How well do you get along with your people? Do you take them for granted...or recognize the unique contribution of each one to your department? Do you inspire them...or scare them? Do they feel like valued members of a team...or more like hired hands?
Yours answers to the following questions should provide you with a profile of your "people quotient."
- Do your people know what's expected of them at all times?
- Have you ever recommended one of your people for advancement or transfer, even though it meant losing an exceptional man or woman in your own department?
- Name the weakest member of your team. What have you done lately to help him or her improve?
- Honestly—have you ever played favorites?
- Is your criticism generally constructive?
- When giving complicated instructions, do you take pains to give them in some sort of logical sequence in the interest of clarity?
- Do your people really feel they can admit they don't understand what you want them to do without incurring your wrath or sarcasm?
- When subordinates are getting something off their chests, do you truly listen to them?
- After hearing out a gripe that sounds valid, do you try to offer genuine redress? That is, do you tell the complainer what you will do to remedy the situation—and when and how?
- If the complaint is invalid, do you take the time and trouble to explain calmly why?
- Do you try to introduce some healthy competition among your people—not the kind that leads to bitterness, but the kind that keeps them on their toes?
- Can you say "No" to an employee without alienating him?
- Do you set a good example for your people—by putting in a full day's work, pitching in on a big job when it is not strictly in your area, by assuming the responsibility for your decisions and your mistakes?
- Are you courteous to your people?
- Do you show respect for your employees' knowledge and, on occasion, defer to their expertise, even when you don't agree with them?
- Do you give your people reasonable deadlines in which to get their work done?
- Do you try to put each other "in business for himself"—by assigning specific responsibilities for specific results?
- Do you take the time to explain the why behind assignments?
- Do you broaden your people's responsibilities as much as their performance merits?
- Have you delegated some of your responsibilities downward, thus freeing yourself for more important work while encouraging growth among your subordinates?
Help Your People—With Objectives
Too often, appraisal and counseling sessions are conducted under a tacit understanding between appraiser and "appraisee" that it's a formality best gotten over with as quickly as possible. As a result, few such sessions yield any positive results.
Yet, conferences between manager and employee represent golden opportunities for improving relations...and performance.
You can, for example make a performance evaluation count toward employee development by making the setting of objectives a part of every appraisal interview. Try to establish two kinds of objectives: Improvement goals that will help the employee become more productive in his current job, and personal development goals that will help him achieve the private growth to which he aspires. Some hints on setting such goals:
Be specific and realistic. Don't let an employee set a goal too high for his current abilities. The goal should be one that he can meet—if he tries—and should be specific enough so that he will recognize its achievement when that happens.
Question each goal for its value. Meeting a goal must contribute to an employee's progress in some measurable way. Before setting an objective, therefore, both manager and employee should be able to point out why the objective is worthwhile.
Set the right number of goals and their priorities. Making three or four commitments is an ambitious program for the average person. List these in order of their importance so that the employee will understand what is most essential for him to accomplish.
Establish deadlines and make them stick. The date on which the achievement of a goal falls due should also be the occasion of a follow-up interview. That's the time for congratulations if the goal has been met . . . or for an assessment of progress if it hasn't.
One Way to Win Employee Cooperation
Say, "Do this!" to a group of employees and a certain number will unquestioningly do what you want. A smaller number will think, "Sounds crazy, but if that's what you want, I'll do it." A still smaller number will think, "It's a dumb order and I won't do it." Sometimes an employee is reluctant to cooperate because he remains unconvinced of the desirability, necessity, or value of the goal you have set for him. Either you have not explained why he ought to do as you say or you have explained it poorly.
The remedy? Take whatever time may be necessary to explain the thinking behind your instructions. If you suspect the existence of mental reservations in an employee, sincerely invite him to question you. So simple an observation as, "You don't seem convinced. What's troubling you?" may be enough to extract whatever objection is on the employee's mind.
Once you get it out of him, there are two possibilities: Either you will persuade him that the goal is worth working for, in which case you will gain his cooperation, or he will persuade you that it is not worth pursuing in which case you will be saved from making a mistake. Either way, you win.
Tips on Handling Orientation
At one time or another, every manager is asked to handle the orientation of a new employee. Next time such duty falls to you, you can sidestep the danger of overlooking important details by dividing your presentation into three steps:
The big picture. This presents the company's objectives, plans, and expectations. It should portray the corporate sense of values, the public relations image as seen by outsiders, and the internal image of the organization.
It should provide a perceptive presentation of the company's current and potential product lines, the nature of the competition in the industry, the progress in R&D (if applicable), the company's profit position and what is needed to improve it.
It should also focus on shifting objectives, anticipated changes, and related matters. In summary, it should give the employee a feel for how top management views the company's future.
The operational picture. This concerns the setting in which the new employee will work, have access to information, statistical data, and other resources, make decisions, sell ideas, consult with others, meet his or her responsibilities and contribute to the team effort.
The question of coordination and inter-office relations should be covered. The employee's areas of responsibility should be spelled out, along with standards of performance, work plans and their completion, and how progress is reviewed.
This is also the time to cover delegation—its extent and to whom the employee will be responsible.
The personal picture. Basically, this involves a frank and helpful discussion of how the employee can grow on the job, avoid dead-ending, and measure up to the demands of the position.
Here you should dwell on what the employee can do to make an effective transition from his former job to the new one, ways to bolster self-confidence, pointers on how to use time effectively so that priorities and deadlines can be met.
A good presentation should try to show how the new employee can best measure up to the standards expected of him and also derive some enjoyment out of the new position. He should be cautioned that, while he may have overcome certain blind spots in his former job, he may develop new ones now. Suggest ways to counteract the new hazards. In addition, pay attention to how he can find time to think—about the job, about improving relationships and about innovations in his department. In particular, let him know where he can get more counsel and guidance if and when they are needed.