring our message. What works well with one person may be totally ineffective (or even offensive) to another. Employees who feel like they are in the know are much more likely to meet deadlines and prioritize effectively.
Here are some tips on communicating effectively to keep your team working like a well-oiled machine:
- Listen, then talk. This is especially vital if the situation is emotional or if there are ideas being shared by a team. It’s key to stop and be present in the conversation. Don’t let devices interrupt your conversation, and don’t think about what you want to say next.
- Speak briefly. Long-winded explanations can make your point fuzzy and unclear. Keep it simple, and don’t stray too far off-topic.
- Give clear direction. Make your goals easy to understand, and let them know your top priorities. By being more transparent, your employees will be able to make the right choices to get the most important things done first.
- Ask questions. After an employee shares a concern, ask follow-up questions and get a clear picture of what is going on. Not only does this show you care, but it helps you to solve the problem faster. After you’ve given direction, make sure you give employees adequate time to ask you questions too.
4. Provide frequent feedback. Have you ever done something the same way over and over again for months just to have someone tell you that you’ve actually been doing it wrong the whole time? By this time, it’s become second nature and it is a much bigger chore to correct it and do it the new, right way. Wouldn’t it have been easier if someone had corrected you the first time you did it wrong?
This is exactly why it is important to provide frequent feedback. Your employees will feel uncomfortable and awkward that you didn’t mention it sooner if you wait until months down the road. Plus, the little things we do every day (right or wrong) quickly become habits; we start doing them with very little conscious thought. Once a habit is formed, it can be really tough to break. If your employees are doing something incorrectly repeatedly and you fail to give them feedback to correct it, it just gets more and more difficult to fix the problem if you wait.
When you give feedback regularly it helps to create open and honest discussions with your employees. You learn what they’re struggling with right away, and you can change course to help them if you need to. Doing these little check-ins can also save you from feeling blindsided by an employee’s sudden change in behavior/attitude or worse—unexpected and poorly-executed turnover.
5. Focus on development. Your employees’ careers are not static. Just like their current roles, their career goals and aspirations may change slightly over time. Make their five and 10-year plans part of your performance discussions. Even if their career plans are drastically different than their current positions, there might be something they can do now that would be mutually beneficial for the facility and for their careers. For example, if a facility manager has goals of working at a marketing agency, suggest that they take a more active role in managing marketing campaigns and designing marketing materials for the facility. Just showing your employee that you care about their future goals can make a huge difference in their level of engagement.
Have resources ready for these conversations. Know your company’s policies, consider cross-training, or help them find mentorships and professional certifications that are available. Many companies also have partnerships with major universities and can offer discounts, scholarships, or other financial assistance to help employees pay for secondary education. Simply show a genuine interest in their career development and that you care. The mutual respect pays off big time in reducing employee turnover and burnout.
6. Advocate for your employees. If you want your employees to advocate for your business, it needs to work both ways. Employees care more about their company when they feel like their company cares about them. Investing in employees starts at the top, so owners play a huge role.
One of the most important ways to advocate for employees is by advocating for great benefits. Let them know that you’re on their side when it comes to things like health care, bereavement time, sick leave, retirement benefits, and childcare. You can also help establish this culture at your facility by creating perks for your employees. Perks don’t always have to be big. In the storEDGE office, we have a snack bar and mini-fridge that is always well stocked with nutritious snacks and beverages. This small investment is just one of the things I love about my company, and it lets me know that my company cares about my wellness. You can do the same for your employees by creating a snack bar or coffee station in your facility office or break room area. By doing the right thing and advocating for their physical and financial health and wellness, your employees are much more likely to go the extra mile and do the right thing in return.
These six tips should help you maximize employee potential and be a better manager too. The most important takeaway: Your attitude sets the stage for your employees. Build your employees up by being a positive boss who motivates and inspires people.
Jana Basler is a marketing content writer living in Kansas City. A graduate of South Dakota State University with a degree in psychology and business, she enjoys bringing technology, web marketing, and industry news and tips to self-storage owners and managers by writing for storEDGE.