At some point in your career, you’ve likely had that boss – the one who treats every employee the same and doesn’t make any effort to develop relationships.
They see employees as means to an end, instead of as individuals with unique personalities, backgrounds, and needs. These are not qualities of a good manager, and this inauthenticity is one of the most disengaging qualities a manager can have.
Employees feel like robots on an assembly line and don’t feel inspired to do their best work. They just have to make it through the day and produce enough to keep their job.
Now that you’re in the manager’s chair, you want to build authentic relationships with your employees and prove they’re a priority to you. But how can you do that with every employee? And how do you ensure these relationships don’t get stale or come across as inauthentic?
You have to take an individual approach with your direct reports, intentionally going out of your way to understand them as people, not workers. In order to earn employees’ trust, you need to recognize and embrace each employee’s unique skills and traits.
And the best way to do this is simple: talk to them.
The more you communicate with employees, the more you’ll pick up on the things that make them unique, allowing you to display authentic leadership. Consider these simple ideas to get the conversations started so you can begin developing the type of relationships that inspire employees.
Managers are often so focused on providing feedback to employees that they forget to listen, and being a good listener is a quality every good manager should strive toward. Employees have interesting ideas and valid opinions that can help improve the efficiency of the workplace. But the real key to sourcing feedback is giving employees a voice.
When you listen to them, they feel heard and valued. Ask them how they feel about:
The important thing is allowing employees to express their thoughts.
Dive deeper than simple workplace conversations. Get to know employees for who they are: their personality, family, hobbies, likes and dislikes, etc. Recognizing each employee as an individual is a cornerstone of authentic leadership. When you go out of your way and show an active interest in employees’ lives, they get the sense that they matter and are willing to provide honest feedback.
Authentic relationships can’t be developed through one-way conversations. If you don’t open up and share who you are, you’re going to carry the boss stigma that intimidates employees. Don’t be afraid to discuss your plans for the weekend, favorite sports teams, or family life. Employees want to understand who you are as both a manager and a person.
You can only learn so much about employees in team settings or through random conversations throughout the work place. It’s during intentional, planned sit-downs where real relationships are formed. Your decision to commit a chunk or your busy schedule to an employee makes them feel valued, and these conversations allow you to learn who employees are and what motivates them.
An open-door policy isn’t a realistic expectation for every manager – sometimes you need to go heads down and avoid all distractions. But if you can afford the time, invite employees to speak with you. Let them know that you want to hear from them, whether it’s about this quarter’s profits or their favorite local restaurant. This practice makes you feel more accessible and human.
It’s no fun to announce that an employee has been let go, that profits are down, or there will be no holiday bonus this year. But as a manager, it’s your job to communicate the rough news just as much as the good. If possible, let employees know when a tough announcement is coming, and let them know you’re available to speak with them if they have further questions. It’s not the most enjoyable part of the gig, but employees will, in time, appreciate your openness and honesty.
The more authentic leadership you can display as a manager, the more your employees will respond and give you their best effort. You are their advocate to senior leadership, and if you develop authentic relationships with employees, you’ll come across more as a caring coach and less as an overbearing dictator.
Our manager research shows that authenticity is one of three major challenges managers face. To learn more about the other two challenges, download our ebook, The Manager Jackpot: Simple HR Solutions For Building Better Bosses.