Late in 2014, I had the great privilege of interviewing Ramesh Kumar Singam, the country manager for FedEx in Malaysia. We’d originally met at the American Chamber of Malaysia’s Workforce 2020 event. Based on our discussion, I have drawn the following conclusions:
- A Manager’s Job is to Remove Obstacles in the Way of Success. Everyone wants to come to work and do a good job, so why not make it as easy as possible? Hold “Town Hall” sessions; meet with employees to find out what processes need to be fixed. Keeping looking for ways to inspire and encourage employees to think of new solutions—and reward them for coming up with ways to improve what they are doing. When people succeed, they start acting like winners. Expect them to win, and they will!
- Set Big Goals Together.Set ambitious goals together as a team, and let the team know that you truly believe in them and their ability to succeed. It’s not their goal; it’s our goal—we’re a team! Be a cheerleader along the way, which will help turn fear and stress into inspiration for manifesting the vision. If the team doesn’t reach the finish line on those big goals, chances are their “team captain” (a.k.a., you) haven’t made the expectations clear.
- Celebrate the Milestones. Think of any big goal as a series of milestones; then, let each milestone be acknowledged and celebrated along the way. There’s a lot of power in the celebration. A smaller milestone can be commemorated with a handwritten note, a can of soda, a lunch, or even a kind word. Bigger milestones warrant a company dinner or outing of some kind. Most important is to ensure that everyone on the team feels the success: honor it, look each other in the eye, and know that you have the power to hit the next milestone towards that bigger goal!
- Expect the Best. Remember, any goal raises the bar of expectations for how the team will perform. When we believe in our employees and give them permission to be creative and innovative, they will surely meet—or exceed—our expectations. The key is to help them feel valued and empowered.
- Show You Care. People respond to you when it’s clear that you genuinely care about them. When they know that they are valued, people will also do more for you and the team. How do you keep the heart in all you do for your employees? Here are a few ideas:
It’s All About the Families
Whenever possible, include employees’ families in happenings. Invite them to milestone events and annual parties. Helping spouses/partners feel special and connected brings dividends. Happy families create happy employees, who in turn create happy customers.
Honor the Passages
Celebrate births; reach out when there is a death in the family. Stop by the hospital when an employee is sick, and/or have everyone write a card or send a mood-brightening gift. In other words, show that you value your employees as human beings above all.
Keep in Touch
Make farewells special and honor the time employees have given to the job. Stay in touch after they leave by reaching out on birthdays and special occasions. Invite them to former colleagues’ retirement parties and community events.
- Practice On-the-Spot-Recognition. Don’t wait for special occasions; celebrate along the way as well! Acknowledge people who have gone above and beyond in their work. Do this in public whenever possible, perhaps with a certificate or award to validate the action and make it “official.” An award might include cash, a gift certificate, a casual ceremony, or even a heartfelt word of thanks and encouragement for all to hear.
- Move Forward Together. After an employee survey, arrange for managers to meet with each employee to further discuss their responses. This makes clear the joint partnership between the employee and the employer. Providing an opportunity for more personal feedback helps solidify a true team culture, leading to higher productivity and team performance. The question should always be this: What can we do together to help create a better workplace?
- Guarantee Fair Treatment for All. Make fair treatment of employees a top priority. For instance, if an employee perceives unfair treatment by a manager, he or she should be provided with a clear avenue for action. Allowing employees the chance to take issues up to the next level (or to the next, if necessary) is another way to empower them. The system should always be one that is fair and equitable—wherein justice always prevails.
- Skip Level Sessions. Meet with managers two levels down to get candid feedback on the chain of command. This helps identify shortcomings of managers; it also shows where there may be challenges within the system. It’s important to build such checks and balances into the system. Town Hall meetings can also provide the first-hand information. Just be sure to follow up with an explanation of any changes made.
- Live by the Motto, “I Trust You as Long as You Prove Trustworthy.” In many organizations, trust takes a long time to gain. This is the opposite approach. Try instead to expect the best from your employees from the start, and chances are that’s exactly what you’ll get. The Pygmalion Effect states that people will rise to the level of expectations of those they respect.
Thanks, Ramesh for a great interview! I trust that, if applied, these ideas will lead to a happier, healthier workplace for all.