Being a Trustworthy Employer

Before you slide down the dangerous path of monster management here are 3 questions you can ask yourself…


They say it’s lonely at the top.  Most leaders like to think that they are the ones that get everything right, are approachable, fair, the one everyone respects and looks up to.  Indeed, just as people leave a job because of a terrible boss, the reverse is equally true. However as the world is not all unicorns and rainbows, and it is difficult to take a good, honest look at ourselves, it is easy to become the one thing most of us never set out to be – a grade A @r$ehole of a boss!

Before you slide down the dangerous path of monster management though, here are 3 top questions you can ask yourself to check if your management style needs an overhaul:

Question 1: Do you provide feedback?

Communication, communication, communication. If you don’t provide feedback or clear ways to improve, then you are creating a hot bed of misunderstanding, where all of the really bad stuff starts to flourish.  If you find that your team are not performing as well as they should, ask yourself if you have actually taken time out to:

1) Speak to them to identify what the major issues are and the consequences of those problems.

2) Provide honest and constructive feedback on what you have observed of situations and their individual performance. It gets overlooked but even star players need input.

What to do:

This is the perfect opportunity to open up a genuine dialogue with your team.  Consider your tone when addressing an issue – don’t be too harsh, coach them, give them something to work with and provide positive actionable routes to improvement. As tempting as it may be when things are going wrong, don’t just criticise.

Question 2: Are you actually able to manage?

It is more than just a title; being a manager requires actual management, of both internal (teams / team members) and external (clients) expectations. It’s a fine line between empowerment and not managing your people at all. This hasn’t gone unnoticed either. In a Forbes article that cited a survey by Harvard Business Review, it was found that 46% of upper-level managers from around the world said they fell short in terms of management.

What to do:

If you’re at a loss at where to start, then it’s worth remembering that the best leaders often lead by example. For instance, if your team is struggling with a client relationship, show them the way, help them with strategies to improve. Offer external training as well as internal sessions but don’t be afraid to take them along to one of your meetings. Don’t confuse this for a cocksure ‘watch and learn from an expert’ approach though. If you fail to make it constructive and coaching-led, the monster management path is only a few steps away.

Question 3: Do you micromanage?

This is probably the most difficult question on the list to answer. It is, however, a crucial one. This style of management is often cited as the major reason for leaving, by many of the people we have interviewed over the years. You’ll need to be objective to figure out if you’ve been guilty of this. Examples of micromanaging include being picky about minute details – there’s paying attention to detail and then there’s just being pedantic and nit-picky. If this is accompanied by thoughts that “When I need something done right, I need to do it myself,” then chances are, you’re a micro-manager. Having such an attitude sends the following messages to your team:

1) You don’t trust them

2) You think they are incompetent

What to do:

As an employee, there is nothing more demoralising than feeling the boss doesn’t trust you to do the job – this is exactly what micro-managing does. To counter this, try a more collaborative approach. Sit with your team or team member, and guide them. Ask for ideas and opinions so they feel that what they say or do, matters to the business.  Make the good people stick to the business like superglue.

Given the lengths even big players like Google or Facebook go to to publicise their amazing benefits, environments and work culture, you know that attracting and retaining talent is critical to any business’ success. According to a Globoforce report, the top three HR challenges faced by organisations today are turnover, employee engagement and succession planning. The costs of having to re-hire and re-train are often detrimental to meaningful progress. So besides ensuring that your management style leans more towards collaboration and open communication, versus a dictatorship, what else can organisations do?

Don’t wait for exit interviews. Do stay interviews instead.

By the time an employee wants to leave, it is usually too late to do anything about it. Rather than be surprised by the inevitable, try identifying issues and nipping them in the bud first. A good way to do this is by having stay interviews or as we do, regular structured quarterly performance and career reviews. These are best conducted in a pressure-free environment; make it clear that there no “consequences” for honest or negative feedback. The entire point of the exercise is to identify problem areas and make sure you address them if those you are keen to retain signal that they are unhappy and thinking of leaving. Some good questions to ask are –

  • What would make you happier here?
  • What do you enjoy about your job, your colleagues and the company?
  • The last time you went home having had a great day and feeling that you loved your job, what had happened at work to give you that high?
  • How do you feel most Sunday evenings and Monday mornings about work and why?
  • What ideas do you have to improve the business?

Embrace your inner weirdo.

We’re not without our little quirks. It’s what makes us individuals. But before you ditch your office garb for your superhero onesie, remember that the aim of this is to encourage authenticity.  Many of our most successful clients have leaders who are authentic.

Why is authenticity so important you may ask? It’s the first step to allowing your staff to be themselves, and when this happens a culture of innovation, motivation and enterprise is often the result.

Pay them, and pay them well.

One of the easiest ways to keep staff happy and recognise or reward great performance, is through fair pay. That’s not to say that everyone has to go down the controversial path that Dan Price at Gravity did, but recognising merit and rewarding results and contribution really is about putting your money where your management mouth is.

Naturally, change doesn’t occur overnight, especially if you find yourself in the midst of resistance from your team. However be honest and constructively self-critical; you might be surprised how even the smallest of changes can lead to long term improvements. Happier, motivated and therefore more successful teams, make for winning businesses. And that’s in everyone’s interests, right?

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