Back to basics

The calendar has come to September, which marks the beginning of three things I love - football, fall in New England and cooler weather. It's also back-to-school time for the US, which to this day seems to stir some inner need in me to return to a classroom.

As a result, it's a good time to assess how we're doing when it comes to the basics of management: communication, reviews, and reward and recognition. These pillars can get lost in the day-to-day hustle of our lives, which is why it's important for us to consciously rate ourselves on our progress (or lack thereof). These are the deal-breakers, the reasons for which staffers will leave your employ and seek somewhere where they are respected. Think about the bad bosses under which you've suffered. How did they rate in those three categories? I thought so.

So let's take a quick step back from the insanity of our careers to assess our abilities via these questions:

1. Communication

* When you're talking with employees do they have your full attention or are you also on your computer, taking a phone call or reading a document?

* Do you make eye contact with the person (and this is a tough one) and wait until they're done speaking before you add your 2 cents? Are you really listening to what they say, or are you composing your answer halfway through their statement?

* If you say, "My door's always open," is it?

* On your way to the breakroom, bathroom or a meeting, do you take extra time to visit staffers' cubes and say hi, or do you primarily communicate via e-mail?

* Do you hold regular staff meetings and keep your folks up to date on the latest happenings in the company?

2. Reviews

* When's the last time you held employee reviews?

* In the reviews, did you ask staffers what you could do to make their jobs more fulfilling (more challenging work, new skills, etc.).

* Did you set short-term goals with your employee and set follow-up dates to examine progress?

* Do you know your employee's short- and long-term career goals?

3. Rewards and recognition

* When's the last time you sincerely said "thanks" for a job well done?

* When's the last time you wrote a short thank-you note to a deserving staffer?

* When's the last time you wrote a "good job" e-mail to an employee and copied a higher-up, such as a vice president, division head or CEO?

* What are your reward alternatives in a zero budget (flex time, time off, telework)?

If you've found area for improvement, remember to take it easy. Tackle only one thing at a time. The best part about working on these three areas is that improvement is very noticeable quickly and your staffers will undoubtedly be happy.

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