The average person spends 30% of their lifetime, or 90.000 hours, at work. The obvious implication of this is that work is a major part of our life, so we better make it meaningful and enjoyable whenever possible. Of course, we can’t all start in our dream job, but as a manager you can make office life most enjoyable for those under your supervision and use the following approaches to maximize the productivity of your start-up company while you’re at it.
Management: a 2-way street
Management is not a one-way street and it is mutually beneficial for managers and those under their care to have a positive and trusting relationship. When employees respect and feel understood by their managers, they will work with an intrinsically motivated vigor, will not want to let their superior staff down, and will feel independent but not isolated. When managers respect, reward, and spend time understanding their team, they will become invested in their staff as people, bringing out their higher potential and providing a system of support that is consistent without being patronizing.
At the base psychological level, as Maslow argues, people need to feel cared for and have a sense of belonging. If the person delegating your workload and reporting your efficacy – your manager – has little personal interest in you, the most common human response is to take a reciprocally low interest in them. This doesn’t transmute well into a productive company output.
Teachers and Value
Perhaps you remember that at school there were certain teachers who went that extra mile, those teachers who seemed to have a nurturing character and made you feel like a valued equal. When these teachers set homework and you failed to complete it, the sense of disappointment for both you and them was certainly higher and you may have had the feeling that you let them down. On the other hand, there were those teachers who treated you like a “pass-or-fail robot.” These teachers were emotionally cold and probably understood people about as much as a ten-year-old understands his first algebra class.
As humans, we give our own value to tasks and situations – existentialist philosophers refer to us as ‘value-making machines’ – and we do so in our own personal way, depending on what a situation means to us. When we value the person setting us a task, be it a teacher or a manager, we are likely to put more effort into that task because at a rudimentary level, we care about what they think of us and we don’t want to let them down.
So, in sum, the delegation of work process is not a one-way street. Managers who take the time to speak to their team, have one-on-one meetings whenever necessary, and understand their employees’ personal motivations are going to be more invested in their employees’ success. This kind of management strategy relies on positive reinforcement, which even when removed still has longer-term positive effects than negative reinforcement.
If employees are motivated by negative reinforcement alone i.e. potential salary decrease, redundancy, etc. … behavior will only be productive as long as the negative reinforcement/punishment remains. When a behavior is reinforced positively, i.e. by reward or by making the person feel valued and important, the behavior has been shown to endure without the need for constant reinforcement.
How to manage effectively
Thus, being responsive to your staff and making time for them as people will ensure that they continue to be productive without the need for frequent, top-down motivation. Just as the role of a good doctor is to advise their patient how to look after themselves and not come back every week, the role of a good manager is to help their team to motivate themselves and ultimately become less dependent on their management.
Dedicate a small portion of your working time to getting to know your team.
Not everyone wants to talk about their personal life and as a manager it is important to realize this. However, it is also important that you see your staff as more than a data set, that you see them as the human beings that they are, with complex lives and huge potentials for success. Your job is to make them feel welcome and supported so that they find purpose in their work and build a relationship of mutual respect with you.
Trust people to complete their tasks without too much micromanagement.
A manager should understand the ability and skill set of those under their supervision. Rather than checking in on their progress every day, set a workload, tasks, and a deadline. Reiterate that if they are struggling, that you are available for advice or a one-to-one anytime. Your job is to create an environment where they can to come to you without feeling embarrassed or ashamed. This way, your team will feel trusted and valued, everyone will be(come) competent at working from home, and you won’t have to waste time micromanaging and patronizing each and everyone of your team members.
Don’t lose track of results.
Your employees are people, but your company still needs to meet its targets and turnover profit to grow and survive. As a manager, you must utilize your experience to set clear priorities, goals, and deadlines within your workforce. Without these structures in place, you won’t have a company left to manage! If people fail to meet their deadlines, it’s your job to motivate them and potentially re-purpose them if their role is producing repeatedly bad results.
Despite the obvious nature of these points, they are not to be overlooked. With a combination of these 3 factors, you’ll have happy employees, growing returns on your venture capital, and with time, a workforce that is increasingly capable of running itself!