Four Steps to Successful Employee Relationships

By J.J. Smith Jul 1, 2008
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CHICAGO—Thefour steps to successful employee relationships cover self-evaluation techniques that can help a manager improve, or even help junior-level staffers decide if they want to accept a managerial position, a former psychology professor who is now an HR consultant told attendees at The SHRM 60th Annual Conference & Exposition held here.

In his June 23 session, “Psych 101 for Managers—Four Steps to Successful Employee Relationships,” Mike Winstanley, president of winTrain Consulting in Farmington Hills, Mich., had the audience conduct free-association exercises in which they wrote all the words and phrases they associate with the words “leader” and “boss.”

Once that was complete, Winstanley outlined steps for self-evaluation by managers and employees who want a better understanding of their bosses.

Step 1: Look in the mirror

Looking in the mirror is critical and will begin to define the path to being a better leader, he said. Questions to ask are:

  • What does “it” look like? The term leadership is thrown around a lot, so what does leadership look like? And what does it mean to be a leader? Employees need to make a list of the characteristics embodied by leaders, and then do the same for a “boss.”
  • How do I measure up? Take the list you produced and self-evaluate, asking yourself, “How do I measure up on a scale of 1 to 10?”
  • Do they like me? Management myth: “I don’t need to be liked, just respected.” In companies, the word “leader” implies that there are followers. Who is going to follow someone they do not like? Leaders can increase their likability by being friendly, by changing their body language and by smiling more.
  • Whom do I trust? Is it important as a manager or leader to trust? Because your people do all the work, it is important to trust your staff.
  • What are my assumptions? There are managers who not only distrust the staff, but also assume they dislike work and prefer to be directed and micromanaged. However, other managers hold the opposite assumptions, that work is a natural activity and the staff prefers to use its creativity.
  • How’s my attitude? Do you think your attitude is infectious? And does a manager’s attitude reflect the company? Attitude is all about choice, so try to choose a good attitude.
  • What is my value? What is my worth to the organization? What do I do and how does it affect the company’s bottom line?
  • What are my expectations? People quit a company for a lot of reasons, including working conditions, wages, benefits and bad relationships with the boss. In many cases the boss is a “seagull manager” who flies in unexpectedly, has not had any meaningful communications with the staffer, picks apart the job being done and flies out again. The opposite occurs when a manager communicates and is clear about what is expected of the employee.
  • The buck stops where? As a leader, a supervisor is responsible for every choice the staff makes. However, responsibility for an employee’s actions is shared between boss and employee; the boss’ responsibility might vary from 5 percent to 95 percent.
  • What is my true intent? If money is a boss’s driving force, employees are going to pick up on it. For example, a retail salesperson has two sales styles—high intent and low-intent. Low intent focuses on making a sale; high intent wants to help the customer solve a problem. Managers who are motivated with high intent will do whatever it takes to help the staff succeed.
  • Am I crazy or what? Does everyone really want to be a leader of people? The answer is no.

Step 2: Define your role

Do you truly believe you can become a great leader? All of these looks in the mirror are meaningless unless you think you can change. If you have doubts, analyze why. Do you blame your company or your boss for holding you back? Is it inside you? Fear of success? Fear of failure? Answer those questions honestly.

Step 3: Understand differences

People are different and are comfortable or uncomfortable with others depending on how well they know the person. Bosses who are leaders will try to make a connection with an employee.

Step 4: Change

Do not try to change everything at once, but work on one thing at a time.

Successful leaders make self-analysis part of their daily schedule.

J.J. Smith is an online editor/manager for SHRM.
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