There are many challenges in managing employees – some of those challenges include cross-cultural differences, globalization, age differences, gender issues, skill gaps among older generations vs younger generations, retirements, communication (social media), etc.. Sometimes employees can improve productivity with these issues and sometimes they can “hide behind them” and actually hurt communication and engagement. In addition, employees can be cynical and apathetic and it is the manager’s important task to address these issues.

Engaging and mobilizing employees is as important as ever. It is the heart and soul of an organization. To manage effectively, there are some options available to managers who want to become more effective in their position.

The first step is to know your employees. Then develop powerful messages that resonate with individual employees and/or with a group of employees. Then the employees know where they fit in the organization and what roles they can fulfill to have a meaningful and gratifying work experience.


The Right to Lead

As part of this formula for success, managers need to earn the right to lead. This right to lead is based more on informal factors vs the actual title of the position. It is important for managers to have the respect of their employees and how to get this respect can lead to some challenging conversations.

Managers need to set clear expectations and tell their employees how they are doing and what needs to happen to be a successful employee. One of the biggest complaints employees have is trying to determine what the manager wants and how to meet the manager’s “vague” expectations.

Managers need to “tell stories” that engage, inspire and teach. These stories can revolve around success, and failures, that the manager can share either personally or from associates. The stories can relate what was done, how it worked, how it failed and what could have been done differently.


Customize Expectations

Another important aspect is for managers to customize their leadership to meet the individual needs of the employee. When a manager is asked how they lead their employees, this proves to be ineffective. Managers need to start by listing their individual employees and talk about individual aspirations, motivations, communication style. Given the employees’ performance, attitude and style, the manager needs to ask – how can I lead, communicate and inspire the employee to a level of productive performance. It is important for managers to “customize” their leadership to each individual. It is not easy to do, in fact, very difficult, but very critical to earning the right to lead.

The next factor is determining what type of recognition and acknowledgment is appropriate for each employee. This will depend upon each individual employee, e.g., some like public recognition and some

despise public recognition. Some like awards and trophies, other see this as “cheesy”. Some like cash, others like time off or other forms of recognition.


Developing Employees

It is important to think about the future and developing employees to meet their goals and the goals of the organization. The manager should develop, with the employee, a professional growth plan and coordinate that plan with the needs of the organization. The employee can then decide how and what is needed to fulfill their professional aspirations and how that dovetails with organizational needs.

Finally, managers need to regularly get advice on how to get better. A useful tool in this regard is a periodic assessment, like a 360 degree from employees and co-managers as well as the manager’s bosses. It is important that managers get honest and useful advice on how to get better. That is why such tools as the 360-degree assessment must be utilized with confidentiality and be treated with respect. If it is determined that employees are reluctant to give this advice, that is a powerful message to the manager and the manager needs to reevaluate the reason for this reluctance.

Part of this process might include examining some of the behavioral limitations that impact the manager’s effectiveness. This can be assessed by talking to five or six confidants of the manager who are willing to observe and comment on the manager’s behavioral limitations and sharing those results with the manager.


Manager Effectiveness

Most managers will say they are too busy to get to know their employees, how to motivate them, how to acknowledge them, how to develop them for the future. This is a huge mistake and the manager ends up in a “bunker” mentality where the most important thing in their mind is just to “get it done”. The best managers are the ones that build teams, build loyalty and are really committed to engaging and mobilizing their employees. Effective managers are constantly thinking about the employees’ success, their career options and how the employees can contribute to the success of the organization.

By, Jim Brimeyer – Talk to Jim

City Manager – 22 years, Owner/Manager of Executive Search firm – 22 years, City Council – 8 years, Regional Planning Agency – 4 years and Certified Executive Coach