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Small Things Matter When Managing a Team

If your job includes managing people, you are in a crucial role — with huge responsibilities.

According to Gallup, "managers are the key to a high-achieving company." You are in the best position to unlock your team's potential and productivity because you are the direct connection between senior management and those who report to you. It is your responsibility to ensure your team stays informed and engaged.

But in its State of the American Manager report, Gallup presents some bad news regarding managerial communication and employee engagement, which researchers say are strongly linked.

Since 2000, the report says, "less than one-third of Americans are engaged in their jobs in any given year." Therefore, "most managers are not creating environments in which employees feel motivated or even comfortable."

Noticed a dip in your team's productivity? Then engagement and morale are likely down, too.

Take Responsibility for the Slump: Yours and Your Team's

As manager, you are the key to your team's success and responsible for your own success as well. Ask these questions to assess your motivation, engagement and productivity:

  • Given the link between managerial communication and employee engagement, do you need to adjust your approach to keeping your team informed?
    • See the tips below on how to communicate routinely and consistently.
  • Would more training help?
    • Take advantage of all the leadership training your company offers.
  • Do you need more education to gain skills to succeed as a leader?

It does not take major adjustments to solve a morale problem. Just start doing the things that research has identified as the most important.

Communicate Consistently, Routinely and Randomly

In its State of the American Manager report, Gallup highlights "reliable and meaningful communication" as among a manager's most important responsibilities. To share and receive information with and from team members, consider these formats:

  • Daily standup. Gather your employees at the same time every day and have them stand in a circle and tell what they accomplished yesterday, goals for today, and any roadblocks they face. Keep it under 15 minutes.
  • Scheduled email. Send a short summary of the coming week's goals or a review of last week's accomplishments. Deliver it promptly at the same time each week.
  • Routine one-on-ones. Give everyone 15-30 minutes a week for an individual coaching session.
  • Catch-up calls. Randomly call team members who may need a little extra encouragement or just to say hello.

When you talk with team members — or anyone else — pay attention. Be an active listener. Make eye contact. Show that you hear what is being said by offering an occasional "uh-huh," "yeah" or "OK." When the time is right, repeat back what you heard and understand. This lets your team member know you are listening, which conveys respect.

Recognize and Reward Like a Coach

Along with managers' responsibility to provide regular, consistent communication and continual feedback, recognizing and rewarding employees has also been identified as an important managerial task.

These responsibilities sound like the job description for a coach, which seems to be the direction people management is going, driven by the influx of millennials in the workplace.

As a coach would, you can praise employees during your daily standups, in a scheduled email, at an unscheduled or called meeting, or at special events.

So if your team is in a slump, getting everyone engaged and productive is your top priority. But you can make a big difference with little changes. Take a coach's approach as you communicate, listen, recognize and reward.

Learn more about St. Thomas University's online MBA program.


Gallup: Who We Are

Interact: The Impact of Managers on Workplace Engagement and Productivity

Gallup: State of the American Manager Report

Inc.: 1 Thing Great Leaders Do

Total Wellness: Easy Ways to Boost Employee Morale

Harvard Business Review: What Great Managers Do to Engage Employees

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