Since the economic downturn, many leaders have been unable or unwilling to hire additional staff, even as the recovery began to take hold.
Fortunately, hard times can spawn innovation. And it is true that people work harder when they’re afraid of losing their jobs. But how do you actually sustain this productivity gain so it doesn't disappear as soon as the “good times” return?
Some CEOs have developed strategies that can be sustained long after their employees’ fear of losing their jobs has passed. They used the recession to look within their teams and themselves to find ways to increase productivity. According to a Gallup study, an engaged staff can result in an 18% increase in productivity.
Here are some steps these leaders took to motivate themselves and others around them to boost productivity:
Become a take-charge leader by first taking charge of yourself
Ed Tomey, a business consultant in Keene, observes, “Too many CEOs lead by hoping and hinting. They’re waiting—almost always in vain—for their direct reports to just guess what the CEO wants from them. Expectations are not set clearly and all the hopes and hints are wasted. Out of frustration with failed outcomes, it becomes easier for the CEO to “just do it myself.” Slowly, the CEO starts to create the expectation that if a direct report doesn’t do it, the CEO will. They have not taken charge—of their employees, or even of themselves.”
If this message resonates with you, consider reaching out to a personal coach or human resources pro to help you engage more deeply and directly with your employees. They can provide guidance as you develop new skills and push through personal barriers.
Treat your employees differently
One size does not need to fit all. Get to know your team. Discover what is unique about each person and play to their strengths. Are you forcing them into set job descriptions by treating everyone like a brick, or can you build a stone wall with stones that aren't uniform? A leader from one of our CEO peer groups calls this a willingness to "stop asking people to be six feet tall.”
Be clear with your team when you delegate
Be clear about whether you are asking you team members to take initiative and make a decision, or simply to give input for the decision you will make. You don’t need to be consistent in what you ask for—just be clear. In fact, many Native Americans were “command and control” when they were on the hunt, but sat around the circle as equals when back in camp. Either approach can work.
Don't stay inside the four walls
Seek diverse thinking from others outside of your business. Some business leaders engage advisory boards to attract new thinking, and recruit skill sets that complement those of the management team. Others joined a CEO peer group, where a high degree of trust and confidentiality allows them to gain new insights and where a “half a thought” gets completed and can become a new strategy.
Have you tried any of these steps? What was your experience? Do you have other field-tested tools to offer leaders who are looking to engage their employees more deeply? Please comment so we can learn from your experience.
Find out what tools Vested for Growth recommends for business owners and CEOs of growth companies.