About the Author:

marnie_greenOur guest author is long-time emPerform partner, Marnie Green. Marnie is Principal Consultant of the Management Education Group, Inc. and is a leading expert in the management of public sector employees.  Her books, Painless Performance Evaluations and Painless Performance Conversations, are used worldwide by federal, state, and local government leaders.  Learn more at: www.ManagementEducationGroup.com.

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What kind of work-environment are you creating for employees?

I’ve been working out with my trainer, Max Reynoso, for several years now. I enjoy his high energy, calorie-burning sessions for the physical benefit, as well as the mental boost.  Regardless of my frame of mind when I arrive at the gym, Max is there to meet me where I am. He’s always positive, energetic and encouraging.  Working with Max is just good energy.

Sometimes my schedule doesn’t allow me to work out with Max, and I become a slave to the early morning treadmill instead. I don’t mind it as it gives me time to watch the interaction between other trainers and their clients. Through observation I’ve learned that not all trainers are like Max. Some never smile; others offer no words of encouragement. Still others just don’t pay attention to their clients’ needs. Honestly, if I worked out with these trainers, I’d be completely bored and probably discouraged.

shutterstock_188199647Comparing these observations to my experiences with Max, I’m reminded how impactful a leader can be towards those who follow them. Workplace leaders use the same behaviors as personal trainers to create an environment that is either motivating or de-motivating.

You have an opportunity to create an environment where employees want to work hard–to give their all.  Some leaders do just the opposite.  Here are a few things leaders do, sometimes inadvertently, to create an environment that produces lower levels of performance:

    • Focus on the problem rather than the opportunities.
      Great leaders stay positive–always.  When obstacles present themselves, they are tackled head on with enthusiasm. Focusing on problems and things that are wrong is a downer. Max always reminds me of the benefits of exercise instead of telling me I should do more.
  • Give little feedback and encouragement.
    Motivating leaders acknowledge the work of others. We all need to know that someone is noticing our hard work. We all need a little pat on the back when we’ve reached a milestone.  When we don’t get the feedback we crave, we wonder why we worked so hard. If Max and I can’t meet face-to-face  because of my work and travel schedule, he checks in with me to make sure I’m making good choices. If I have a bad day he just says, “Let’s get back on track.” He always says it with a smile. If the guy ever has a bad day, you wouldn’t know it.
  • Lose touch with the environment.
    Effective leaders are keenly aware of the environment in which they do their work.  The physical environment must support employees so they feel that they can do their best.  The emotional environment must be one in which everyone feels valued. Online retailer Amazon, was recently criticized in the New York Times for fostering a cutthroat work culture. The immediate response from CEO Jeff Bezos was that the article “didn’t describe the Amazon he knew.” Within two days of the article’s publication, over 5000 comments were posted online supporting the article’s claim.  This sounds like an out of touch leader to me.
  • Become monotonous.
    Motivating leaders change things up often.  Doing the same thing day after day, meeting after meeting, sales call after sales call, gets boring. Great leaders add competition, fun, and renewed energy.  Every time I work out with Max he surprises me with a new routine, new piece of equipment, or new challenge.  I may not always be excited to work out, but I’m never bored.

I’m back on track with Max after some time off. He shares my vision of being healthy and strong and reminds me every day that we share this common goal.  Come to think of it, Max is also a great team leader.  His team of trainers is one of the highest producing in the company. Great leaders also get great results.

Looking to inject some change into your performance management processes? Visit emPerform’s website and explore the tools available to help managers provide effective & ongoing feedback.