“First, I stopped canceling meetings 10 minutes before the start time because I felt too “busy.” I previously had thought my employees would understand because I am the CEO and had a lot on my plate. Now, instead of hiding behind that excuse, they are my priority.”Excerpt from The Fast Forward Mindset* by David Schnurman
You may remember an episode of SKTV where we had the honor of chatting with above-quoted author David Schnurman. When reading his book, this concept of commitment as a boss really stuck out to me. He also talks a little bit about how your commitments in life should come with the stipulation, “What if my loved one’s life depended on it?” He goes on to say that if a loved one or your child was going to be affected by whether you kept your commitments, you would absolutely keep them. While this seems extreme, it reminds us not to say yes to things unless we mean it, and then to keep those promises.
As a manager of a team, keeping your commitments to the people you supervise, among other things, is vital to keeping your best people engaged. Even your star talent, the people you trust when you’re out of office for a week, need you there most of the time. At the end of the day, your best, most loyal people have lives outside of their jobs. Motivation and engagement are not things you hire for and then stop worrying about. They need to be nurtured for as long as you want everyone on the team to be as dedicated as you are.
Start with Hiring; End with Management
A while back, I wrote a blog post called “Being a Cool Boss Starts With Hiring.” I talked about how a manager who hires people according to the core values of the organization will be able to give flexibility, knowing the whole team won’t take advantage. But notice how I said that it STARTS with hiring. It certainly doesn’t end there! Even the greatest hire in the world will stop being so great if they start to feel unheard and undervalued. In fact, according to HBR, 58% of people say they trust a stranger more than their own boss. So, being a cool boss continues with the relationship you keep.
In Everybody Matters by Bob Chapman, we learn that 88% of people leave work every day feeling that their organization doesn’t care about them. So, how can managers keep a good relationship going? How can they keep their best people from feeling like their hard work is unimportant?
You have to be there. Maybe not all the time. Maybe not when you have big conferences and out-of- state meetings. But you have to be there. If your people didn’t need a manager, then they would have your job instead. No matter how self-sufficient somebody is at their work, there are times when they need someone to help them out of a tough dilemma, or answer a quick question. They need to know, as well, that you see the work they do, and appreciate it. Nothing is more frustrating than when you feel like you can’t do your job because all your tasks involve the input of someone you can’t get a hold of.
Do not cancel meetings.
Remember our friend David Schnurman? He learned this lesson the hard way, as he outlines in his book. If you consistently cancel on your team, they will start to feel like the least important thing in your life. If you don’t respect the time they blocked out to work with you, on YOUR company or project, then why should they keep working so hard?
In Dance Floor Theory, we talk about how, with more highly engaged people, your job as a leader is to remove the roadblocks so they can keep making progress. Is your team running into spots of friction that make their job frustrating? Is there a way, as their manager, to smooth things out so they can focus on excelling? If you want somebody to be good at problem-solving, you have to give them a good example to follow.
In summary, consider this quote:
“If you are lucky enough to be someone’s employer, then you have a moral obligation to make sure people do look forward to coming to work in the morning.”– John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods
I love this quote because it reminds us that we can talk about employee engagement and company culture until we are blue in the face. But at the end of the day, humans need motivation, happiness, and appreciation to keep working hard. This is especially true when the business doesn’t belong to them. And as a manager, that’s YOUR job.