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Managers often get tripped up on being nice and accommodating to their employees, even ignoring poor performance just to maintain good relationships. But, in the end, the relationships often sour and the organization suffers.
Every manager’s primary focus should be on getting results from his or her people. To do that, employees on your team should be focused either directly or indirectly on one or more of four key fundamentals: growing revenue, getting new customers, keeping the customers you already have and eliminating costs. If the tasks your employees perform are not related to these fundamentals, then your workers need to change what they’re doing.
Why these four fundamentals and not others? Managers often ask me this question, followed by a passionate argument to include tasks such as sales, employee development or product innovation. My response: Each of these examples falls under one or more of the four fundamentals. For instance, selling is about growing revenue and getting new customers. Employee training and development can be aimed at any of the fundamentals. And certainly product innovation and development concerns growing revenue, getting new customers and keeping existing customers. Developing new products can even be a way of eliminating old costs.
It is encouraging that many managers may be doing important tasks that contribute directly to the four fundamentals without even knowing it. However, managers need to understand these fundamentals clearly to know when employees are performing tasks that do not contribute to them.
The core belief that good results make happy employees—and not the other way around—helped me, as president and chief executive officer, transform Verizon Wireless from a regional carrier into a multibillion-dollar company.
When results are achieved, pride builds. When pride builds, so does confidence and employees’ desire to do better. Good managers understand this. On the flip side, managers who are more concerned with being liked than getting results tend to excuse or condone underperformance. In the short term, employees appreciate the kindness and flexibility. In the long term, employees get frustrated and bored with their own lack of drive and performance. Employees get comfortable in the status quo and wallow in their lack of performance. Morale suffers, commiseration runs rampant, people resign. Worse, they check out and stay on the job.
Managers who focus on getting results rather than winning a popularity contest are more likely to have a loyal and productive team over the long term. It’s like the teacher who has a reputation for being mean. He or she is a favorite teacher among students who want to achieve; they like being challenged and are proud of surviving the class and meeting the teacher’s high expectations.
Worry less about being nice and understanding and more about whether your team is achieving high performance. Plan every day around tasks that contribute to one or more of the four fundamentals, and you will have loyal and productive employees who just happen to be happy.
Denny Strigl is former president and CEO of Verizon Wireless and co-author of Managers, Can You Hear Me Now? Hard Hitting Lessons on How to Get Real Results (McGraw-Hill, 2011).
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