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One of my favorite reality shows is Undercover Boss.

In each episode, the CEO of the featured business dons a disguise and takes on one of the front line jobs of their company.

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Often, these leaders find the jobs far more difficult than they first appeared. And along with learning to appreciate their employees' skills, the top execs also discover that even the most junior staff member has great ideas about how to improve the business. And the CEO realizes how much their team appreciates positive feedback.

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Now, you don't have to be an undercover boss to inspire change. Just get to know your employees better, and consider if they're getting the recognition they need since it helps keep them productive and feeling fulfilled.

A McKinsey Quarterly study found "praise and commendation from manager" was the number one motivating factor for employees (67% said it was effective), followed by "attention from company leadership" (63%) and "opportunity to lead projects" (62%). An increase in base pay was fifth on the list, with only 52% agreeing it was effective.

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So try these easy, low-cost ways to boost appreciation at your company:

  1. Combine formal and informal feedback. In addition to an annual, formal performance review and development plan, it's important to give positive feedback on a consistent basis. Run weekly team meetings and send out emails or thank you notes.
  2. Praise in public, but correct in private. Negative feedback is best if it's immediate, specific, and behaviour-focused.
  3. Get to know your employees. Find out about your employees' families and keep tabs on when their birthdays are, for instance. Schedule group bonding time at least once a year – some advisors close their offices so everyone can participate.
  4. Present individual and team rewards. One advisor I know gives everyone on the team $100 when they achieve major success. It's an unexpected and team-wide reward.
  5. Encourage all employees to provide business input. You should already be using a participative style of management that allows all team members speak up. But if you have a larger firm or team, consider developing a formal suggestion program. For example, have one senior employee in charge of collecting suggestions in a standard format, and then review these at regular meetings. Your front line staff are the best source of process improvement and customer service tips.

Though some advisors are naturally good at employee appreciation, others have a more down-to-business personality. If you're part of the latter group, try putting some reminders in your calendar until giving feedback becomes habit.

April-Lynn Levitt, B. Comm, CFP, is a coach with The Personal Coach. April provides support to Western & Central Canada financial advisors. She has experience as an independent financial advisor and as a top Financial Consultant and Regional Manager in a Calgary office that managed $1 billion for physicians and their families. You can follow April on LinkedIn.
Originally published on Advisor.ca

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