If this is a common refrain in your organization, consider its roots – why would your team suggest they’re treated like children?
Lack of transparency
Lack of trust on how they get their work done
Regular questioning of their judgement
Regular questioning of their intent
When we feel like someone is condescending or patronizing us, we feel like that person thinks we’re stupid. This is a morale killer because it’s offensive both to our identity as well as to our dignity.
Team members want you to believe in them. They want you to believe:
They can handle the job
They’ll ask questions and seek help if they can’t
They can handle hard news
They are giving you their best
Consider that how you see your people is how they see themselves in your organization. They will live up to your expectations. If you don’t believe in them, if you see them as irresponsible or incapable “children,” lackluster results will be your outcome. The reverse is also true. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.
As a team member, knowing your boss trusts you, believes in you and counts on you, creates tremendous personal pride. Pride is powerful social super glue for retaining top talent.
So how do you get there?
Acknowledge the truth with your team. Acknowledge if you have held back hard news. Own if you had a filter through which you have seen your team based on a prior employee who proved to be untrustworthy. Name if you wonder why productivity can’t be higher based on your knowledge of the product and processes.
If you’re a cynic, pessimist or self-described “realist,” give your people the benefit of the doubt. Believe in your people until they give you hard evidence not to. Believe in their capacity. Set high expectations and assume they are sharp, committed and tenacious. Consider how you might shift your behavior if you were to treat them as your peer, your colleague, your teammate.
Try adopting Nordstrom’s One Rule: “Use best judgment in all situations. There will be no additional rules.” Followed with, “Please feel free to ask your department manager, store manager or division general manager any questions at any time.”
Keep your employees “in the know” and harness their shared wisdom. Include them in the inner circle of organizational knowledge. Be transparent. Also seek their help. Ask for their advice, suggestions and recommendations.
Be a stand for their success. High-five when they go above and beyond. When they struggle, speak to them directly and promptly–using kind, candid and constructive communication.
Remember, they can handle it.
And, don’t forget your copy of Culture Works, as endorsed by Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com and author of Delivering Happiness: “A helpful guide to developing and living your company’s core values.”