Leaders often try to create an open culture, where people feel comfortable speaking up and challenging one another, by saying they’re listening.
But you can go further to demonstrate that your company is a safe place for people to raise issues.
- Praise publicly. Create a safe forum for people to raise questions and concerns, and then laud those who ask them. Public acknowledgment is more about influencing those who hear it than those who receive it.
- Model behavior. You can show that it is safe to speak up by saying the hard things yourself. Raise difficult issues to show they’re not taboo and encourage people to contribute to the conversation.
- Teach communication skills. Don’t just encourage openness. Teach people how to have difficult conversations that involve diffusing tensions, speaking candidly without provoking resistance, and quickly building rapport. These new skills will leave people more confident in speaking up.
Adapted from “4 Ways Leaders Can Create a Candid Culture” by Joseph Grenny.
Many managers have a small circle of “usual suspects” that they trust to handle key projects or initiatives. But relying on these key people too often – and constantly piling special assignments onto their regular duties – can wear them out and make their performance suffer. Take a step back and think about how to expand your talent pool to get the results you want and ensure that no one is being stretched too thin.
Map out your committees, task forces, and other special assignment groups to see if you have a “usual suspect” bottleneck. If the same names keep coming up again and again, it’s time to prioritize assignments, consolidate teams, and, most importantly, add other people to your list. Think of other employees who might welcome new assignments. Are there some high potentials who aren’t being fully challenged? Can you find other people to trust outside of your circle?
Adapted from “Good Managers Look Beyond Their ‘Usual Suspects’” by Ron Ashkenas.
Offering big rewards for innovation can produce a flood of ideas – but that isn’t necessarily a good thing. Too many projects can overwhelm the pipeline, leaving you unable to execute and demoralizing employees who keep walking away empty-handed. Try using low-powered incentives (e.g., 10% of an idea’s value) because they produce a healthy number of small ideas, which are easier for a company to act on. Because true breakthrough ideas are so rare, the best approach is to focus on increasing the variety of ideas – and to weave smaller-scale incentives into a culture that encourages experimentation and doesn’t punish failure.
Some companies even reward failures that are informative. Steps like these help employees get over the fear of failure and think beyond the “acceptable” innovations that they think management wants to hear.
Adapted from “Don’t Offer Employees Big Rewards for Innovation” by Oliver Baumann and Nils Stieglitz.
Most people have a time of day when they’re most productive, which means that if you calibrate the day’s activities to the right times, you can maximize your efficiency. Many people can get a lot done between 9 AM and 11 AM, but not so much at 3 PM (except for night owls). Think back to yesterday and the day before. At which points did you feel at your most energetic?
Once you’ve identified these high-potential hours, guard them. Block them off of your calendar, so people can’t schedule meetings during this valuable time. Use these hours for high-priority projects and tough decision-making, for tasks that require willpower and complex thinking.
Adapted from “When to Schedule Your Most Important Work” by Ron Friedman.
The relationship with your manager is key to your happiness at work. If you’ve accidentally made your boss angry, don’t try to hide from her. Take the lead and resolve the problem. Here’s how:
- Don’t retreat. Resist the urge to avoid your boss or sweep the conflict under the rug. That will only build up tension. When you’re feeling calm and rational, go see your boss to clear the air.
- Get input. Instead of gossiping, talk the situation over with a trusted friend or colleague to get perspective. Rehearse what you want to say, and have your friend point out where you sound defensive or insincere.
- Own the mistake and offer a solution. Even if it’s not entirely your fault, your boss will appreciate you taking responsibility for your part in it, and trying to resolve it.
- Remember your boss has more going on. Your boss may be reacting disproportionately for reasons you can’t see in the moment. Try to understand her perspective.
Adapted from “Don’t Hide When Your Boss Is Mad at You” by Karen Dillon.
If your rate of hiring isn’t where you want it to be, maybe it’s time to rethink your recruiting strategy — and what mistakes you might be making. A common one is excluding salary ranges from job descriptions. Many employers don’t mention pay in job listings because they want the upper hand in salary negotiations or they’re worried about internal politics. But if you make the salary known, you’ll gain a leg up over your competitors who don’t.
Transparency can be a huge advantage — especially if your company is offering compensation packages at or above the market rate. Job seekers are more likely to apply when they see a salary range listed. The disclosure also signals that your company is forthright and willing to engage in dialogue.
Adapted from “7 Reasons Your Company Can’t Hire” by Brent Rasmussen.
When sitting down to a negotiation, many wait to see if the other person is going to make the first move. Instead of sitting back, lead the way. Start the conversation by establishing how you two will work together. Rather than presenting demands right out of the gate and waiting for a reaction, show that you’re eager to hear your counterpart’s position. Ask about her interests and listen. Repeat what you’ve heard so she knows you understand. Share information yourself.
Whenever you suggest an option, explain your reasoning – without giving a speech – and give her time to absorb and respond. If, on the other hand, your counterpart takes charge first, in a way that you feel is unhelpful (by tossing out a position or making a subtle threat), there’s no need to follow. Suggest a different approach that would be more beneficial.
Adapted from the HBR Guide to Negotiating by Jeff Weiss.