You’re great at leading other people, but could you do their jobs?
If not, it’s time to learn.
Before you start thinking, “Yeah, right. I’m busy enough doing my own work. I don’t have time to learn their jobs,” give us a chance.
On the surface, it might not seem important – or even feasible – that the boss knows how to do employees’ work. But new research finds the exact opposite is true.
A manager’s understanding of employees’ work has the biggest impact on their job satisfaction, a study in the Industrial and Labor Relations Review found.
That’s important because researchers also found that when employees are happy, they can be as much as 12% more productive!
That makes learning a little more about what your employees do worth the investment.
You Cast A Long Shadow
“The bottom line is that employees are happiest when the boss knows what he or she is talking about,” the researchers said. “The boss casts a long shadow … Your own team’s job satisfaction levels depend on your competence.”
The best part: You don’t have to know the intricacies of everyone’s daily work. But you do want to know more about the scope of their work and then capitalize on what they know.
Many managers came up through the ranks, so they know how to get the job done.
But it’s likely that things – processes, technology, resources and demands – have changed over time. What worked then may not be the best approach now – and employees live that reality every day.
Without knowing the ins and outs of daily work, most leaders can’t and don’t leverage their employees’ talent, a Conference Board study found.
When the boss doesn’t fully understand what employees do, are good at doing or need help in doing they can’t align employees’ abilities with company or department needs.
To stay up to date on their work (or learn what it’s all about if you’ve never done the work):
- Roll up your sleeves. Work side-by-side at least once a quarter. Fill in for them at least once a year.
- Ask questions. Employees are often so good at their jobs, they’re on autopilot. Ask why they do things a certain way and how that turned into their “best practice.” This helps both of you understand the work better.
- Review and rewrite job descriptions. Duties change and roles adapt over time. After you’ve worked closely with employees, check that the job description includes specific tasks and reflects the current reality. If it doesn’t, work together to update it.
Capitalize On Their Knowledge
There’s a good chance many employees will know more than you about their roles, giving them special insight on how they impact the overall operation – and how they can potentially improve the process.
Unfortunately, just 60% of the employees say their managers actually do listen!
“Not only is a healthy boss/employee relationship integral to overall career happiness, it is vital to positively affecting the company’s bottom line,” says Jim Link, Chief Human Resources Officer at staffing firm Randstad North America.
“In fact, (one of our studies) found that employers truly believe their company would be more successful if they listened to employees’ ideas and feedback more often.”
So, go for their feedback more often and use their experience to help the team and company succeed.
- Get their insight regularly. Employees who’ve been at your company for a long time see what works and what doesn’t. That makes them a great resource. You can’t see everything that happens at their level, and they can bring front-line insight to you.
- Focus on the takeaway. When you do get their feedback, absorb everything they say, without letting it turn into a rant on everything that’s wrong. Instead, keep the focus on the takeaway. You want action steps that will help you fully understand the work and ways to support employees doing it.
- Create a partnership. Not every employee will be a fountain of knowledge. Some will prefer to stay in a silo. With those who want to share and possibly expand their roles, think about how you can combine their knowledge and your leadership to move the department or company forward.
Free Leadership Guide
You Can Download
Leadership can come from anywhere. Most often it comes from the ground up, but it can come from any direction. Not just the top down. Need some inspiration, download our free 60–page guide.