Last year I noticed, I was not as engaged or productive with my work as I had been before. I found it difficult to focus on day to day tasks and filling my weekly reports became harder and harder. What had happened? Was I losing my touch? Becoming lazy? I had gone on a vacation just a few months before, so my productivity should have been high. Yet, for some reason I was failing both on a professional and emotional level. It was the decisive actions of my manager that got me back on track.
Understanding your employees.
A good manager understands that employees are the most valuable resource in the company. A great manager does everything in their power to keep them sharp and engaged. However, this can be a hard job for even the most experienced team leader. People are prone to hide their problems out of fear or shame.
That means, the first thing you need to do is to establish open communication and an atmosphere of trust in the workplace. This isn’t a silver bullet that takes away your problems, but it will make it much more likely that employees will let you help them.
Taking time with your employees.
Experienced employees can pretty easily understand when their managers are trying to manipulate them. So, to build trust, you must genuinely want it. Your efforts must have pure motivations and you must accept that the process will be slow at first. Trust doesn’t happen if you force it, but rather builds from effort put into it over a long period of time.
When I felt my focus drop, I had been working with my team leader for almost 3 years and I had no problem talking with him about it. However, I’m pretty sure that if my problems had started even a year earlier it would have been a lot harder. Not because I didn’t trust him a year ago but because for me, an employee, it takes a lot to tell a person who grades my performance, that it has gone down. It may seem a lot easier to go with “fake it till you make it” strategy and hope your focus comes back (spoiler alert: it won’t).
Using Weekdone with employees.
As long as I’ve worked in Weekdone, we’ve been using our weekly planning and quarterly goal setting system. The core principles of these methodologies are communicating everyone’s work (from the CEO to a marketing intern) clearly to everyone. That means that I understand very well, how my day to day tasks impact my team’s and company’s performance.
That is also the reason I know when our leadership has bad or unproductive weeks (they are also human!) or that if I do my work well, I’ll help my co-workers be more productive. We all have good and bad days. That makes it easier for me to seek help to my problems as well.
It was easy for me to measure my performance as I had used Weekdone for more than 2 years and could compare my performance with my past accomplishments. That helped me to both detect problems and understand when they have passed.
Subtle ways to see the dangers.
When employees lose focus, they simply can’t be forced back into being productive. You must give them time to deal with it. Encourage them to seek help (if needed), and give them time to breath. There can be a lot of reason, employees may not want to take a timeout. From financial reasons to the feeling of being incapable. Luckily, my manager pushed me hard to take a vacation. It took only a few weeks of downtime for my abilities to start returning. When you consider the costs of low productivity and replacing an employee, it’s a small price to pay.