Before I started the entrepreneurial chapter of my life, I managed a staff of 30 who ranged from recent college graduates to those nearing retirement. And, although they were at different life stages (and therefore had different motivations and goals), I tried to build a cohesive team that thought outside the box and worked collaboratively to build the best product possible.
Oh, there were some bad seeds every now and then, but I learned as you try to foster certain traits in your employees, you’ll be rewarded tenfold. I was always conscious of the bad bosses I’d had in my career and vowed to never be like them—creating a corporate “golden rule.”
These are the traits I found to be the most important to foster in employees.
1. Flexibility and adaptability
I believe in the “if it ain’t broke, break it” theory of management. Every so often I’d announce to my staff, “let’s shake it up.” The end result was usually better—and even when it wasn’t, we still learned a valuable lesson.
For structured personalities, being flexible might be a difficult trait to learn. But, in a small business, everyone needs to be flexible enough to handle difficult situations and adaptable enough to come up with solutions.
The American Psychological Association reports there are three types of adaptability:
- Cognitive: the way one thinks
- Emotional: the way one feels
- Behavioral: the way one acts
The idea is to make employees, well, comfortable with being pushed out of their comfort zone. Once they are, you end up with a team able to handle new challenges without flipping into crisis mode.
It’s important to lead by example when unpredictable events occur. Be calm and discuss possible solutions with your team. By showing your staff how compromise, collaboration and calmness can prevail, you’re modeling how to handle future challenges.
As an entrepreneur, you know the road to success is fraught with setbacks. You won’t succeed without having the “grit” to persevere and keep moving and the resiliency to bounce back when obstacles appear.
Fostering the same attitudes in your employees is just as important. When you assign a large or difficult project to an employee, explain the goal and the difficulty. Offer encouragement and support. Commiserate when needed. (I found feeding my staff kept them going). Fostering perseverance results in confident, resourceful and self-reliant workers who take pride in their work.
You probably learned this on the playground in elementary school, but the more insecure a person is, the less willing they are to work with others and the more disruptive they are to your business. Sometimes insecurity in the workplace can lead to a toxic environment that breeds distrust and unhealthy competition. My most self-confident employees were the ones more willing to share and encourage others.
Some people are seemingly born confident, but it’s possible to “breed” confidence in those who lack it. One way to do that—recognition. Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report shows how “recognition motivates employees, gives them a sense of accomplishment and makes them feel appreciated for their work.”
The report says the “act of recognition also sends messages to other employees about what success looks like. In this way, recognition is both a tool for personal reward and an opportunity to reinforce the desired behavior to other employees.”
Being acknowledged for a job well-done instills self-confidence and encourages employees to accept more responsibility and greater challenges going forward. Adding a small reward (a $25 gift card; a comp day) encourages people to work harder.
Today’s business owners are worried about employee attraction and retention. Many businesses are focusing on the attraction part while ignoring the retention aspect. But making employees a valuable part of your team, fostering these traits and empowering them can lead to a better business with less turnover and more profitability.
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