Management Unleashed – Keeping, motivating, empowering your team
2019 Series Management Unleashed
Keeping, motivating, empowering your team
This article was first published in Business Times on 2 February 2019
By John Bittleson
You have hired as diligently as you know how. Here’s how to make a success of your choice. That work begins before your new recruit comes onboard. As soon as the employee has accepted the job, an email from the Very Top Person (VTP) in – or on the board of – the organisation is sent to the new colleague. This will enthuse about his or her decision to join, it will say that the business places a lot of confidence in him or her as an important member of the team. The email will praise the new recruit’s immediate boss. It will end by saying that the VTP hopes to meet his or her new colleague soon.
Make this a rule for all new recruits and you will start a culture of mutual appreciation.
Welcoming new colleagues
Preparations for onboarding the successful candidate now start in earnest. An established, trusted employee in the same area of work will be assigned as the ‘Supporter’ for the new recruit. This Supporter will be responsible for making the first vital day welcoming, informative, helpful, interesting. A team lunch with opportunities for the newcomer to ask questions of others in their work area without being monitored or watched over is useful. This may sound rather elaborate. It is worth every moment of time of those involved. First impressions matter. First day is critical.
Make sure the new recruit is accommodated as well as is suitable to the firm and its culture. Nothing elaborate, just good, clean and modestly comfortable quarters with the essentials of communication, engagement and workability. The basics of good motivation are not spoiling or overblowing the importance of the new employee. They are ensuring that the job description they have been given – or, better still, have written themselves – is filled out with decision-making activity, demonstrating their responsibility.
When you want to honour someone show you depend on them, not that you worship them.
Arranging regular chats with employees
After as little as a week the newcomer’s boss will spend an hour with him or her. The boss will not provide any sort of appraisal – just encouragement and questions. Here’s a list of the sort of questions the boss should ask. It is not definitive nor in a ‘right’ order. Add your own questions to it. Don’t worry if you don’t complete all the questions. This is not a quiz but the basis of a discussion. What is it about your job that has surprised you – pleasantly and not so pleasantly?  Are there any aspects of the job you didn’t expect to encounter? Please be specific.  What, if anything, do you think you need further training or educating in to help you do this job better? You will be asked this question again later so only tell me the most important things you think you are lacking at present.  Are there any tools or people you think you will need to do this job that we didn’t anticipate when we interviewed you? If they involve expenditure, how will you justify that expense, which will be additional to the costs of employing you?  What strikes you most about the business you have joined? Be absolutely frank. You can always change your answer when we meet for the next chat. I am interested in first impressions.  If you were thinking of bringing us business or persuading someone you know to do so what would you say are our good points? And what are our less good points?  If we asked you today to arrange the induction of a new colleague how would it differ from what we have done with you so far?  What would you like to change in your own interests from what we have given you and done by way of introducing you to the business?  What do you think our product or service will look like in five years’ time?
This will be a very reassuring and informative chat for both parties. Receiving fewer thought-out answers is better than a lot of hasty ‘yes’ / ‘no’ responses. It doesn’t end with one chat after a week. This discussion will be repeated about eight weeks after the new colleague has started work and then every two months of the year. It is a replacement for the old annual appraisal system where people were asked daft questions like ‘How good is your business acumen?’
Building the team
Your new employee will probably be working in a team. Building that team is important and the occasional awayday on a subject that is of concern to the organisation is a good idea. It is also important to remember that the whole organisation, however big it is, is a team. With Chinese New Year around the corner, a mixed party from all sides of the business and some good yusheng tossing works well in Asia.
For functional reasons operating teams inevitably work together but that should never stop wider assemblies of people from different departments learning about each other’s views. I occasionally took sales teams away for a weekend with accountants, running study sessions on both subjects. They were most successful when I put sales people on the accounting study and accountants to learn about sales. Seeing each other’s problems made them work better to the benefit of us all.
I also made certain that spouses came along for these study weekends. The other half, male or female, is important.
Businesses, companies, organisations are not only about making money or fulfilling their own objectives. They are equally about the planet, their local society and the people working in them, long-term and short-term. Most people work hard and have a decent family home, one that involves both partners and any offspring. I know that a company that behaves like a good family has greater loyalty, more commitment, longer-staying employees and a happier work environment.
That is why the partners in relationships are so important to us.
Encourage, enliven, energise employees
So now we come to the question of empowering your employees. Personally, I don’t like the word empowering. Who am I to ‘empower’ someone else? We were all empowered when we were born. If anyone does the empowering in this world it is mothers. However, it is true that a good boss will Encourage, Enliven and Energise those working with him or her. How will s/he do that?
The answer is very simple. Treat your fellow workers as you would treat your nearest and dearest. Behave with respect towards them. Expect that they do the same towards you. Empowerment is nothing more or less than recognition of someone’s worth.
Be a decent human being and you will create other decent human beings around you.
As simple as that.