How to ‘Boss’ Better: Creating and Managing Happy, Engaged Staff

Employees who quit their roles say that 50%–90% of the time, the reason they leave involves their boss. Those who stay loyal and happy at work cite recognition, a sense of achievement, and being heard and valued in their job as key factors for enduring.

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As a manager, you have a direct impact on staff engagement in their role and the organization. How do you make sure that you effectively involve, engage, and empower your staff?

Here are the essential questions to consider if you desire to be the kind of boss people don’t want to leave:

Do you share information?

Keeping staff out of the loop regarding organizational initiatives, strategies, and targets can severely limit their ability to add value. It can leave them feeling blindsided when problems arise that they know they could have contributed to changing—if they’d been made more aware.

While you don’t need to “tell all from the top,” it is important to openly communicate business challenges, targets, and areas of growth in ways that encourage staff to share their perspectives and ideas. Ask “From the information that I have, what information can I give that would empower my staff and allow them to contribute solutions or ideas to move forward?”

Bosses who withhold information often have underlying assumptions that innovation and ideas for business growth are the sole responsibility of management, excluding people who could be part of making the organization greater. Open and thoughtful information sharing invites everyone to be part of moving the organization forward.

Do you engage staff and their creativity?

Are you interested in your staff, their ideas, and their unique ability to positively impact the business?

Here are three ways to increase staff creativity:

  1. Have one-on-one meetings with your staff. Ask them questions that encourage creative thinking:
    • What ideas do you have?
    • Are there things you wish you had available that you don’t have available?
    • What can I contribute that would make your job easier?
    • What system can we put in place that would allow you to be more effective in getting your job done?
    • What roadblocks are you facing that you could use some contribution to?
    • If you had my job, what would you do differently? What else would you create?
  1. Invite people from other areas of the organization, such as finance, HR, or business development, to your team meetings. Ask “Who or what can we add to increase our creativity and innovation?” This brings fresh and unique perspectives for you and your staff to engage with. It also has the added bonus of encouraging your staff to create connections and networks across the organization that will expand their awareness of the business.
  2. If you are a multilevel manager, have skip-level meetings with the staff who work under your direct reports. In these meetings, bring one or two things you want to share, but focus mainly on listening to what is working and not working from their perspective. What ideas do they have to improve systems, products, and services? What else are they aware of that you may not be?

Starting conversations and asking questions promote inclusive engagement of talent that already exists in your organization—how many ways can you engage staff to create and implement new ideas?

Do you remove your own roadblocks?

To effectively lead creative teams, managers must remain open-minded. If you leave senior meetings thinking “This won’t work,” you will bring roadblocking perspectives to your staff, and you will only see the ways you can’t possibly succeed. Conversely, if you decide to dictate the plan or have all the solutions for your staff, you will limit the creativity and solutions they can offer.

Check yourself for hidden assumptions that may be limiting you by asking questions like:

  • If I had no point of view already defined of what will or won’t work, what options would be available?
  • What other choices do we have that we have not yet considered?
  • What different ways can this benefit the organization I have not yet explored?

Remember: A bad boss will always have the answers. A great boss will always be curious and have the questions.

Do you control or guide your staff?

How do you empower people to take initiative, be creative, and still get the work done? The best managers remain engaged and aware: They know what actions have been taken, what actions need to be taken, and who is doing what. If staff deviate rather than falling into micromanaging what should be done and where, they ask questions:

  • Is this being accomplished? If not, what needs to change?
  • Do we need to add or change people or systems?
  • Do we need to add other elements so this part of the project can happen faster?

Guide rather than control. Be open to exploring options, and maintain creative flow between you and your staff.

Do you empower staff beyond their job description?

A great boss knows staff have skills they desire to grow and will find ways to allow them to tap into them. They’ll seek out projects, whether they are volunteer projects or future projects, to start their staff growing in areas that their current position may not be able to provide.

What opportunities can you add, find, or create to support the growth of your staff and acknowledge their value to you and the company?

Are you having fun?

The things you make significant and serious become the problems you cannot overcome. Problems or frustrations that arise never have to be greater than your ability to get along and enjoy working together if you are willing to lead with curiosity and a sense of playful exploration. Create an environment of creativity and not seriousness. Have fun!

Empower your staff to be creative, be inquisitive, and be strategic for their team and organization, and they will become ambassadors for you. Being a better boss benefits all—what contribution as the boss can you make that you’ve never considered?

Laleh HancockLaleh Hancock is a transformational facilitator and business coach with more than 25 years of experience building companies and individuals who win. Follow her on Twitter at @Belapemo.

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