16 Ways to Show Staff You Care

By: Vinay Kumar and Joe Isaacs, FASAE, CAE

Simple steps to inspire, motivate, and encourage the people you work with.

We've served associations as both senior management and as trusted vendor partners for more than 30 years and have observed what contributes to organizational success among those who take seriously the adage "we are only as good as our people." The art of developing positive staff relations can fill books, but here are 16 simple truths that we believe will foster trust and dedication, promote a shared vision and performance excellence, and inspire staff leadership and creativity.

Get to know your staff as human beings. Recognize them by name and try to reward them based on their personal interests (e.g., concert tickets to a favorite performer). It will often mean more to them than money.

Watch performance and outcomes, not the clock. Work them hard when you need to and give them time off and the opportunity to work from home when they need it.

Don't micromanage. Ask staff what they need to get the job done, but don't dictate how they should do it. Listen to staff for their important insights from the trenches.

Praise in public; criticize in private. Acknowledge staff's contributions in public every chance you get (including listing all staff on your website), and reserve sharing individual criticism for private moments.

Play to their strengths. Help staff find work that fits their natural talents and that they enjoy (even it means a job elsewhere), and provide additional professional training when needed.

Give them credit. Acknowledge to them and others routinely that the organization's accomplishments are a result of staff's talent and their support of the organization's strategic directions.

Recognize that staff may not fit the culture. Remove staff members who are toxic to the workplace, no matter how good they are technically. Your organization will go on and be healthier for it.

In case of a mistake, don't shout or punish. Talk it out, allow the staff member to explain what happened, and use it as a learning opportunity.

Encourage managers to serve as mentors. A good manager is like a good coach, not merely a delegator.

Communicate honestly and fairly. Keep staff informed about the organization's progress as much as possible, and don't shoot the messenger when someone informs you of a problem.

Treat staff with respect. Model the positive behavior you expect from them and you are more likely to have it reciprocated. Reflect professionalism but have a sense of humor.

Don't ask staff to do anything you wouldn't do yourself if asked by a supervisor. Listen to your gut in those instances and buffer your staff from unreasonable requests from individual board members.

Recognize it's not all about you. Know that your success is derived from your staff's success. Your role is to inspire and help them be their best, not respond to your whims.

Hold staff accountable for their efforts. Everyone brings something different to the table, but you don't want free riders or a sense of inequity to pervade.

Treat staff like adults and they'll be more likely to act that way. Make time for them when they need to talk to someone without judgment and, when appropriate, ask them for needed advice.

Show faith in your staff's capabilities. Set expectations, provide needed resources and tools, encourage measured risk taking, and offer specific feedback.

Vinay Kumar is president of Vinay Kumar Associates and senior advisor at Marketing General, Inc., in Alexandria, Virginia. Joe Isaacs, FASAE, CAE, is the president of New Heights Management Consulting Group and vice president for public policy at the United Spinal Association in Washington, DC. Emails: [email protected], [email protected]

Joe Isaacs, FASAE, CAE