power your advice

The Value of Putting People First

Taking the time to learn about what makes your staff tick is time well spent. I have always had greater success when I really get to know the folks I work with. Now this doesn’t mean diving into their personal life to the point of it being uncomfortable, but find out what is important to them.

Find out if they value trips to the coast, taco Tuesdays and what they want out of their job. What do they like and dislike about the work. Demonstrating interest in your team as human beings and not some piece of machinery will show you care about them and that they are valued.

I worked with a wonderful team several years back and the part I loved the most was the size. It was a small group - there were just four of us total. Two of the employees were young parents and what I found after getting to know them was they wanted flexibility with their schedules most of all. It made perfect sense. They had young kids which meant lots of doctor appointments, recitals and school conferences.

They were both wonderful at their jobs but the office culture at the time looked down on flexible schedules. I knew how important it was to them both so I went to the mat with Human Resources and battled it out. Eventually I was able to get flexible schedules for them both.

The new structure worked better than expected and they were extremely happy to have flexibility in their schedules. They never missed a deadline, communication was in fact better than it was before and our little team was praised for accomplishing so much with so few people.

Show them that you care and they will move mountains for the team.

Make yourself available and approachable

We’re all busy with meetings, deadlines and life in general. It is easy to half-heartedly participate in conversations but don’t do it! Make sure you are approachable and really listen to what your team is saying.

I meet with my team once a week with a structured agenda which is a good way to keep things moving north and address any roadblocks your team may be encountering. However, meeting once a week in a group setting does not necessarily allow employees to speak freely and really express what’s on their mind. Be sure your door is open and encourage them to stop by anytime. Giving members of your team a voice, individually and as a collective group, will boost morale, creativity and business growth.

I once had a skillful technical writer on my team who very much liked her job but I could tell she wanted something more. She would provide her thoughts, suggestions and concerns but the undercurrent was something else. Had I not been an active listener, asking probing questions, I would have missed it.

She was interested in trying her skills with another business unit but was a little unsure on how to broach the subject with me. Her worry was that she would be letting the team down.

I got to work immediately on the transfer, and back filled her open position. She spent ten months with the other group and eventually rejoined our team. It was a valuable experience for her and our team benefited as she brought back a fresh perspective and a deeper understanding of the business.

Take the time to listen to your employees’ thoughts, suggestions, and comments. Dig deep, ask questions and read between the lines. Prove that you’re willing to trust their input and also act upon it. The team will be stronger and it will pay dividends in the end.

It’s simple - people first

We all want to meet our numbers, push the business forward and move up. Just remember to put people first - embrace what your heart tells you two or three seconds before your business sense kicks in and trust your instinct.

When you put people first, when you put your team first, you unleash the full power of trust and creativity, and you build highly beneficial working relationships.