(March 10, 2015) It may surprise you to hear that one of the main points that the Army stresses when training its officers is that to command effectively, it’s important that your subordinates like you. If that’s true when people have to follow your orders, imagine how much more important it is with business employees.
Most owner-advisors have great people skills—it’s the best way to attract clients—but they often forget to apply those skills to their employees. That’s unfortunate, as it’s the best way to motivate employees, too.
Here are four guidelines for business owners—and those who want to be business owners—to apply their people skills and build better relationships with their employees:
1. You need their buy in. Start with the “Aha!” when you realize that a group of people doing their best—and finding better ways to do things—is better than one person (no matter how brilliant you are). Add in the fact that more often than not, employees are closer to their jobs than the owners are and often have a better perspective on the problems they face. That means they’re also more likely to think of workable solutions. Finally, don’t overlook the fact that motivated employees are way more productive than disgruntled employees.
2. Listen to their issues. This is really the key. Nobody likes to be ignored or discounted. An employee’s issue may not seem important, but if they think it’s important enough to bring it up, then it’s important enough to listen. And really listen—with some empathy. When an employee feels that you’ve taken their issue seriously, they’ll feel like you take them seriously.
3. Suggest a solution. The operative word here is “suggest.” You probably have other things to do and want to solve this issue as quickly as possible and move on, but remember that it’s their problem. The solution has to work for them, too. When you do offer a solution, don’t get too tied to it—ask what they think about it and take their answer seriously.
4. Brainstorm solutions together. The best solutions usually come from a number of involved people looking at the problem from different angles. So work through problems with employees, getting as many of them involved as makes sense.