In order to create a work environment where your employees thrive and deliver high-quality work, you need to prioritize their needs over yours, make them feel that you are there for them, and make an effort to see situations from their perspectives: that is putting aside your viewpoint for a moment and listening to and trying to understand theirs.
In other words, you should believe in servant leadership: a leadership style in which your main goal is to serve. Above all, that means carefully observing your team(s), paying attention to what's being said but also to what's not being said - as silence speaks volumes - and empathizing with your employees. If an employee keeps telling you they find it difficult to prioritize their tasks and this has a rather negative effect on their work, you can't simply dismiss it and move on with more pressing issues you need to deal with: sit together and discuss what can and should be done and how you can be of help to them.
You'll serve your employees better when you listen to them, to their suggestions and concerns. You need to make them feel their opinions matter by not only encouraging them to bring up new ideas, suggest better ways of doing a particular set of tasks, and share problems they are struggling with but also by actually implementing their ideas and suggestions.
It's no secret that employees want to be heard. When you create a culture where you (and the rest of the management team) are the sole decision makers and you don't consider feedback from your employees important, this gradually distances them and makes them less motivated to take initiative and make any improvements in their work. So next time you get frustrated by the lack of initiative, innovation, and engagement in your team(s), take a moment and think if you've created a workspace where you seek their input and recognize their ideas in the first place.
"It doesn't make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do."
Perhaps you're convinced that by controlling every tiny detail in a project or in a team, you're on top of things, but in reality this causes more problems than it actually solves. For starters, micromanaging damages employees' trust because you are implying you don't trust the team to do their job. Besides, it annoys employees and what's even worse, it makes them become too dependent on you, so you end up being called for every minor decision that needs to be made.
If you strive to be a good employer, once you have assigned a particular task to a team or an employee, provided them with what they need to accomplish it and set realistic goals together, you should let them do the job - without interfering and slowing the operation down - and focus on your own tasks instead. Don't give your employees the feeling you are always watching their work and picking every mistake, and don't become the go-to person for every minor decision that needs to be made: let them be.
Of course, giving your employees enough freedom to try things out and make mistakes might seem daunting. Perhaps you believe it's your job to ensure that everything runs without a hitch, or you simply can't stay silent when an employee makes a mistake. Yet this micromanagement type of leadership incites a sense of fear: who would want to take a chance on doing something creative when a failure would lead to disappointment and reproach from the boss?
Instead of pointing fingers, you should give your employees the freedom to make mistakes without dreading being penalized every time, but also to learn from them and grow. This, however, doesn't mean you should create a work environment of carelessness and unaccountability: you can address first offenses positively and encourage your employees to come forward when they blunder, but you should also let them know that a continuously repeated mistake can have consequences. For example, in a private meeting with the employee(s) you can discuss how this can be prevented in the future, what they can do better, and how you can help them.
First of all, you should set crystal clear expectations for each employee or team as they eliminate confusion and help them overcome barriers when problems arise. The key is to first clarify to yourself what your expectations are (it helps if you write them down and articulate them to yourself), communicate them to your employee(s) in a simple language, focusing on details and examples, explain to your employee(s) why what they're doing matters and how their role fits in the organization of the company, and finally document them: the expectations you've discussed and set should be so clear that they can be easily written on paper or noted digitally.
In addition, you need to organize regular staff meetings where the different teams brainstorm ideas, discuss successes and challenges, and get feedback. This way, employees who otherwise wouldn't have an opportunity to meet, gather and pick each other's brains. Besides, that's a way to announce important company updates, for example a new client, a new project, or a new road map: done on a regular basis, such meetings reinforce the company's vision and ensure everyone is on the same page.
Appreciating your employees doesn't take much effort but it can move mountains. Don't reserve your appreciation for special occasions but make it a standard practice to thank employees. Appreciation can be as simple as saying "Thank you" for a job well done, for finishing a project quickly, or for coming to a meeting prepared. You can also acknowledge the positive impact that an employee's work has brought and highlight the actions that you'd like to see the employee do more often: "I appreciate the effort you've put into making that presentation: it was so visual, and you really got our new strategy across all teams. I'll be sure to send you a follow-up, so we can prepare for the next meeting. "
Appreciation improves productivity. When employees know their hard work is appreciated and recognized, this motivates them to maintain and improve their performance. Even a minor thing like adding "Thank you" for a job well done at the end of an email can make a huge difference to an employee's sense of worth and level of motivation. Be the employer who reviews your employees' work, doesn't spare feedback, and acknowledges hard work.
Your company's most valuable assets are the people you hire. Investing in your employees is among the best uses of your company's time, money, and energy as it increases employee retention and engagement and creates employee loyalty. You can, for instance, pay for certifications, create team building activities, and provide in-house training.
By sending your employees to additional training or courses specifically related to your business you are actually growing your own company's expertise and knowledge. When your employees are up to date on the latest strategies in their field and bring back fresh ideas, you stay ahead of your competition and provide the best service to your customers. What's more, when your employees see that you consider their development important and are willing to invest in them, they'll feel valued and this makes them more loyal, thus more engaged and motivated.
Fairness means you treat everyone appropriately and individually. For example, if employee A works extremely hard at getting all of their tasks accomplished and comes up with various new ideas along the way while employee B works just to meet the quota, should you treat them the same? If you think yes, you should prepare to face employee A' growing irritation and anger for the lack of recognition for all of their hard work. In fact, it's highly likely employee A will soon stop working as hard. As a result, you'll have lost your hard-working and proactive employee's motivation and commitment.
If you are in doubt whether you are treating your employees fairly, it's best to ask them for feedback during progress meetings. Employees who feel fairly treated in their workplace trust their employer and are much more committed to their work.
You can't expect your employees to spend every waking moment of the day working. While some people are more productive in the evenings and tend to burn the midnight oil or prefer to get some work done during the weekend, others finish work at the end of the working day, and that's okay. Instead of focusing on the number of hours employees work, focus on the completion of a task. Some days employees may need to put in long hours to complete a task, while other days they don't need to do a full eight-hour day.
By providing a flexible work schedule, you give your employees the freedom to choose their own working hours around their families and hobbies, meaning they can walk the dog or go for a run and not be glued to the screen for eight hours. Does someone need to work from home? That's okay as long as they do what they are supposed to. Does someone need to leave early? That's no problem as long as they finish their tasks on time. Trust your employees and give them the space they need to be productive.