Now, employees aren’t going to turn down a bonus or a perk, and in many cases, they’ll be glad to attend a training class, but those things don’t have the transformational affect on people that managers would like. And because they cost real money, they’re not always available for managers to use, especially during difficult times.
I have an idea about how a manager can meaningfully impact an employee’s sense of esteem, enthusiasm and importance. It is completely free, and turns out to be almost as beneficial for managers as it is for the people who work for them. But it’s a little counter-intuitive. Let me explain.
Instead of doing something for the people who work for you, find a way to let them do something for you. I told you it was counter-intuitive. But it actually makes sense, and isn’t at all selfish.
The best way to endear yourself to someone is not to offer to do something for them, but rather to ask them to do something for you. The underlying logic is that people actually feel better about themselves and about someone else when they are in the position of being a helper, rather than a helpee.
That’s because helpers receive a sense of contribution and confidence, while helpees often feel dependent and in debt to someone. As a college wants said to me, if you want a girl to like you, don’t ask her if she wants help with her homework, ask her to help you with yours. Who would have thought?
I realize that this might sound manipulative, and indeed, if used insincerely, it can be. But with the right intentions, with a genuine interest in helping employees grow in confidence and self-esteem, it can be transformational.
Here’s how it might work. Sit down and think about each of the people who work for you. Identify something about them that you admire, that you genuinely believe they do better than you. That shouldn’t be hard, because every employee has skills or talents that exceed those of their bosses.
Once you’ve identified those skills or talents, take a moment to tell each employee why you admire them. If you mean it – and that is absolutely essential – it will blow them away. Be sure to be specific about what you admire about them and state the fact you would like to learn from them. It doesn’t have to be right then, and it doesn’t have to come in one fell swoop. Over time, you’d like them to coach you in that area.
This does not diminished your authority as their leader at work, but rather made it abundantly clear that they have as much to offer me as I do them, in spite of the hierarchy at work.
Now, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that this is sometimes difficult for me, and probably for any manager, to do this. There are times when I don’t want to acknowledge another person’s superiority, and I know that, in my weaker moments, I’ve downplayed the talents of others out of pride. But overcoming that pride, and allowing my staff members to shine, is something that is good and right and liberating, and it will probably have a more lasting impact than any bonus, perk or training class ever could.
During this Christmas season, as you remember that “it is better to give than to receive,’ think about letting your people give you something. What you’ll be giving them is the gift of admiration and importance. Of course, you might want to buy them something too so they don’t just think you’re being cheap.
Have a Merry Christmas.