1. Don't have a feast attitude during a famine
Suppose that you went in to work tomorrow and discovered that a computer worth $5,000 was missing. What would happen? Someone would call the police. There would be an investigation in which people were interviewed, evidence examined and routines questioned. Now, suppose that you went in to work tomorrow and a key employee quit. What would happen? Although replacing the employee will cost far more than $5,000, odds are there would be no investigation. Don't be cavalier about people. Treat them as precious resources, and take it seriously if you lose one.
2. Don't recruit like you used to recruit
It used to be (until just a few years ago) that applicants came to the job market as sellers and companies came as buyers. Companies posted their jobs and applicants came touting their skills, hoping to impress the companies into "buying." But times have changed. Today, it's the company that has to do the selling--impressing the best candidates so they will come to them instead of going with a competitor.
3. Don't abuse employees
If you abuse employees, who will they take it out on? Customers. Sam Walton claimed that his highest priority was treating employees well--because happy employees would be better with customers, who in turn would buy more. Walton started out in a small town in Arkansas and built the biggest retail company on Earth. Perhaps he was onto something.
4. Don't be a "ready, fire, aim" boss
One employee complained that her boss spent so little time with her that he couldn't pick her out of a police line-up. If he didn't know who she was, how could he possibly know how to deploy her talents? He couldn't--he was too busy solving problems without all his resources. When they come to you with problems, don't save ten minutes by telling them the answer. Ask what they've already tried, what else they can think of doing. Sometimes inefficiency is more efficient in the long run.
5. Don't follow the Golden Rule
We all learn as children to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. But following the Golden Rule assumes that others want what you want, and that may not be true. Ask what employees want. And then do it unto them.
6. Get out of the way
If you know anything about eBay, you know that peer-to-peer relationships are all the rage. When two or more people have data or merchandise to trade, going through a central hub or up a hierarchical ladder only slows things down. The same is true at work. Employees who are unencumbered by their bosses can achieve enormous gains if they're given the latitude to work together and make decisions without having to clear everything through the boss. Sure, there's a risk in stepping back and giving your people freedom. But if you want employees with initiative and creativity, you've got to give them room to exercise them.
7. Be customer-focused
We all know that the customer is always right. If we do what customers want, they'll keep buying. Former Sun Microsystems executive Jim Moore observes that bosses have customers, too--their employees. And just like the customers of your business, they can go elsewhere if they're unhappy. You must tailor a working environment for them that meets their individual needs: for recognition, for the challenges they respond to, for varying degrees of attention versus independence, and so on.
8. Measure, evaluate, reward
Would Marion Jones have taken the gold in the Sydney Olympics if she'd never set goals or measured her progress? Of course not. And in the sprints and marathons of your workplace, your employees need goals and measurements too. You need a system--formal, informal, written, verbal; the specifics don't really matter--that will let your employees give you the same kind of feedback you give them. Create such a system--and use it. Listen carefully and act on the information.
9. Reveal your waterline
W.L. Gore is a successful manufacturer with an entrenched--and unusual--corporate culture. Among other things, they encourage employees to make decisions themselves. Only decisions below the waterline are reserved for managers. What's the waterline? It's the point at which a decision can have major ramifications for the company. Think icebergs in the hull. A client with $1,000 in sales? Let the employees decide. A client with $1 million in sales? Get the manager involved. Of course, that means that all Gore employees and managers know the company's waterline. Do you and your employees know yours?
10. Ask, "What will it take to keep you?"
Retention guru Beverly Kaye notes that bosses almost never ask what it will take to keep someone: They fear they won't be able to fill the request. But Kaye says that many requests are filled more easily than bosses think. And even if an employee's top request isn't possible, numbers two and three might be. Simply asking the question lets employees know they're important. Still don't believe us? Then think about how you'd feel if your boss asked you this question.
11. E=mc2 (Energy = Mission x Cash x Congratulations)
Do you want your employees to bring more energy to work each day? Then follow the simple formula that Ken Blanchard adapted from Einstein's original formula for the creation of energy. First, create a compelling vision for your people. Second, while contributing to a mission is important, it won't have nearly the impact if employees' wallets are empty. Third, while contributing to a mission and receiving cash rewards are critical, nothing gooses energy on a daily basis like genuine pats on the back. So be generous with your praises. Most people think good bossing is an art, and it is. But in this case, it's also a science.
12. Be their mother flame
For each Olympic games, the Olympic torch is run across the host country, passed from one runner to the next. The process is symbolic of Olympics past, and it allows many people to be involved. Sometimes, however, the torch goes out. That's why a small truck drives alongside the runners. Inside the truck is the mother flame, ready to relight the torch when needed. Employees need a mother flame too. They get tired and discouraged; their flames and their passions go out. When that happens, they need to come to you to relight them.