This article was based on episode 134 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Amazon, and Stitcher. Get a free 20-minute coaching session with Mark when you become a member at themodernmanager.com/join.
Regardless of your orientation toward faith and religion, there is an interesting line In Genesis 12:2. God says, “You are blessed and you shall be a blessing.” While this is a modern interpretation, it does prompt an interesting question. What does it mean to be a blessing to your team members? How can we approach being a manager as if it’s our chance to elevate and honor our colleagues?
Mark S. Young, author of the new book Bless Our Workforce, is on a mission to educate leaders and managers about the benefits of investing in your team. As Mark explains, when our staff feels fulfilled, our organizations become more productive, healthier, and yes, more profitable. Mark uncovers here some lessons or “blessings” he learned from the nonprofit world about how to build a team that gives back.
SHAPE THE JOB AROUND THE PERSON
As managers, we usually start with a job description and then try to squeeze our people into those roles. Mark encourages us to flip that thinking: If you have talented, capable people on staff, what would it look like to shape a job based on their interests and needs?
A person’s needs usually fall into two camps: One is the need to feel good in order to do their best work. Needs in this area might be a flexible work schedule, additional support, and signs of appreciation. The second area of need is to do work that feeds their creative drive and motivates them.
At first, this approach might feel like we are centering the needs of our team before the organization’s success. Mark, however, emphasizes how focusing first on our team benefits everyone in the long run. He shares an example of a camp director he knew who used camp funds to build a staff lounge instead of tennis courts. While this decision at first angered the camp’s donors, it raised the staff’s spirits, which resulted in happy campers. As Mark puts it, if we create jobs that help our team feel valued and fulfilled, we will have a better operation which results in greater overall success.
Many managers might worry that if they follow Mark’s suggestions to give people what they want, none of the routine, and often boring but necessary work will get done. Mark insists that when a person’s needs are met at work, they feel like they're part of something greater than themselves, and will happily do the more mundane tasks to help the organization thrive.
GET TO KNOW YOUR PEOPLE
The most important way to learn about your staff is to simply have a conversation. Sit down with teammates individually and get a sense of their needs and interests. Ask about their journey; what brought them to this organization or role? What mentors did they have that inspired them? Inquire about what motivates/demotivates them and how they feel about their work and compensation. So rarely do we have these conversations which can both provide us great insight and understanding while also making our people feel seen and heard. All of the information you gather, regardless of whether you can take immediate action on it, is valuable and should inform future choices.
To be fair, not every manager feels equipped to go into these personal and sometimes awkward conversations. Mark encourages managers to start off small, with what feels most comfortable. Maybe just ask one question to get the conversation started. Alternatively, create a group conversation where everyone shares their journey, which has the added bonus of strengthening the bonds amongst team members. You can can role model by sharing your own story and listening actively. Continue the conversation by asking more questions as time goes on.
INVITE YOUR STAFF INTO BIG PICTURE CONVERSATIONS
So many managers feel like they have to solve big picture problems alone. We wrongly assume that our team members are only knowledgeable about or interested in their particular domain. We miss out on opportunities to ask them for their opinions on issues affecting the full team, department and organization. Look for opportunities to invite your team to give input on goals, challenges, and other big picture topics. By allowing your team members to offer their unique perspectives, you can both solve problems more creatively and promote collaboration.
VIEW YOUR PEOPLE AS YOUR GREATEST RESOURCE
Our team is our greatest resource. During the instability of COVID times, teammates need to feel like they matter more than ever. Feeling like they are part of something greater than themselves will help build strength and resilience, which is essential for morale in a time of crisis. If we take time to listen to our team, include them in important conversations, and craft jobs that work with their needs, we end up with a grateful, excited group of people who will use their unique energy and talents to propel our organizations forward. When we bless our team, everyone is blessed.
KEEP UP WITH MARK
Get the a free 20-minute coaching session with Mark when you become a member of the Modern Manager community at themodernmanager.com/join, along with dozes of other member perks!
This article was based on episode 134 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Amazon, and Stitcher. Never miss a worksheet, episode or article: subscribe to Mamie’s newsletter.