Getting the Best from Your Staff – a quick start guide


It’s an age old story; you’re good at making widgets so you get promoted which means now you have to manage staff. Or, you start a business selling gizmos, which does so well you have to employ and manage staff. Dealing with staff is not the same as making widgets or selling gizmos, yet your success at making or selling relies on your team and how well you manage them.

Great staff work for great managers; so what is it that great managers do to get the best from their staff?

Hire Top Staff

Putting the effort into finding great people is always worth the time investment. Ensure you know what attitudes, skills, experience and qualifications they must have; this is not a wish list. Be really clear about this before you start.  By all means think about what would be desirable but be rigorous in what is absolutely essential. Many skills, experience and qualifications can be acquired reasonably easily. So hire for attitude and aptitude and be flexible about those desirable qualities.

Then Get Out Of The Way

There is a difference between supporting a new employee to do well and micro-managing their every move. You hired them so you could stop doing their work, not so you could carry on. Give them well defined boundaries and then let them get on with it.

Let Staff Solve Their Own Problems

If an employee comes to you with a problem, help them solve it. Don’t take the problem away unless it really is your responsibility to do so. Let staff make mistakes and help them out by coaching, not directing.

Have Quality Conversations

Regular dialogue about what employees need in order to perform well is essential for them and for you. Support them; this support needs to be bespoke for each person. But also ensure that they feel some level of challenge; work that is too easy is boring. The degree of support and challenge needs to be balanced and also to match the individual. You’ll get that balance right by giving them your proper attention.

Give Effective Feedback

This should be objective and delivered in a timely manner. It should also be about the positive as well as the negative. Let staff know what they need to do, what they need to stop and what they need to carry on doing. Also, avoiding difficult conversations won’t make a problem go away or get better. It really won’t.

Show Respect

Your employees are fully functioning human beings. They’ve nearly always had to deal with terrible events at some point in their lives, probably negotiated the buying and selling of their homes, managed to organise their households to be legal, healthy and productive and have absorbing interests outside of work. They can bring all of that skill and experience with them or they can leave it at home. The difference is how well they are respected at work for being unique people rather than just a cost.

Make Work Fun

Research shows that having fun is essential to being productive. What culture do you have in your team? Is it conducive to people enjoying their work? If your team had a personality what would it be? Would it be yours and do you have fun?

Attend To High Flyers – Or They’ll Fly Away.

Most managers spend more time with their poor performers than their top performers. Though this is understandable, it is not effective. Be disciplined in making time for your rising stars. Find out what they need, what their aspirations are, what ideas for improvement they have. And when top performers leave, let them leave singing your praises.


Giving Effective Feedback – one of life’s skills

The art of giving effective feedback is a skill that we are not born with and many never develop. Yet giving good feedback is quite a simple tool that can have enormous benefits. Here are 5 pointers to help you on your way.

1 – Why are you giving feedback? What do you want to happen as a result?

The art of giving effective feedback is a skill that we are not born with and many never develop. Yet giving good feedback is quite a simple tool that can have enormous benefits. Here are 5 pointers to help you on your way. One of the most effective questions that we can ask ourselves in any situation is “what is it that I am trying to achieve?” yet we often don’t think about this at all. When going into a meeting, phoning up a client or supplier or booking some time with a colleague, being clear about what we want to happen is essential if we are to make the most of it. This is also true for giving feedback, whether it is to an employee, your friend or your bank manager. Why are you giving this person the feedback? There are many good reasons for doing so – to change their unhelpful behaviour, help them to grow, encourage them to carry on – but you need to be clear about this before you start. If you can’t come up with a good reason, then maybe there isn’t one.

Just getting things off your chest is not a good reason for giving feedback and is potentially damaging.

2 – People always behave rationally. Always.

Their behaviour makes sense to them at that moment. Just because it doesn,t make sense to you doesn’t change this. You may never know for sure why a person has behaved the way they did. In fact, even if they explain it to you, you still wont necessarily get it. All we can ever know is what we actually see and hear.

So what is the answer? Objectivity – describing only what you can see or hear, not the stuff under the waterline (thoughts, feelings and beliefs) and keeping it factual. To do this well you have to take notice.

Your employee, Bob, is often late for work, which is unhelpful for a variety of reasons. You could tell him that he is slack. However, he may a) not understand what you mean, after all when he gets in he always works hard or b) feel angry that you have been so rude (which you have, by the way.)

You might try harder and say that he is often late. Bob may counter with “when am I? I was in early yesterday; you just didn’t see me until later.” This may or may not be true and if you have no facts to hand it is difficult to get back to the feedback. However, if you say “you were late three times last week and 4 times the week before” then you are on firm ground and Bob has to respond.

3 – Positive feedback is just as important.

If you tell people factually what it is that they have done well then they can reproduce it. Saying to a colleague “you’re great to work with” might be nice and encouraging but it is hard to do “great”. The chances are the person doesn’t know which bit of their working style you like. However, a statement such as “when thre is a problem that you have identified, I like the way that you think of solutions rather than just dumping it on me2 is much more powerful and will encourage them to carry on.

4 – Explain why it is an issue?

As well as making a statement about what has happened, explain why it matters and when appropriate tell them how you feel. If you explain to Bob that being late causes a problem with scheduling the jobs in the morning and that you feel frustrated having to spend the first half hour of each day trying to find him he is much more likely to do something about it. On the other hand, if it doesn’t actually matter then don’t say anything. If Bob wears red shoes that annoy you, but they don’t stop him doing his job, that is something you’ll just have to accept. As stated, getting it off your chest is not a good reason for giving feedback.

5 – What is it that you want?

The purpose of feedback is to give people the chance to improve. You do this by letting them know what you want them to stop and what you want them to do (or to carry on doing.) Be clear about it. Explain what behaviour you do want. What is it that you want from Bob? to be on time most days – at least 4 out of 5 to be in on time every day without fail to let you know when he gets in to make up the lost time somehow As for his annoying red shoes? Some things you just have to put up with.