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Six Management Tips for Trying Economic Times

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If you are like most managers I know, you are constantly being asked to do more work with less resources. And the same is true for your employees. This combined with layoffs, financial struggle and media stories of corporate corruption leaves many employees feeling more fearful for their jobs, more stressed out and more over-worked than ever before!!

As a manager, it’s up to you to keep your staff productive and motivated. This is a tough job at any time, but especially now. So you’ll need to spend extra time strategizing as to how you can accomplish your departmental goals with a stressed-out, over-worked staff.

The first thing you’ll need to focus on is keeping your own attitude in check. It can be really easy to get discouraged when you are so busy and see no end in sight. But now, more than ever, it’s up to you to be a good example for your employees.

Despite what you may think, your employees are looking to you for guidance and they are definitely paying attention to how you are handling things. Expressing an attitude that’s less than positive has a trickle down affect on your employees. Many employees figure that if you have a bad attitude, why shouldn’t they? So take great strides to put on a happy face and show your employees that you’ve got things under control and are handling things just fine. Without being nauseating about it, please.

Demonstrating a good attitude has another great benefit. It helps you stand out from the crowd. It’s during the darkest days that stars shine the brightest, so try to be a star. Consider this time as an opportunity for you to show your superiors just how competent you really are. Rise above the negativity and uncertainty to do a stellar job and try to act like you’re enjoying yourself. You will be rewarded for it!!

Now that your attitude is in good shape, you’ll want to address the attitude of your employees. This is not the time to let employee negativity slide. Yes, employees are worried, but that doesn’t give them the right to mouth off and create trouble. Offer your employees opportunities to communicate with you on a regular basis. Allow them to ask questions and voice their concerns. But don’t allow them to spend precious work hours complaining to co-workers and stirring up further unrest. If you become aware of such activity, do what Barney Fife says -”Nip it, nip it, nip it!”

I cannot stress enough how important it is for you to find time to communicate with your staff. You see, employees these days are bombarded with news coverage detailing corporate corruption, layoffs, bankruptcies and economic crisis. Therefore their radar systems are on high alert for any tidbit of info indicating that your company may be having major troubles. And this leads to speculation, rumors, decreased morale, decreased productivity and all around trouble!! Consider scheduling regular informational-type meetings. Use this time to fill your employees in on corporate developments, and offer them an opportunity to ask questions. During these communications, it is vital that you be as honest as possible (without giving away any confidential company information, of course). Your staff will pick up on any attempt to be evasive, and this will only make them more nervous than ever. So when you can, just be honest!! Let your staff know that you are willing to keep the lines of communication open and that any time they have a question, they should contact you.

Another way to keep the communication flowing is to spend more time in your department. Try to walk around and check in with people on a frequent basis. Let them see that you are accessible and that you are committed to keeping them abreast of important information.

This kind of attention will do wonders for the stress-level (and therefore productivity) of your employees. In trying times, most managers get really uncomfortable. As a result they tend to shut down and spend less time with their employees. Take the open-communication approach, and again, you’ll stand out like a shining star. It’s a win for you, a win for our employees and a win for your company!!

It’s now time to move onto tips four and five. These tips will further your efforts towards keeping your department running smoothly. And help keep you from losing your mind – and your job!!

Right now you are probably as busy as you have ever been in your current position. So it may be hard for you to find time to stay ahead of all of the details, deadlines, projects and priorities that are on the top of your very long, and ever-growing to do list.

So here I am to offer a couple of more things to add to that list. What a peach, huh? Look, I know that it’s probably not the best time for you to be taking on extra things, but these tips WILL benefit you in the long run. Remember, you have an outstanding opportunity to really shine like a star during this time of corporate chaos and stress. So buck up, campers – you’ll get it all done. Tip number four first requires you to schedule an uninterrupted period of quiet time on your calendar. During this time, shut your door, forward your phone to voice mail and take a good long look at your (and your staff’s) current responsibilities, pending projects and deadlines. How are things going? Is everything moving according to plan? Are there any projects you should be re-prioritizing or dropping based on changing business needs?

After you take a look, schedule some time to talk to your key players. Make sure you are correct about the timing and progress of the projects they are working on. Then, move forward with your plans for re-prioritization, etc. And who knows, maybe this objective look at things will leave you and your staff with a bit less to do after all!!

Now depending on your workload, this may take more than one sit-down session. And that’s okay because it is WORTH it!!! In fact, it’s so worth it, it would probably be best to do this once a quarter or so. So why not make things easier on yourself and adopt this practice as part of your ongoing organizational efforts?

The next tip is an easy one – well, relatively speaking. It’s an easy concept, how about that? The tip is about meeting deadlines. As you know, deadlines are always an important thing to keep in mind as you go about your daily job. But now is the time when making or breaking deadlines can have an even more serious impact on how you are viewed by upper management. Make, or better yet beat a deadline and you are considered a star! Break a deadline, and you are considered part of the problem. Sounds tough, right? Well, it is tough out there right now. Which is why I want you to be at your best so that you are considered a super-star!!

Just for fun, let’s make sure we’re clear with the tips – how about a super-quick review?

Tip 1 – Get your attitude in check

Tip 2 – Address your employees’ attitude issues (fun, huh?)

Tip 3 – Keep the lines of communication with staff as open as possible

Tip 4 – Re-assess and re-prioritize projects

Tip 5 – Meet or beat deadlines

Alrighty – so now we’re up to number six. You ready?? It’s REWARD employees for their hard work!!!

Yay – reward employees – that’s a fun one!!! You’ll get to make people feel good and make them feel appreciated and spend a little more time with your employees and maybe even get to spend a little money on rewards…wait a minute. I can feel the vibes out there – do I detect a little resistance?

Well, if you are somewhat uncomfortable with this concept – don’t worry. You are not alone. In fact many, many managers far and wide have a tough time with this whole praise and reward deal. Why? Well, I have my theories (shocking, huh?) but I won’t bore you with the details (another shock!). Let’s just tackle the issue of why it’s so important and how to go about it and that may help you feel a little bit more at ease with actually doing it. Praising and rewarding that is.

Okay – so here’s the deal. Have you heard that old saying about how money isn’t the biggest motivator in employee performance? Well, I certainly don’t have scientific proof of that, but in my experience it seems to be the truth. So if that’s not the biggest performance motivator – what is? Can you guess?

Right!! It’s feeling as if you’ve don’t a great job and that you are appreciated for your hard work. And if that’s true, it’s up to you as a manager to let employees know that they are appreciated!! Now there are many of you who just aren’t comfortable with patting people on the back (figuratively, of course). But it really isn’t that hard and it does go such a long way in the employee motivation department. Look, all you have to do is say – “Jane, you did a great job with x. I really appreciate your hard work.”

See – it’s that simple! Just remember to deliver the pat on the back in a timely manner. And be specific about what the employee did that was so great. You want them to know what they are doing well so that they keep it up!!

In addition to praising your employees as individuals, you should also strive to reward them as a group. If you have the money in your budget, spring for an unscheduled bonus such as gift certificates to the local mall (or hardware store – satisfied guys??). Cater in for a fun and unusual lunch -yes, people do tire of pizza.

And if your company has any kind of official employee recognition program – use it and use it often. It’s there for a reason!!

Now there are tons of other ways to reward employees – far too many to cover in a short e-zine. So do a little reading on the topic. There are scores of great books with fun ideas. One great resource is 1001 Ways to Reward Employees by Bob Nelson.

Now go out there and be a STAR!!!!!

Molly Luffy, MBA, owner of Work Ethic Wizard, dedicated to helping managers regain their sanity and employees survive and thrive in todays corporation. Author of Super-Charge Your Promotion Quotient: 225 Success Strategies for the New Professional. http://www.workethicwizard.com/default.cfm

Six Management Tips for Trying Economic Times
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About Molly Luffy
Molly Luffy, MBA, owner of Work Ethic Wizard, dedicated to helping managers regain their sanity and employees survive and thrive in todays corporation. Author of Super-Charge Your Promotion Quotient: 225 Success Strategies for the New Professional. http://www.workethicwizard.com/default.cfm WebProNews Writer
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