Well, this is what staff want:
1. You to show an interest in their career. That’s right, their career. They want to know that in return for their exceptional efforts you will help them get to where they want to get to. After all, they’re helping you to get to where you want to get to. Fair deal? I think so.
2. You are honest with them and they trust you. Honesty isn’t just about not telling lies. It’s about being fully open and in a timely manner. This is not just about the bigger business situation. It’s also about dealing with their occasional poor performance immediately and effectively – not letting it fester until it’s getting too late to do anything about it. Dishonesty includes truth avoidance and telling partial truths.
3.You have a vision of where you’re going and how to get there and this is communicated well. It’s about organisational purpose and direction. It’s also about having a plan for teach staff member that shows that as a part of the organisation’s journey to the sunlit uplands there is a plan to develop and improve each of them as well. There must be a win-win. “We’re paying you to do the job” is not management or leadership.
4. You provide worthwhile work. Your staff need meaning in their jobs. Not all can have glamorous roles, but you must help them to see how their part plays a role in the journey to the sunlit uplands.
5. You recognise them. People need recognition. When they deserve it they need to receive it. Praise generates enthusiasm. Chastisement generates a sense of avoidance which leads to a sense of what the rules are which leads to a compliance mindset. An enthusiastic team versus a compliant team? Choose one.
In a nutshell your staff want to feel cared for, trusted, purposeful, worthwhile and recognised. That shouldn’t be too difficult should it? They are human beings after all – not resource units.
Here’s what they don’t ask for –
Money – often a demotivator in fact. Because they (and you) cannot win with money. There is always someone who got more and that sends a message that they are not as valuable as the person with more. It invites comparison with others and that’s a game few can win.
Soft stuff – flexi-time, a gym, free canteen, marble foyer – never mentioned. I remember many years ago the CEO of ICI saying that “we’re not in the crèche business”. And this was in ICI, an organisation that elevated paternalism to a fetish. Well, he was right. We weren’t in the crèche business.
The soft stuff is just fluff. It’s nice, of course, but does it make someone feel better about a manager who doesn’t care about their career, doesn’t trust them, has no sense of direction, provides worthless work and offers no praise? Nope.
Remember what management actually is. It’s the ability to get things done through other people. These other people have said what they want. Spending time, real time, on delivering the five points above is a critical management task and is time well spent. It’s a high-payoff activity. Much better to do these simple things than spend time on useless nonsense; the ultimate useless nonsense of course being the need to deal with poor performance that has directly resulted from your inattention to the needs of your people.
Apart from the occasional bad apple, you get the staff you deserve.