What to do when your employees won’t follow your lead


by Juliet Newton

 It’s all terribly simple. You’re in a managerial role because you’ve proven yourself and have been the most adept at ‘getting stuff done’. Unfortunately, being responsible for employee management isn’t simple: achieving an objective yourself, and the ability to get a group of people to achieve those same goals, are two very different skills sets. What happens when your team won’t move in the same direction or aren’t motivated? What can you do when your team is just not receptive to your well-meaning efforts?

We’ve often been in situations where managers tell us how hard they work to motivate, and make things easier, for their team. However, the team just doesn’t respond – which makes employee management processes next to impossible.

The manger gets resentful, finding it even harder to motivate their team, and communication begins to deteriorate as the downward spiral begins to gain momentum. Let’s examine a few things that may help alleviate this type of situation and get your company’s employee management processes back on track.

We know not everything is in the hands of a manager

This means that it’s vital for the team to understand this little nugget.

Sometimes, there are systems and processes that can’t be changed – for one or another reason – and if that is the case it’s even more important that the communication between manager and team stays open and without agenda. Of course, if this is the case it’s obviously the manager’s responsibility to make the issues known to the organisation, and to let the team know what they’re doing to deal with the underlying issues.

Secondly, as a manager, what should you be doing to help improve the performance of a reluctant team?

1. Listen

Listen more than you talk. Listening to your staff will help them learn to think, discover the answers for themselves, take more responsibility and – above all else – it will help grow their confidence. Confident, thinking staff – who are learning – are always more productive. Always!

2. Question

Ask questions and then listen, and listen some more. Ask them what they need, how it could be done quicker or more efficiently, and what the organisation could be doing differently. Learn to ask the right questions and then learn to put those answers into actionable items. People become motivated because they’re part of the solution.

3. Empower

Remove the obstacles to your team’s productivity. Allocate 80% of your time to MANAGING the team. This means doing the things that empower the team to do their work. For example, help sales people get time with their customers by reducing internal meeting times, report-writing, and general admin. Perhaps your internal, office-bound team are being held up by other departments? If this is the case, make it easier for them to get access to the managers of those departments.

4. Delegate

Some managers try and motivate their team to be more productive by climbing into the ‘trenches with the team’, getting their ‘hands dirty’ and working alongside the team. No, no and no again! These managers are so busy ‘doing’ the work ‘with’ the team that there is no time to manage the team. The more work they do with, and for the team, the less the team learns to do, so the manager takes on more, the team is less empowered and so on in a downward spiral. Delegation is the key to empowerment!

5. Learn

Keep learning! You don’t have to know everything but you need to know where to find answers. This means that as a manager, you need to have an understanding of principles relating to all spheres of work – from operations to sales, HR and R&D.

Learning never ever stops. Allocate at least an hour a week to learning or up-skilling on new practices, thinking or methods of work, and make sure your team has access to training time. Learn enough to be able to smooth out work practices and guide your employees in their career development, or facilitate an external person to work on personal skills and learning objectives. A smart team is a productive team!

It takes time to learn to lead

It initially requires a good hard look at yourself and then developing a variety of interpersonal skills. A manager in a sticky team situation may find it tempting to make assumptions, become defensive and jump to conclusions. But the best approach is to take a moment to ask yourself how you could approach them differently. After that, ask the team what you can do to make their job easier, and then plan a constructive way forward.

You aren’t guaranteeing change, but stepping into the world of your team and simply hearing them out can go a long way to earning respect and facilitating a more productive team environment.

Share on Social Media

Leave a comment