Increasing Employee Engagement and Productivity through Effective Supervision
Many organizations today find themselves experiencing high turnover rates, and most managers and supervisors suggest the reason employees leave is for better pay. However, research suggests that most people are not leaving for more money, but rather because they are fleeing a poor relationship with a supervisor.
For anyone to be laboring in misery is a shame, and countless organizations have a great opportunity to do better. With a change of heart and an assortment of skills, employers can develop a dedicated, enthusiastic, and productive workforce.
A strong, clear culture is what makes a company great. In such a culture, the employees will serve the organization loyally — not because they must do it, but because they want to do it. Good relationships with employees engender both loyalty and productivity.
Treating employees with dignity, respect, and value will make a huge difference in their lives — not only will it be the right thing to do, but it will also help the bottom line.
Effective supervision goes a long way toward promoting increased productivity, employee engagement, and a healthy organizational culture. Improving on supervision is an essential strategy for influencing overall organizational success.
We have observed, however, that many supervisors don’t believe that this aspect of their role is important. They want to be left alone to do their job. They don’t believe that taking care of others should be their first responsibility.
What if we were to view supervision as having more to do with coaching and mentoring than strictly instruction and accountability?
From this perspective, the supervisor’s role would have less to do with teaching and evaluation and more to do with establishing a culture that encourages individual growth and development. It’s a change from the inward “me” focus to the outward focus on “other.” Life becomes more about serving the needs of others rather than having others serve you.
A Servant’s Heart
The concept of servant leadership has blossomed in workplaces over the past four decades as organizations compete to retain qualified and committed employees. Robert Greenleaf formalized the term as a leadership method in 1970.
Greenleaf, an expert in management research, development, and education, was consultant to AT&T, the Ford Foundation, and other large organizations. For much of his career, he advocated the benefits of leadership through serving others.
So what are the traits of servant leadership? Greenleaf and others describe it as a style that encourages collaboration, persuasion, trust, and listening. It is characterized by foresight, empowerment, and awareness, and it promotes healing and empathy. It aims for stewardship and building of community.
Unfortunately, many supervisors choose to instead use power for leverage. For example, imagine that your supervisor gives you a task and tells you how to do it. Based on your years of experience, you offer an alternative strategy.
“If you want to keep your job, do it my way!” the supervisor says. How would you feel? Now, imagine your supervisor assigns you a task, asks your opinion on how to do it, and gives you the autonomy to do as you suggested. Now how would you feel?
The 10 Keys of Effective Supervision™
At Rising Sun Consultants, we have developed a set of strategies that we call The 10 Keys of Effective Supervision™. As a convenient way to help commit the principles to memory, the first letter of each key will spell the word “supervisor.”
1. Supporting Growth – Providing support for employees’ personal and professional development
2. Uniting Your Team – Building a culture of care and concern among and between employees
3. Praising Others – Offering employees praise and encouragement and developing a motivational environment
4. Expecting Excellence – Setting high expectations for employees
5. Requiring Accountability – Upholding and reinforcing individual responsibility to the organization
6. Valuing What You Believe – Linking employees’ actions and behaviors to organizational values—building a healthy culture
7. Instilling Independence – Developing an atmosphere of hope, confidence, and autonomy
8. Sharing Continuously – Establishing open and honest two-way communication
9. Optimizing Ownership – Creating opportunities for employee contribution and buy-in
10. Realigning Your Efforts – Evaluating your own efforts to determine if they match your desired outcomes
Although the 10 keys spell “supervisor,” they are all of equal importance. All are necessary for success; however, they need not be applied in any particular order. In addition, any one of these keys can be underused or overused and can lead to potential problems.
For example, if you only address an employee’s lack of performance and never provide positive feedback, you risk creating a “gotcha” culture. Yes, it is important to hold people accountable, but it is just as important to reinforce what they do right through positive praise and encouragement.
Operating in the Right Zone
We believe that the success of an organization, and of its individual employees, can best be viewed through the three lenses of competency, commitment, and character. Where all three lenses overlap is the realm of excellence that we call the ProductivityZone™.
Employee productivity traditionally has been measured by knowledge and skills, which is the lens of competency, and by attitude, which is the lens of commitment. We take the study of productivity one step further. We add the lens of character, which focuses on morals and values.
Any two of these zones alone are insufficient for true excellence and high productivity. Employees with character and competence, for example, may still feel disengaged in their job. Those with character and commitment may be likable sorts who just don’t have the skills to get the job done.
And you might have competent people on your staff who are committed to sticking around—but you might be better off if they left because they might not share your values.
The bottom line is productivity. Organizations exist to get things done. The objective is growth. If organizations are to thrive, they need the right kind of employees and the right kind of supervisors to lead them. BW
Rick Pierce and Jim Rowell are co-founders of Rising Sun Consultants, a leadership-development firm in Harrisburg, Pa. Pierce and Rowell recently published The 10 Keys to Effective Supervision: Building Healthy Organizational Cultures through Servant Leadership. www.risingsunconsultants.com