By Michael Gunther

Is there a simple secret to great management? I believe there is; but have we made managing people too complex? If you look at the current landscape of management tools and resources, you’ll find hundreds of books, software, applications and training programs that are supposed to solve your management needs and make your job easier as a leader. It is as if everyone is looking for a ‘silver bullet’ that is going to fix their management and engagement challenges. Managers are surprised when their implementation of the latest tool or fad leaves them at the same place as where they started.

I am sure you have seen the rise and fall of many employee engagement strategies over the years – I know I have experienced many of the following issues:

  • Organizations that survey employees annually to gain insight and improve the organization, yet never implement this information into strategy and actual operational changes
  • Implementing new programs to solve engagement issues without a consistent, well-thought-out approach
  • Lack of consistent follow up to determine if the issues or challenges improved or worsened
  • Looking for the next silver bullet – I call this the “strategy of the month” program – constantly changing strategy based on a book, article or latest tool
  • Going through the motions of employee engagement programs without senior or mid-level managers’ buy-in to the efforts. It becomes something to check off of their “to do” list: Employee survey, check. Training, check.

The reality is, business is all about building relationships and trust; starting with your employees. Yet, little time and effort is put into creating solid relationships within the workplace between leaders and their teams. Real relationships are challenging and wonderful at the same time. They can drive performance or sink a team. Relationships have to be constantly nurtured and evaluated to ensure that the relationship is still working for both parties. Relationships are fragile as well, with trust easily broken and taking time and energy to rebuild. The basis of any great relationships is (you already know this); communication.

I know what you’re thinking…“Okay, wow, Michael so inspirational – not.” I realize this is not an earth-shattering concept, but I am still amazed at how many managers end up not having solid communication with their employees. They avoid tough conversations, they aren’t transparent about challenges and they avoid conflict. Yet, it is these areas that employees crave open communication. Most employees want to do a great job for their managers, but managers break their trust time and time again without properly communication, vision, goals, and expectations. The reality is that as a manager, your role is to build great relationships with your people and engage them in a manner that they want to support you and your organization in fulfilling a greater purpose.

Bottom Line

Are you concerned about the success and engagement of your team? Ask yourself – “how good am I at building solid professional and personal relationships with my team?” You may be surprised at your answer. Assess the true state of the relationships with those you work with. Then, the hard work must begin. Just as every other thriving relationship in your life; the secret is great communication – not always easy, but always necessary.

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