Time and again, experience and surveys show that one of the main factors feeding into employees deciding to seek out new employment rests in those employees feeling seen, validated, and valued. Those feelings come directly from communication with you, their boss! In fact, the main difference between great bosses, good bosses, and subpar bosses rests entirely in how those leaders communicate with their team. We all want our employees to feel valuable and never disposable. So how can we communicate fully and effectively with our employees?
It’s easy to lose sight of the positives in order to focus on areas with room for improvement. But if employees are never recognized for their successes, they may begin to feel undervalued and unappreciated. Take the time to verbally tell employees, “Good job!” or “You’ve really improved!” When it comes to praise, a little (or a lot!) can go a long way.
I also like to take the time to appreciate when an employee has gone above and beyond. We all like to think of our teams as places where collaboration is the default, which means showing your gratitude when an employee helps another, helps you, or takes initiative and goes a few steps further than required. A simple “Thank you” shows your employee that you’ve taken note of their hard work.
Think about when you were a kid, sitting in the passenger seat of your parent’s car. Your parent tells you to go ahead, take the wheel and steer for a while. That’s the only direction you’re given: steer. You’re left to figure out what that means, and the car meanders first towards the middle dividing line, then towards the shoulder.
Sometimes, your employees may feel like that kid steering the car for the very first time. Check in from time to time. When you first delegate a task, after explaining make sure to ask, “What’s our goal?” This gives a big-picture image for your employee, as well as requiring them to repeat back what you’ve just instructed, giving both of you the chance to make sure everything is clear. Before leaving, say, “Let me know if you have any questions.” This shows your team that you’re approachable and open to assisting should road bumps occur along the way.
Room for Improvement
Of course, there will always be times when some corrective communication must occur. This isn’t a bad thing, however, or at least it doesn’t have to be. Think about being the kid in the car again. When you drift towards the center, your parent shows tells you to go back to the left. When you get too close to the shoulder, they send you back to the right. They correct in the moment, and not after the fact.
To jump to another metaphor, think about someone who has spinach stuck in their teeth. If that green leaf was in your teeth, you’d want to be told immediately, right? It’s the same for your employees. Very few people intentionally perform a task incorrectly. So if you notice something not going to plan, take a moment and check in. Phrases like “How can we improve?” or, if you expect an outside factor is impacting performance, even checking in with the person themselves. “How are you?”
And sometimes, it may even be you, the boss, who has made the misstep. Address it immediately and own up to it. “That was my fault. I’m sorry.” Employees learn from watching us. We lead by example. Make sure you’re setting a good one from take responsibility, noticing work well done, and communicating clearly.