8 Things Employees Want to Hear
When it comes to communication between bosses and employees, sometimes it’s not what’s said between the two, but what isn’t said.
That’s according to Todd Patkin, the former owner of Autopart International, a family-owned auto parts business that was sold in 2005 to Advance Auto Parts, the Roanoke, Va.-based franchise that operates nearly 5,300 stores.
“In the midst of the everyday chaos of running a business, leaders often don’t think about what they could or should say to motivate their employees,” said Patkin, who is now an author and consultant. “Often, leaders assume that their employees know how they feel about each person’s individual performance and about the company’s health in general. Usually, though, that’s not the case.”
Last month on this blog, Patkin shared eight phrases employees are dying to hear from their bosses.
Read more: Bosses are only human ...
“Yes, your employees will be looking to you to steer your company in the right direction, but I promise, they know you’re human, and they don’t expect you to have all the answers,” Patkin explained.
More and more, organizations in all industries are realizing that there’s an almost-magical power in the synergy of teams, he’s noticed.
“So the next time you’re facing a difficult decision or brainstorming options, ask your team for help,” Patkin said. “Rather than losing respect for you as a leader, they’ll appreciate that you treated them as valued partners and they’ll feel more invested in your company’s future because they had more of a hand in creating it.”
Read more: Give permission to make requests ...
Sometimes, employees are anxious about asking the boss for what they need, whether it’s updated office equipment, more time to complete a project or advice, Patkin said.
“They may fear a harsh response, want to avoid looking needy, or simply feel that it’s not their place to ask for more than you’ve already provided,” he noted. “By explicitly asking what you can give them, you extend permission for your people to make those requests and they’ll certainly appreciate it.”
Patkin said bosses should treat any requests they receive seriously. But if you can’t give an employee what he or she asks for, explain why and work with them to find another solution.
“Either way, this question, and the conversations it sparks, can give you valuable insight regarding how to improve your company’s operations, facilities, and culture,” Patkin said. “It can also show you how to best develop and support individual team members.”
Read more: Value the mundane ...
Every day, employees do a lot of little things that keeps a company running smoothly and customers coming back, Patkin said. Unfortunately, in many organizations, these everyday actions are taken for granted, which can have a negative effect on employee morale, he added.
“Your employees want to know that you notice and value the mundane parts of their jobs, not just the big wins and achievements,” Patkin said. “That’s why I recommend making it your mission to catch as many of your employees as possible in a good act. Then, point out exactly what it is about their behavior that you appreciate.
Phrases like, ‘Sal, I’ve noticed that you always take such care to keep the file room neat. Thank you!’ take about five seconds to say, but they can pay long-lasting dividends for your company in terms of morale and motivation.”
Read more: Praise more often than criticize ...
“When I was at Autopart International and I saw that one of my people did something noteworthy, I made sure that everyone else knew about it by emailing the story to the entire chain,” Patkin recalled. “I could literally see the glow on the highlighted employee’s face for weeks, and I also noticed that many of the other team members began to work even harder in order to earn a write-up themselves.”
Praise, especially when it comes from an authority figure, is incredibly fulfilling, he said.
“And, sadly, it’s also rare. On that note, make sure that you praise and acknowledge your people in a positive way more often than you criticize them. That’s because negative feedback tends to stick in most people’s memories longer, so you need to counterbalance it.”
Read more: Grow the job with the employee ...
Patkin said while each of a company’s employees was hired to do specific jobs, over time, growth and changes occur – and so do your people. It’s a good idea to check in with each one of them periodically to ask what they’d like to be doing, he offered.
“Annual performance reviews might be a good time to discuss this topic with your employees,” Patkin recommended. “No, you won’t always be able to accommodate every employee’s preferences. But whenever possible, keep job descriptions within your company fluid and allow your people to have a say in matching their skills to the company’s needs.”
He added, “This is one of the best ways I know to build loyalty and encourage your employees to really take ownership of their jobs. After all, they’ll have had a hand in designing them.”
Read more: Avoid micromanaging ...
Patkin said most micromanaging leaders don’t set out to annoy or smother their employees.
“The problem is, they care a lot and want to make sure everything is done just so and that no balls are dropped or opportunities missed,” he said. “The problem is, excessive hovering can give employees the impression that you don’t trust them or have faith in them – a belief that actively undermines engagement.”
Patkin suggested once you’ve delegated a task, step back and let your employees do what you’ve asked of them.
“Yes, I know that can be easier said than done. If you have to, lock yourself in your office or go for a walk around the building to keep yourself from hovering,” he advised. “It may also help to remind yourself that you hired each of your employees for a reason, that you have faith in their potential, and that if they do need help, they know where to find you.”
Read more: Learn how to handle mistakes ...
In business, mistakes are going to happen, Patkin acknowledged. In many instances, the impact they have on your company revolves around how you as a leader handles them, he added.
“Sure, lambasting an employee who has dropped the ball may make you feel better in the short term, but it’ll negatively impact that employee’s self-confidence, relationship with you and feelings for your company for much longer,” he warned.
Still, he emphasized, “You shouldn’t take mistakes, especially those involving negligence, incompetence, or dishonesty, lightly. But when your employees have made an honest mistake, try to be as understanding with them as you would be with your own family members.”
He suggested bosses taking deep breaths and reminding themselves that the employee feels very bad already, and that yelling or lecturing won’t change the past.
“Instead, focus on figuring out what went wrong and how to keep it from happening again. Did the employee or the company as a whole learn something? Should a process or procedure be tweaked going forward to reduce the chances of something similar reoccurring? Also, never forget that mistakes are an essential part of growth.”
Read more: Dare to get personal ...
“Showing genuine interest and caring is the greatest motivator I know,” Patkin said. “When you dare to get personal, your employees’ desire to please you will skyrocket. That’s why, when I was leading my family’s company, I took advantage of every opportunity I could think of to let my people know I was thinking about them.
Patkin said he recommended books he thought his employees might enjoy and sent motivational quotes to those who might appreciate them. He attended all weddings, funerals, bar mitzvahs, and graduations he was invited to.
“And you know what? Not only did I fuel my employees’ engagement, I also formed a lot of meaningful relationships that continue to this day.”