Ever Talk About Non-Work Stuff With Your Employees? Do It. They Will Love You.
According to Gallup, 50 percent of people who leave a job do so because they want to “get away from their manager." Ouch.
But when you dig deeper and read into the survey responses, what people are really saying is that they want a better line of communication with their managers. If they don’t get that, they leave.
Communicating with your team openly, honestly and frequently as a manager is critical to retaining your best people and keeping them motivated when the going gets tough. Easy to say, but harder to do, right? Most definitely, but I’ve found it only takes a few things to transform yourself from a good manager into a great leader.
Don’t believe me? Try a few of these over the next month or so:
1. Meet to talk about non-work stuff.
Once a month, take each person on your team out for a coffee, lunch or walk and talk about anything but work. Talk about their family, partner, hobbies, etc. and just ask questions. This is the key strategy used by managers at Ev William’s (Twitter founder) Medium to build an amazing culture, as detailed here.
2. Ask how you can help.
Each week, find a way to ask everyone on your team how you can help them. Servant leadership -- where you realize your job is to serve your team, not the other way around -- will open up the lines of communication and get them really talking about their challenges.
3. Tell more stories.
People learn more effectively when a lesson is told to them as part of a story. So instead of saying, “You should do X," use a story in the form of, “When I had that problem, I did X."
4. Be (really, really, really) honest.
Cut the boss talk and just be yourself. When things aren’t going well, tell the truth. If you have a plan to fix the issue, walk each person on your team through your plan. If you don’t, tell them you’re still figuring it out. Not knowing where they stand and what’s going to happen is one of the worst feelings your employees can experience.
Related: Are You a Manager or a Leader?
5. Unblock bottlenecks.
Is there a person, process or team that constantly slows your team down? Take some time and remove that bottleneck. Is the bottleneck a person? Talk to them and explain how they’re slowing your team down. Is the bottleneck another team? Talk to that team’s manager. A process? Change it! Don’t accept the status quo, especially when it comes to company processes.
Geniunely care about the well-being and happiness of each person on your team. Being an authentic leader means doing more than just regular one-on-ones and strategy meetings. If you put in the effort, it will be noticed -- and talked about positively by your team.
I learned everything above as I built my previous company, Bigcommerce, from two people to almost 500 employees in under five years, raising $125 million along the way. Starting from a cell-phone shop in Sydney, we were able to hire away executives from Google, PayPal, Twitter and Amazon as we built the company and created a culture that took on a (positive) life of its own.
After finding my own culture recipe, I decided to build a new company, PeopleSpark, to productize my learnings and help managers do exactly what I mentioned above -- communicate more openly, honestly and frequently with each person on their team.
Whether you’re a CEO, director, manager or team lead, at the end of the day remember this -- treat your team as people, and give everyone a safe way to share what’s on their minds. Then act on that feedback, and show them you genuinely care about them.
That’s it. You don’t need to read a management book or take a course. The simple things are the most effective, especially when it comes to being a great leader. At least that’s what I’ve learned over the years.
Mitchell Harper co-founded Bigcommerce in 2009 and started PeopleSpark in 2015. He is a self-taught entrepreneur with a passion for finding large business-to-business markets that are underserved by existing technology providers and then bringing to market solutions to help those businesses be more successful. He regularly blogs about productivity, leadership and company culture on his personal blog.