More Thoughts on Managing People

Feb 18, 2008

When it comes to A/E/P and environmental consulting firms, the difference in profitability and growth vs. marginal performance and no growth is very little. But that “little” difference may just be how your people feel about you and the company they work for. And while no two people are the same, there are a lot of little things you can do to help keep people engaged and feeling good. Here are six of them: Give your people a chance to try out their creativity. Everyone wants to feel like they have some influence over the creative direction of a project. Ask what they would suggest to make the project better and, if you can, try to use even a small example of their thinking. It will make them feel more valued. Call home every once in a while. I’m talking about the employee who is sick or has a doctor’s appointment, or the one that’s just put in a week of 12-hour days. Show you care. Make a simple call to check on them and let them know you recognize their contributions. Make a call to see if they are OK health-wise if your inquiry seems like it would be appreciated (don’t pry!). Ask the person to step into your office to talk during the workday. Inquire about their family, what’s happening on the job, what’s new, and what’s bugging them. Again, the common theme to all of these acts is showing interest in the person. That is more valuable than any restaurant gift certificate you could give them! Take the person out for lunch or meet them for breakfast. See my point immediately above for discussion topics. Ask the person to join in a meeting they wouldn’t normally be involved in. Once again, just having a chance to meet a client or provide some creative input or explain why a particular decision was made on a project can be a real ego boost. Use these opportunities and avoid alienation. Buy the person something they want or need for their workspace or a new tool or piece of software that will make their job easier. Showing up with a new desk chair when you notice the arm pads on the employee’s current chair are duct-taped down shows you care. Asking about tools or training needed and then getting those things now is a way to show you care. A word of caution— you have to be careful about doing these kinds of things. Even if your intentions are good, it can backfire if the employee perceives the act as some sort of attempt to manipulate them or as condescending in some way. A good example of what I’m talking about is plaques on the wall or special parking places for the “Employee of the Month.” The plaque is just plain hokey and rarely ever continued. Eventually, if you do it long enough, everyone becomes an “Employee of the Month.” And, those who don’t get this dubious distinction may be angry because they feel more deserving than the one who did. Showing you care— really care— goes a long way to keeping morale, productivity, and quality of service where it needs to be for the firm to always be profitable. Do it every day and it will become second nature for you. Originally published 2/18/2008

About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.