This article was based on episode 159 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 the ‘How To Assess Employee Emotional Wellness Guide’ for free when you become a member at themodernmanager.com/join.
If you’re following this blog, you care about building a strong team. You want employees who feel valued and empowered and can’t stop talking about how much they love their jobs. Steph Richter, Director of Operations, Culture Coach & Life Coach In-Training at The Perk is that kind of person. Steph cherishes her relationship with her manager and her job. As part of my research for an upcoming book, I interviewed Steph about her boss, Leah. She shared with me some of the unconventional ways Leah approaches her role as manager that can inspire all of us to elevate our management practices.
LEARN ABOUT YOUR EMPLOYEE, NOT ONLY THEIR TO-DO LIST
It’s no secret that having consistent, weekly times with your employees to touch base one-on-one will enhance productivity and communication. Here’s what Leah does differently: the one-on-one time doesn’t only need to be about the employee going through a laundry list of what they’ve accomplished and what they need to do. Instead, it's a time for the boss to get to know her employee. What are they excited about in their life, today and for the future? What do they want to grow in? How can she as their manager help? Setting a weekly time to really get to know your employee helps them feel deeply valued as a person instead of a productivity machine. This creates a deep well of trust and respect, and may even give you ideas for how to collaborate better in the future.
ESTABLISH COMMUNICATION NORMS FROM DAY ONE
Despite being a team of only two, Leah prioritized establishing clear communication norms for Slack, email, texting and phone calls. This helped Steph feel confident because the expectations were clear. This also helped them both maintain time away from work by agreeing on times they were not expected to be available.
CELEBRATE THE SMALL THINGS
It’s encouraging to celebrate together at work when your organization succeeds, but all too often the wins are about financial successes or acquiring new clients. This can make employees feel like they only matter because they bring in money. Steph’s boss, however, makes a point of celebrating the “small wins”, such as sending materials to a client for review, which acknowledges the effort put in to get to that moment. To go even further, Leah noticed Steph loved running, and purchased her a running shirt for her upcoming marathon. As Steph put it, the more we know our people, the more we can celebrate them for who they are instead of just what they’ve done for the company.
PAY FOR YOUR EMPLOYEE TO GROW
Steph’s boss pays for professional development opportunities to grow her skill sets, requesting Steph commit to working for the company for a year after or else refund the money. Because Leah regularly helps Steph grow as a person, she feels such gratitude for Leah and her job that staying is almost a given. While asking for an employment commitment or requiring repayment can be complicated, the message is clear: when we demonstrate that we’re invested in growing our people, they’ll feel more loyal and invested in us.
TELL YOUR PEOPLE THEY ARE AMAZING EVERY DAY
Employees need to feel appreciated. When Steph told me that her boss tells her she’s amazing every day, I was skeptical. Every day? Isn’t that a bit much? Steph insists that it always feels authentic because her boss is specific and intentional with all of her words of encouragement, rather than making a vague compliment that lacks meaning. When we are mindful and grateful for all the things our employees do for us, there’s always an opportunity to specifically thank and uplift them for their contributions.
IF YOUR EMPLOYEE DOESN’T UNDERSTAND, IT’S YOUR RESPONSIBILITY
Sometimes when we feel confused about our assignments at work, we hesitate to ask our manager for help. We don’t want our boss to get annoyed at us or to appear unintelligent. Steph shares that in her office, she always feels empowered to ask questions. This is because Leah assumes that when Steph has a question, it’s Leah’s own responsibility for not communicating properly. By taking ownership over the communication, we minimize or eliminate the fears of asking questions or seeking clarification, enabling the work to flow smoother and preventing unnecessary issues.
TREAT YOUR EMPLOYEE AS YOUR COWORKER
While Steph technically works under her manager, she never feels that sense of hierarchy or ego that can too often exist in the workplace. Together they solve problems, share feedback, and address conflict head on. Leah also engages Steph in the difficult realities of being a small firm. During COVID, Leah confided in Steph that she wasn’t sure The Perk was going to survive. This honesty and transparency helped them bond even further by supporting each other during the difficult times and enjoying the wins as business picked up again.
There’s no rule book for how manager-employee relationships need to be. There’s so much we can do to help our employees feel valued. People are the core of any business. When we prioritize our people - their wellbeing, professional development, and engagement - we build strong relationships that serve us, them and the organization for years to come.
KEEP UP WITH STEPH
Steph’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/steph-richter/
Leah’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/leah-roe/
Get the ‘How To Assess Employee Emotional Wellness Guide’ for free when you become a member of the Modern Manager community at themodernmanager.com/join. Plus, 10 members get a free Lunch-n-learn session hosted by The Perk.
This article was based on episode 159 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.