Building healthy culture, promoting innovation and bringing people together are key indicators of a successful manager. While working as an organizational consultant with startups who aim to scale their business, I’ve noticed five recurring misconceptions related to managing people that produce opposite results: unhealthy workplaces, unmotivated employees and frustrated managers. Especially for individuals who have started a business and end up hiring employees and becoming managers, here are five simple myths of managing that will help you turn around the way that you supervise your employees.
Myth #1: “The paycheck is the reward. That should be enough.”
Try this instead: A paycheck will not motivate employees to move mountains. Their paycheck is expected when people show up for work. Most employees aren’t concerned with your business bottom line. They do however concern themselves with the people they work with. The relationship they have with their co-workers and management. Daniel, the CEO of a startup in Santa Monica I work with, often sends a delivery order of chicken soup to his sick employees. I’ve told him that this is the type of gesture that expresses louder than words that his care extends past the quality and/or quantity of their work. An employee vested in the relationship will be happier and as a result more productive, more innovative and stay loyal as the company grows and changes. Yes, people need pay check to eat, but an “A” performance generally requires more than just a paycheck.
Myth #2: “They work for me.”
Try this instead: It is your job to make your employees successful. A good manager strives to eliminate obstacles that impede their employees from reaching their goals. Try spending a day figuring out what you can do to make your employee’s life easier. When consulting with a local software company, their programmers mentioned that they would be happier if they could have one “flexible work day” where they could choose to work from home. The manager decided to implement this and soon found that his employees would only take advantage of the day when they truly needed it, and were happier and less concerned with balancing their work and life commitments. What obstacles can you remove to help your team meet their goals and achieve their deliverables? Yes, they may contractually work for you, but a good manager is also a servant of his people.
Myth #3: “I’ve told them this multiple times, they should be doing it already.”
Try this instead: Many employees have a difficult time keeping track of verbal suggestions. Verbal feedback is much more effective if paired with written feedback. The research suggests that therapists were more likely to provide higher quality services to their patients when their supervisor gave feedback orally, then followed up with written confirmation of the feedback. Are you frustrated that your employee isn’t responding to in-person feedback? The key word is accountability — and people feel much more accountable when documentation exists to make them easily accountable.
Try adding a followup email to your verbal suggestions. A quick email can serve as a good reference point if the problem persists, can create a paper trail of known issues to use for more formal feedback, and also allows the employee to go back and see a history of their progress. If the instruction already exists in an employee handbook, job description or email and you still notice compliance issues, feel free to cite the document and date to jog their memory and increase their accountability. Yes, your employees may forget your suggestions, but accountability is essential to good management and it is your job to hold yourself and them accountable.
Myth #4: “My employee’s mistakes cost me money.”
Try this instead: Mistakes employees make are typically unintentional and are an opportunity to improve existing systems. While some large mistakes can be very costly. The small day-to-day mistakes you deal with as a manager are perfect opportunities to understand flaws in your system. This upfront cost of identifying a hole in your system will save you money long-term if instead of blaming your employee, you use it as a way to give them feedback and improve your systems.
While working in a small health care company, we worked on a project to transition the responsibility of scheduling patients from the clinician to an in-house scheduling department. Although there were some instances where short-term utilization of billable hours wasn’t optimal, instead of blaming the scheduler, clinician or unreliable patient, we used these instances as a golden opportunity to revisit the scheduling protocols and identify gaps in the system. Yes, there is an instant cost of an error, but there are also hidden savings if you take the time to learn from this expensive lesson by providing feedback about the error and improving your systems.
Myth #5: “It’s faster for me to do it myself, than to train someone else to do it.”
Try this instead: Training takes time, but the time saved after your employee knows the ropes can give you more time to focus on more complicated tasks. Joe, a physician who decided to open a wellness center quickly found that running a boutique clinic was even more complicated than treating medical conditions. He often found himself filing patient charts, scheduling appointments, booking guest lecturers and creating daily activity schedules. When scaling his business, he resisted spending time training his employees on more important or complicated tasks, fearing that it wouldn’t be done correctly. In Joe’s case, by holding onto more complicated tasks, like finding his ideal guest lecturers to come visit his clinic, instead of integrating those into an employee’s workflow began causing later roadblocks when he was faced with more complicated medical-related demands. Once he realized that training his administrative assistant to research leads and give him options allowed him to focus on improving his clinic’s patient experience and he was able to make sure he was always operating at maximum capacity.
When faced with challenges, a manager should identify how these challenges fit within the context of growing their business and creating a stronger organizational structure. By trying these strategies, each obstacle sheds light on a learning opportunity to hone your managing skills, tighten your company protocols and learn about yourself and your team. Adopting these alternative views of the five common myths of management is a great place to start your journey to becoming a great manager. – Sara Gershfeld