Lots of methods managers use to increase productivity end up inadvertently lowering morale. For example, managers who discourage people from taking time off usually in the long-run end up with burned out, less productive employees who are making more mistakes. And managers who have an autocratic, top-down, “just get it done” delegation style often end up realizing that because they didn’t take the time to talk through the project on the front-end, they lose time later on having to send work back to be redone. And of course, simply ordering people to raise their productivity without giving them the tools to do it usually results in stressed out, frustrated staff.
But you can increase productivity without taking a hit to team morale at the same time. Here’s how.
1. Build a great team. It sounds obvious – of course as a manager you should build a great team – but while its productivity payoffs are obvious, you might not have considered its effect on morale. Great people like to work with other great people – and tend to get frustrated when team members aren’t pulling their weight. If you become known for building a great, high performing staff, other high performers are going to want to work with you. Nothing raises morale and quality of life at work like having fantastic coworkers does. (Well, raises come close.)
2. Fire low performers. This is a corollary to #1. If you’re going to have a team of high performers, it follows that you’re going to need to sometimes let people go. Replacing low performers with strong workers won’t just pay off in the results your team gets (although that will certainly happen); it’ll also raise the morale of the high performers on your team, who will appreciate that you’re holding standards high and addressing problems forthrightly. (Make sure you do it a fair and compassionate way, of course.)
3. Explain the “why” behind assignments, decisions, and new processes. You’re probably busy, and it can be incredibly tempting to just ask people to do work without taking the time to explain the context behind it – why the assignment needs to be done, what the background is on it, and why this approach was chosen rather than another. When you have a to-do list that’s cracking under its own weight, taking the time to talk someone through these details can feel like a low priority. But doing it will pay off – people will be better equipped to spot ways to improve the work and head off problems, which they might not be able to do at all if they don’t have the same context you have. Plus, employees who are in the loop like this will be more invested and engaged in their work, which generally leads to people being happier with their jobs. (The same goes for explaining new policies, processes, and decisions as well.)
4. Give people stretch assignments – and coach them through them. If you’re like most managers, you’ve probably thought, “I wish I had someone on my team who could handle X for me.” Even if no one on your staff is perfectly equipped for X, whatever it may be, coaching someone to learn to do new types of work will help you get more done in the long-run, and good employees will appreciate being challenged and increasing their skills. (Of course, in doing this, you need to coach them through it – you shouldn’t just give someone a stretch assignment and abandon them to figure it out on their own.)
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