Do a quick radar sweep of the projects you have underway. Are any stalled? Do your issues logs have a growing number of items that are left open and hanging? Is apathy, or even passive sabotage, lurking in the air?
Before you charge in and point the finger of blame, consider this: the problem may be you -- or more precisely, the way you communicate. For employees to give that extra 5% that makes all the difference, you need to get your messaging game on. And one of the easiest ways to do this is to channel the waitress at your local diner.
Work with me on this. If you were a really expert restaurant server (to use the more PC term) and you had regular customers who came in every day to pay you money for your food, you would do some things consistently to:
- make sure they didn't switch to another eatery;
- get them to recommend your establishment (and you) to their friends;
- earn a good tip each time.
In the same way, your staff comes to your business every day to pay you work for your money. What do you do to build their loyalty and minimize turnover? To help them be glad they work for your company, and for you? To ensure that they bestow on you that extra measure of engagement -- that "tip" that's over and above the baseline effort they're required to give?
Channel your inner diner waitress, and the answer's simple. Communicate!
- Build a relationship with your "regulars." Look them in the eye. Chat about other things besides what's on the daily menu. Follow up on yesterday's conversation about the family. Pay attention to their cues; some want more interaction than others. Relate to them on the level they want and enjoy.
- Be professional, but friendly. Come to the table ready for action, but allow for some banter. Do what you're there to do, but lighten things up a bit. Acknowledge tension, but keep a cheerful tone.
- Offer them options. Tell them what's fresh today. Explain what the specials are. Warn them away from the meatloaf if it tastes like liver. In other words, help them navigate their work decisions, but leave them plenty of autonomy.
- Be available, but don't hover. Treat them like adults. If they don't beckon you, stay scarce and let them get on with their meal. If they do, be quick to get them what they need.
- Roll your eyes, and smile. You're not in control of the menu (the projects), the diner's decor (the corporate culture), or that noisy bunch sitting at the other table (the jerks in Purchasing who are messing up your deadlines). But you CAN control your own interactions with your "regulars". And you CAN draw a smiley-face on the check, even if you're dead on your feet. In other words, your messaging should always hint that you value the work they do -- instead of harp about your own problems and pressures.
So mentally scroll through your last communications to your team. If they lack that certain diner flair, turn up the waitress charm this week. See if you can give your messaging a makeover to lighten the atmosphere at the table. You'll be rewarded with bigger "tips" -- that is, better buy-in, brighter ideas, and bountiful boss appreciation. All of which leads to results from your "regulars" that are anything but "regular."
Remember, good waitresses know that you can call the cops if a customer doesn't pay for his meal, but you can't do anything about the ones who don't leave a tip. Except grumble. You're not the boss of your employee's work output. They are. Don't let that chip on your shoulder mess up your chance to increase team motivation the old-fashioned way - by earning it.