Does Your Manager ENABLE or DISABLE Your Career?

I’d imagine that the person you settled down with in your personal life took the time to get to know you before making any jumps in your relationship such as moving in together or buying your first home.

You asked questions to understand if the person was right for you to determine if you had the same values and had a similar outlook for the future.

If this typically works to grow fruitful relationships in our personal life than why don’t we do it in our professional life?

To be successful in our roles and contribute to the success of our organizations, our team members need to be aligned with their managers.

Simple, right? Maybe not. Many people are still rushing to accept offers before truly evaluating the relationship.

In my career, I have been managed and have managed people over the past decade. I believe there are some questions that we should and shouldn’t ask our managers to learn about their management style before we start working together.

Create a Manager Muse Document

A few years ago I read a Business Insider article describing Lululemon’s customer muse. This tactic helps the organization understand who they are targeting and who they are building products for. As described in the article, Ocean is their female muse. She is a 32-year-old-professional woman who earns $100,0000 per year. She is engaged, has her own condo, travels, is fashionable and has an hour and a half to work out a day.

After reading this in 2015 I was inspired to do this for employees. I now have an employee muse that describes the type of employees I want to work with. 

Today, I am recommending that employees design a manager muse before they start interviewing with companies.

For example, a sample of your manager muse could read like this.

My ideal manager has 10+ years of experience in leading diverse teams. She has worked for a recognizable company that the market admires and has been voted as the best workplace. Because of this, she knows how company culture is the foundation of every great company.

While she is demanding, she is benevolent. I thrive when my manager is demanding of my work because it ensures that I put my best foot forward. Having her be benevolent gives me peace of mind that I will always be respected.

When putting a manager muse together start by writing down traits and behaviours you want in your manager then start crafting sentences together.

Build Your Interview Questions

Now that you have an outline for your ideal manager I’m recommending that you put together questions related to the behaviours you want your leader to exhibit.

If you care about their experience, benevolence and diversity experience you could ask the following questions:

  • Experience: “I see that you’ve worked at [name of company], what were three great lessons of leadership you learned?”
  • Benevolence: “What recognizable business leader would you compare your leadership style to?” It would be great if they said, Richard Branson or Oprah.
  • Diversity: “Can you describe the most diverse team you’ve led in your career?”

Do Reference Checks

If the company is going to do reference checks on you, shouldn’t you be allowed to do the same? I think so.

As you get further into the interview process I’d recommend asking the hiring manager to meet your future manager. Once you’ve built rapport and are considering taking the role, politely ask if you can speak to one person the manager has managed in the past and one person they are currently managing.

Position the request this way: “Hi Stephanie, may I ask to speak with someone you’ve managed in the past and one person on your team today? The reason I ask is that I want to ensure that we’re going to make a great team and I believe having this insight would be valuable for both of us.”

Some may not have the courage to ask but I believe it’s paramount in finding a great manager to help grow your career. I can tell you first hand as a manager of people, I would be impressed by the confidence and diligence if someone asked me to speak to past and current employees.

If you’re able to speak to members of their past and current team, I’d recommend asking the following questions:

  • Can you share three things that [name of manager] does well to motivate you to bring your whole self to work every day?
  • What new skill sets have you learned because of [name of manager] leadership?
  • What do you believe makes [name of manager] tick? What ticks them off?

I’d recommend putting together six questions to ensure that you’re gathering a vast amount of information not only from the hiring manager but also from past and current employees.

Ask Them Their Definition of Success

For me, the most important question to ask is,

“What’s your definition of success?”

You want to get very clear on how your manager is measuring success. This isn’t just for KPI’s but also for other intangible things. If I was hiring a marketing manager KPI’s like email collection and website traffic would be a measure of success. But, there would be some other things that make me happy as a leader, such as:

  • Be on time for meetings
  • One business day response time for emails
  • I don’t want to have to follow up with my team when we’ve already discussed what needs to be done and when

After the manager has described their measures of success it’s important to write them down and reflect on them regularly. After all, that’s the bullseye you need to review the key measures of success regularly.

I spend a considerable amount of time helping people find great managers so that they can have assistance in growing the career of their dreams. One thing that I’ve recognized is that they are spending too much time selling themselves and not enough time evaluating who they may be working with in the future.

The examples I’ve provided in this blog post are tried, tested and true. If you are a team member looking for your next great manager, try it out! If you’re a manager, prepare yourself to be asked questions similar to what I’ve outlined.

Are you interested in improving your company culture, employee engagement, and customer experience? If so, my online course, Team Operating System, may be your solution.

Click this link to book a call with me directly to learn if the course is right for you and your company.

You Can’t Forcefully Increase Employee Engagement (BONUS: 3 Interview Questions Included)

Employee engagement strategies are one way that I’ve built my business and career. It’s also one of the topics that I regularly keynote speak about.

My three core focuses are employee engagement, customer experience and company culture strategies to grow a business. Like, actually grow a business. None of this “nice to have” stuff.

But, guess what…

I’m going to suggest something that may contradict what you think my beliefs are in growing a successful business. Please know that our company has nearly 200 employees so I’ve seen this firsthand.

How to Identify and Hire Engaged Employees

Okay, here’s my suggestion…

If you want high employee engagement, you can’t hire employees and expect to launch initiatives or strategies to increase their engagement. 

Instead, you must hire engaged professionals and maintain their motivation throughout their tenure with your company.

In other words, you need to find people who are naturally engaged in nearly everything that they do in their professional and personal lives.

You see, some people are natural self-starters. It appears that they excel in everything that they commit to whether they are experienced in the topic or not. These same professionals apply and teach themselves to get better.

How To Maintain Employee Engagement

One of our core values as a company is “ownership.” We want all our team members to take ownership of the guest experience and their professional development. This helps us maintain high employee engagement.

Take Melissa Smilie as an example. 

people first culture employee, increase employee engagement, how to increase employee engagement, people first culture hiring strategy, people first culture strategy
Michel Falcon and Melissa Smilie, a People-First Culture hire.

Melissa joined our company as a server at one of our venues and today she is a key member of our marketing team. When I first met Melissa, when she was a part of our serving team, she said her goal was to pursue a career in marketing within our company. My business partner Brandon and I made a note of this and when an opportunity opened up, Melissa applied for the position and won us over.

But, Melissa didn’t simply get awarded the position because she showed interest and was already working for us. She earned it because I could see that while she was serving she was also investing time and energy into sharpening her marketing knowledge. Even today, after securing the position, she continues to invest in her education by reading marketing articles and listening to podcasts.

You see, I don’t need to increase her employee engagement. She is already engaged! My responsibility is to maintain it. I do this by frequently forwarding her interesting marketing knowledge that I read and touching base with her regularly to ensure that she has everything she needs to succeed.

Another one of our core values as a company is “foresight.” I need to have the foresight to continuously touch base with Melissa to measure her levels of engagement. I’m not going to suggest that Melissa will never become disengaged but I’m confident that I will know before it impacts her and our company.

Warning Signs of A Disengaged Employee

Some warning signs of employees who are beginning to become disengaged are:

  • Their participation in meetings
  • Their quality of work
  • Their response times to emails
  • Their temperament 
  • Their adherence to schedule and timelines

On the other hand, there are individuals who can have their employee engagement experience ebbs and flows. For example, if you manage a sales team, you can run sales contests and experience high levels of employee engagement because the team wants to win the prize.

But, what happens when the contest is over?

It’s likely that some individuals on your sales team will continue with high engagement (these are the Melissa’s of your organization) but it’s equally as likely that some, maybe most, of your team will experience a dip in their engagement.

Prizes, incentives, and contests can only increase employee engagement for short periods of time.

If you want to find professionals who naturally have high employee engagement, I would recommend evaluating your interview process. It’s likely that you’re not spending enough time probing for this habit.

The Interview Process

In our interview process, I like to probe for it during the phone interview (a time when we ask a handful of questions), culture and skillset interviews. 

These are three different interviews in our People-First Culture interview pyramid. Below is an image of our entire process that has helped us experience an employee retention rate 2.5x higher than the hospitality industry average.

increase employee engagement, increase employee retention, people first culture strategy, people first culture interview strategy, people first culture diagram
People First Culture Proven Hiring Strategy

By probing for it regularly, throughout the interview process, it’s very likely you’ll be able to understand if this individual will have high employee engagement because it’s hard to fake it over three consecutive interviews.

Ask interview questions not only related to their career but their personal lives too. Here are a few questions I like to ask to probe for potential high employee engagement:

  • In regards to the role you have applied for, what is going to motivate you to bring your whole self to work every day?
  • How did your last manager or coach motivate you best?
  • Can you tell me of a time in your personal life when you started something that was foreign to you which became a skill set you’re using today? 

These are a snapshot of questions I like to ask while probing for potential employee engagement with the candidate.

I’ve spoken to a countless amount of entrepreneurs and professionals, just like you. A common theme that I’m hearing is that they are trying to figure out their employee behaviours and motivations. 

As we bring 2019 to a close, now is a perfect time to reevaluate our approach to employee engagement.

Are you interested in improving your company culture, employee engagement, and customer experience? If so, my online course, Team Operating System, may be your solution.

Click this link to book a call with me directly to learn if the course is right for you and your company.