To Motivate Employees, Get Out of Their Way

A wise manager makes every effort to cut activities that waste employees' time and productivity.

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Michael Wade

Managers and supervisors are often looking for ways to motivate employees. Here’s one that is welcome regardless of the condition of the economy: Get out of their way. Here are some approaches:

• Eliminate those weekly staff meetings that have turned into giant time-wasters. Only hold meetings that are necessary.

• Don’t rely on your “open door” policy. That only works if you walk out the open door to discover what rules and practices are keeping your employees from doing a good job.

• Replace the stirring speeches with as many one-on-one meetings as possible. Ask employees what stands in their way. Listen carefully for what is said and what is not said.

• Ask what they want changed and what they don’t want changed.

• Don’t assume that the opposite of a bad practice is a good one. Measure effectiveness by the simple standard of what works, but also consider the impact of your decisions over the short and long term.

• Don’t overpromise--no one expects you to play Santa Claus--and by all means do what you say you will do. If, for some reason, you cannot, tell them immediately and tell them why.

• Have a sense of urgency. True, change takes time, but some changes can be made quickly. If you are unwilling to make those, no one will believe your willingness to see through the more difficult changes.

• Avoid NETMA (Nobody Ever Tells Me Anything). Sharing information can increase efficiency and slow down the rumor mill.

• Keep a commitment to reducing or eliminating anything that is unnecessarily hindering your employees. Remember, you are both a leader and a servant.

Michael Wade writes, an eclectic combination of management advice, observations, and links. A partner with the Phoenix firm of Sanders Wade Rodarte Consulting Inc., he has advised private and public-sector organizations for more than 30 years.