In 25+ years in corporate management (and those years are blissfully behind me), I witnessed a lot of behavior that was destructive of employee morale, as well as actions that built up morale. Here are some pointers that will help you motivate your people, whether you are in a large or small business.
1. Acknowledgment. Have you been in a corporate meeting when you have made a point to a group and then the next person chimes in as if you have said nothing? I worked with someone who did this all the time, and it was really demoralizing. In every sales meeting, I’d make a point and then this person would follow up and not even recognize what I said. In effect, the implied point was that my viewpoint was worthless. It’s so easy to NOT do this. When someone makes a point in a meeting, even if you think it’s off the mark, acknowledge it. “I see what you mean, but I was thinking of something else.” Or, “That’s a good point, and I’d like to build on it.” Be seen as a collaborator, not a grand-stander. And not someone who’s oblivious of those around him.
2. Don’t Say Someone’s “Wrong”: I used to do this, and it demoralized and angered other people. If they said something I disagreed with, I’d react emotionally and say, “No! You’re wrong!” That is not a great way to show leadership. If you disagree with what someone says, ask a question or two. See if the person can explain the point until, perhaps, you agree with it, or at least until you understand it and respectfully disagree.
3. When it Comes to Temperament, Think Obama, not McCain. No matter what your political views, as a manager the temperament that resonates with co-workers is one that is inclusive, respectful and acknowledging. When people feel heard, they are more likely to be receptive to your ideas. If they sense anger, disgust and impatience, they will either become defensive or they will retreat (sitting back in the chair, arms folded, silent). The best manager I ever had was my friend Al, who was a newspaper editor and hired me as a reporter. He never raised his voice, he never got angry if I made a mistake. He was fairly stingy with praise. But when he gave it, oh boy, I lived on it for a week. It was worth the wait.
4. Be a Listener More than a Talker. Good managers don’t have to say much. They mostly listen. A great manager uses silence with effect. Getting people to reveal their solutions and strategies without going to the answer (which you may think you have) is an infinitely better management technique than laying down the law. Corporations aren’t a battlefield. Unless you aspire to be a grunt, no one wants to take orders all day long. Realize it is not about you. Be a humbler boss. Try it, I promise it won’t hurt.
Have other emotionally intelligent tips for being a better manager? Let me know.
MSPmentor contributing blogger Mitch York coaches executives who are evolving into entrepreneurs. He is a veteran of high-tech media and an entrepreneur himself. Find York — and his personal blog — at www.e2ecoaching.com. MSPmentor is updated multiple times daily. Don’t miss a single post. Subscribe to our Enewsletter, RSS and Twitter feeds.