I originally wrote this post for Sold Magazine. I’ve made some revisions to the published version.
“How long employees stay at a company, and how productive they are there, is determined by the relationship they have with their immediate supervisor.” Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, The Leadership Challenge
I have had the opportunity to promote many front-line employees to their first management position. My commitment to them did not end at giving them a new title. That’s the easy part. More importantly, I needed to make sure they succeeded in their first leadership role. According to Kouzes and Posner, these managers supervising the staff who were directly interacting with our customers had as much, if not more, impact than I did on employee engagement and subsequent customer satisfaction. And while each new manager displayed strong interpersonal skills that served them well to earn the promotion, managing people requires a different set of skills. We all know of an all-star employee who failed as a manager. So my advice to any first-time manager is to live this leadership mantra: Connect. Inspire. Empower.
“People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.” John C. Maxwell
Before making any major changes as a new manager, take the time to get to know your direct reports. Find out their personal and career aspirations. Then work hard to help them achieve their goals. Talk to each member every day. Visit the break area regularly just to chat. Get to know what they like to do outside of work. Given the opportunity, meet their significant others and family. Celebrate your employees’ birthdays and anniversaries. They know when they are scheduled on their birthdays and the date they started working at your business. You should, too. Remember that without involvement there is no commitment. If you are not involved with them, then they simply won’t be committed to you.
“Yesterday’s idea of the boss, who became the boss because he or she knew more than the person working for them, is yesterday’s manager. Tomorrow’s person leads through a vision, a shared set of values, a shared objective.” Jack Welch
If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather give them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” Antoine de Saint-Exupery
“Communicate everything you can to your associates. The more they know, the more they care. Once they care, there is no stopping them.” Sam Walton
Your business has a mission statement. As a leader, you should have a passion statement. The best managers are passionate about what they do. Frankly, if you are not passionate about what you do, you have no right to manage others. That said, be sure to express your passion to your people. What do you envision for the business? The owner or senior manager has a vision for the business. What is yours? Let your people know. Once they see and share your “big picture”, then every step your people take will be in that direction.
Keep your passion statement short. Say it often. Make it stick. Your message cannot be mentioned only at new hire orientation. You must continually and consistently express your vision.
“The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” Theodore Roosevelt
Create a work environment where everyone has the necessary tools and are encouraged to take care of the customer. Ritz-Carlton permits every employee to spend up to $2000 making any single guest satisfied. It is no wonder that the brand is perceived by its guests as simply one of the best. For your team to embrace the idea that you are empowering them to do whatever it takes to satisfy the customer, you must establish and explain any guidelines. It could be as simple as the Nordstrom Rules:
Rule #1: Use best judgment in all situations. There will be no additional rules.
Most likely your guidelines will be a little more conditional, but whatever you decide, make sure you define and cite examples for your team. And continue to monitor, recognize and reward those employees who do take action.
Connect with your people. Inspire them. Then empower them. This is not a one-time thing. It is an everyday thing. And when you live this mantra, you will be an involved leader with an engaged team, all intent on delivering the very best experience for your customer.