As a manager, it can be easy to point the finger at your employees when their productivity level isn’t as high as your expectations, but have you ever stopped to consider your impact on their productivity?
Whether you realize it or not, your employee’s productivity level is directly connected to your management style and strategies. A strong manager will always take time to stop and objectively reflect on what they’re doing, and not doing, to support their employees.
Below are seven ways you could be stifling employee productivity at your workplace, with tips to get you heading back in the right direction.
1. Downplaying Psychological Safety
Psychological safety is a key ingredient to the workplace, but can often be overlooked. According to Harvard Business Professor Amy Edmondson, a psychologically safe environment is one where people feel they can ask questions, speak freely about concerns, share innovative ideas, and make mistakes. Without it, your team lacks trust in one another.
It’s important to establish a blame-free environment where mistakes are regarded as learning opportunities. Start by showing your team you want to actively listen to their creative ideas. Ask them how they’re feeling and what improvements could be made with the current systems in place.
2. Providing Vague Feedback
Vague feedback really shouldn’t be considered feedback at all - it’s simply just a statement. Telling an employee, “You did a great job,” is a nice compliment, but it doesn’t give them any direction. Identify the behavior you saw specifically and what you liked about it. For example, “I love the way you took time to learn about your client on an individual level by researching local insights and using them to create your Valid Business Reason.”
Provide your feedback as close to “in the moment” as possible, so the behavior is still relevant and fresh in your employee’s mind. A 5-to-1 ratio for feedback is best – 5 positive pieces of feedback for every 1 negative piece of feedback. This will give them confidence, cultivate your relationship with them, and help establish a safe environment for your employee when it is time to provide them with more difficult feedback during a tough situation.
Closely observing or controlling every aspect of your employees’ work can be damaging to the team. When they hear you say, “It will save time if I just do it myself,” they're likely thinking, “My manager doesn’t think I can do it correctly.” Imagine the impact it has on the team if they don’t feel their managers trust them.
Instead of micromanaging, take a pulse of projects and tasks your employees are interested in, and then delegate based on interests and your knowledge of their talents and skills. Delegation will give your employees a sense of ownership, autonomy, and responsibility. It will enhance trust overall and boost morale. As an added bonus, it will take a few things off of your plate and allow you to focus on your higher-priority tasks.
4. Accountability Intimidation
Accountability is often used as a scare tactic, rather than an inspiring motivation. “I need you to have this on my desk by 9:00 a.m. tomorrow” usually has an implied “or else” behind it. Accountability intimidation creates a culture where employees consistently look over their shoulders. Bad habits can develop and blaming others is at the forefront.
Holding everyone, including yourself, accountable is clearly vital to the success of your team. How can we avoid the intimidation factor? Instill accountability on your team by giving people a sense of ownership related to their priorities, their expectations, and their goals. We all feel more powerful and more empowered when we feel we have some control. Ask your team probing questions, such as: How can I support you to reach your goal? Rather than simply making sure they see the solution you see.
Accountability goes beyond owning the responsibility to do something. It means owning the outcome of the commitment. Transforming workplace accountability requires strong consistency over a period of time.
5. Limiting Development Opportunities
Employees crave the opportunity to grow and develop. When you grow an individual, it grows the organization. According to the Growth Institute, employee development can net you anything from 8.6% increases in productivity to a 300% return on investment. There’s no reason to hold back!
When we think of development, we tend to think of training and workshops. Development doesn’t always have to come in the form of training, though. Development also comes from coaching. Conduct a meeting with each employee to understand their individual growth aspirations. Ask them to identify their goals and potential action steps. Then, collaborate to set one or two specific and realistic goals based on this information.
6. Focusing on Weaknesses
Human nature is to gravitate towards weaknesses and try to improve upon them. An area of weakness only has the potential to grow 10%, but an area of talent has the potential to grow up to 10X.
When coaching and developing your people, instead of trying to improve weaknesses, maximize someone’s talent and use it as a work-around for their weakness. Consider using a validated instrument, like the Sales Talent Assessment, to truly identify where talents and weaknesses lie.
7. You're Just "Too Busy"
As a manager, you’re always going to have competing priorities. It can be easy to tell someone, “Let’s talk later.” Instead, it’s important to take a look at your priority list and thoughtfully rearrange your priorities. Your people should always come first.
Maintain an open-door policy and make sure you’re available for your team when they need you. Ask them how they’re doing and let them know you’re there to support them. A manager who’s invested in their people leads to a higher team investment overall.