Are you starting a new management or leadership position? When I first started working as a manager three decades ago, I remember that there were many tasks to perform and little instruction on how to lead, engage and recognize my staff.
Over the years I have gained many insights and created a guide with six tips to maintain positive relationships with my employees as a leader. Below are those things I wish I knew about recognition as a first-time manager:
Relationships are far more important than tasks.
I found this truth out the hard way. It came with handling vacation requests. This was back before emails, when you submitted vacation requests by handwritten memos. They would come into my mailbox, and I shuffled them with all the other papers I received into some sense of prioritization.
My mistake was not prioritizing those vacation requests and instead, treating them as tasks like everything else in the mailbox. It took me no longer than two minutes, tops, to respond to my staff members with an approval. I had treated their requests as simply another task and put them off. However, when I put relationships first and addressed their vacation requests right away, the rapport with my staff improved immensely.
The real difference between recognition and rewards.
I never was told by my leaders or HR managers the difference between recognition and rewards. This would be something I would learn as I ventured into leadership responsibilities and read lots of books on the subject. There is a difference; if only first-time managers knew you recognize people for positive behaviors and you reward people for significant results, that would help many people out.
The importance of caring for the needs of each person.
Develop strong active listening skills as a new manager. I am convinced I was not as good at this as I wanted to be when I started managing. Never let conversations or shared comments go in one ear and out the other. Listen.
Staff will come to you and share concerns about their health, family matters and difficult life circumstances. The most important thing to do is listen and demonstrate your concern and show that you do care.
Get to know how staff like to be recognized.
It is important to know exactly how each employee likes to be recognized. When starting out as a new manager, it is easy to fall into the trap of treating everyone the same.
By asking questions in one-on-one sessions, you learn who is extroverted and who is introverted. Research shows that, on average, 20-25 percent of employees do not want any form of public recognition. All you have to do is have a moment, possibly with a few peers if they so choose, when you acknowledge or celebrate them.
Pick up on your employee's favorite food, drinks, sports teams, genre of books, etc. These insights observed and heard will become sources for the small tokens of appreciation you will give them at the right time.
Learning to value the same things that your employees’ value.
I found it fun to learn about each employees likes and dislikes. What became exciting for me was when I traveled and saw something I knew a particular employee would appreciate.
Knowing the preferences of your staff should always be on your mind. Let this knowledge become second nature to you. As you truly know your employees, you can relate to their needs and wants.
And they will appreciate the actions you take, the courtesies shown and the kind words spoken to them. You’ll see reciprocity in those employees doing their best work for you because you respect, recognize and value their positive actions and contributions.
How valuable a handwritten note or card is to people.
Before today’s technology, online recognition tools, texting, etc., a handwritten note or card was the best recognition to receive back in the day!
I recall one vice president to whom I reported to doing something that really made a difference to my role. It was important enough to me and I took the time to write a thank you note to her. On my visits to her office, I saw that single card standing on her desk for several months. It was the only card ever on display. That’s how much a handwritten note can mean to people.
Becoming a manager is an exciting time in someone’s life. You take on additional responsibility, manage a team and learning how to adapt to the role is crucial to your success as a manager. These six tips will help you get off on the right foot to leading your team, while understanding what is expected of you and how you can be part of other’s career experience.