Do Unto Your Employees as you do Unto Yourself: 5 Ways to Improve Your Management of Your Teamby David Ferguson
A key lesson we learn from Biblical scripture is how we should treat each other. The words come directly from Jesus in John 13:34, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” And in another scripture, (Mark 12:30-31) we are told to love God with all our strength and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.
When I think about how a Jesus Led Business should operate, this Biblical message is the perfect instruction for how a leader should interact and manage their team. One of my motivations for starting my own business was feeling unappreciated and mistreated as an employee in the large companies I worked for. It wasn’t really the company’s fault…they had excellent benefits, there was lots of employee development, and the pay was decent. But the way I saw management treat not only myself, but also others within the company, made me think, “If I had my own business, I would recognize and appreciate people differently and better.”
The best approach to team management is a simple question, “How would I want to be treated if I were in that situation?” Most people want to be treated fairly, with respect, and with honesty. If you frame all your decisions in that manner, you’ll probably end up with a pretty good business culture. Here are a few tips about applying this principle to employee management:
1. Rules should only be guidelines. Rules are important and generally exist for a good reason. However, the biggest area of frustration for employees is when rules are applied without consideration of the specific situation. Make sure you have some wiggle room in your policies so that consideration can be given as appropriate and you and your management team can apply the concept of “how would I want to be treated if I were in this situation?” The big argument against considering the rules based on the circumstance is that you set precedence in your organization and this could limit how you handle future similar situations. If you follow the remaining steps below, I think you’ll have a strong basis to address this concern.
2. Communication is the key. I’ve learned over the years that you don’t want your team filling in the gaps or reading between the lines of what you say. Whenever there is a void of information, your team may fill that void with doubt, fear, and suspicion. As a leader, you may have had the best of intentions with the move to switch insurance plans for the company, but without proper communication of the reason for the change, the message to the team could be “the company is taking away our good benefits just to save money.” The fact could be that you did change it to save the company money, but if you simply said that and was upfront about it with your team, they would deal with it a lot better than if you appear as if you’re hiding it or misleading them about your reasons. Be straightforward in communicating the reasons for your decisions. Generally, a fair-minded person will respect your decision and honesty. Remember, that’s how you would want to be treated.
3. Fair doesn’t mean equal. I’ve mentioned a few times that a key to team management is to treat everyone fairly. But I want to stress, fair doesn’t mean equal. The best way to be fair, in my opinion, is to apply a set of standards consistently (and make sure you communicate what those standards are!). If you have two people show up for work late and one has never been late and the other has been late 3 times this week, it would be very unfair to punish them both with the same consequences. A trap a leader could get into is thinking everyone in the organization has to be treated the same in order to be fair, whether a punishment or a reward.
4. Everyday is not your birthday. This is where you have to make sure you put a dose of reality into your decisions. When factoring a decision and thinking about how you would want to be treated, be sure to factor in your knowledge of what is best for the organization. For example, you’re planning the performance bonuses and raises for your team; you put yourself in your team’s shoes and ask how you would want to be treated. An honest assessment is you probably would want the biggest raise imaginable. As the team leader, you know that’s not possible. It may not even be possible to pay your team what they could demand on the open market. It’s just a matter of resources…the company has only a certain amount of money it can spend on raises this year. So, part of being a leader is to understand not every decision you make is going to be a popular one. Telling a star in the company that they get only a 3% raise, or maybe none at all, is tough. But how would you want to be treated if you were in that situation. Well, you’ll probably want your boss to be honest with you, tell you that you deserve more, recognize you for all the great work you do, and explain the harsh realities of the situation with the understanding that when the company can do better, they will. In this specific situation, going this route could cause a key employee to leave the company and go take more money elsewhere. But, in my experience, having this sort of honest communication tends to create a long lasting relationship of trust and develop a real bond with your team. Most people want to be treated with honesty, respect, and fairness and I’ve found that to be a higher retainer of talent than money or perks.
5. Be open to discussion. Lastly, be open to discussion. If you’ve made a decision based on principles and applied the concepts we applied above, then you’ve made a solid reasoned decision. You should have no problem communicating your reasons, and when faced with new facts, adjusting your decision, if needed. Part of creating a great culture in your company is setting the tone that discussion is encouraged and decisions are based in fact and reason, not by dictatorship. However, I do encourage that you establish parameters around open discussions. For example, communicate openly to everyone but encourage anyone who wants to engage in extended debate, or offer a dissenting opinion, to discuss it one-on-one with you or in a small group setting.
By applying these 5 concepts you build trust between yourself and the team and that develops into a strong corporate culture. This culture is based on trust, honesty, communication, and respect. As these principles are applied consistently over a long period of time, a historical record is created and your team starts to operate in a less guarded position. When you communicate new information to them, they will not immediately turn to doubt, fear, and suspicion but give you the benefit of the doubt, or feel empowered to ask you for more information, rather than guess. Your existing team members will educate new employees around the water cooler on how business is done here which will put new employees at ease when any information is communicated.
So, the next time you are faced with a decision, ask yourself, “If I were in the shoes of the team members affected by this decision, how would I want it handled?” Let that be your guiding light for how you chart your course.
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And, in the meanwhile, continue to… Pray About It, Be About It, and Praise About It!
Thanks for reading and God Bless.