AS A top-notch leader, you have successfully set the tone and direction for your company and all seems to be going well - potential clients are calling, sales are up, costs are under control and profits are solid.
You have done a good job managing change from the prospective of global competition and product innovation.
However, another change, which is causing an uncomfortable undercurrent, is developing among your employees. Quite simply, they are not getting along. As described in the book, Riding the Waves Without Getting Wet: A Leadership Parable, just when you have figured out how to bail water out of the boat, a rip in the sail threatens your ability to navigate your course.
What can you do to set the example for good relations among your employees? We all know the Golden Rule: "Treat others as you would like to be treated."
After 27 years of management and consulting with Fortune 500 companies, I have found the following guidelines help leaders improve employee relationships and make that 40-plus hour work week a golden one.
Learn to listen
Being a good listener starts with your belief system. Do you believe your employees have something to say that will make a difference, or that only what you say will move the company forward? Your attitude toward what others have to say will determine how well you listen to your employees.
One of my favourite organisational cartoons shows a suggestion box placed directly over the waste bin.
People are busy today with constant change and working with new people. They know very quickly what management is paying attention to, so make sure to acknowledge good ideas, and maybe even more important, thank people for having the courage to bring up what no one else wants to discuss.
Know your employees' career tracks
Take time to know employees' past, current and future career goals. Taking an interest in them and their goals will give you a better idea of how they can contribute to your company, and at the same time, show them you care enough to help shape their careers.
Smart companies pay very close attention to where employees want to be. Marriott International offers a programme called Career Tracks where employees can sign up for different development programmes and explore their true potential.
In addition to formal training, many companies now encourage managers to have candid discussions with their direct reports about where they see themselves in five years.
According to the US labour department, the average new employee will stay only one year and one month at a job. So savvy companies realise a five-year investment for an employee is quite a long time indeed.
When interviewing, get beyond the typical responses and really hone in on a candidate's specific career path. For example, you could have a salesperson who would like to be in market research in five years.
Sales and marketing are often confused and combined as a matter of convenience; however, the disciplines can be quite different.
The first stage of the career-tracks process is to look at the requirements necessary to qualify for the position. The position may require an MBA, or a concentration in statistical analysis with proper cross-training may be what is necessary.
Now that you have the tangible details of the position, you can form a pact with the employee. You can then help him design the exact qualifications for the job. What you want to avoid at all costs is the employee bidding for the position and being knocked out because of an oversight.
If your company offers tuition reimbursement, great, but even if it does not, you can still arrange an employee's schedule so he or she can work and still be able to attend class.
Or you can clear the way for the person to cross-train in another discipline. Periodically, check in with the employee to monitor progress and offer the appropriate encouragement.
Cultivate individuals' value
Your employees may have valuable ideas about the company unrelated to their experience or position. An accountant may spot an innovative way to move a product while taking a plant tour. An administrative assistant could help streamline how sales handles calls.
It is up to you to open the lines of communication between departments to share information and encourage expression of new ideas on how to run your business.
Allow for missteps
Mistakes can possibly cost your company money; however, don't let them define your corporate culture. Remember Teflon and Post-it Notes were discovered by accident.
Take the lead in turning a mistake into an opportunity to learn. Bring your team together to work on a solution. It is a paradox - taking the pressure off actually curtails mistakes.
As you start to implement these guidelines, you will find that you will be able to manage any current of change in your employees' relationships.