In honor of employee appreciation month, I’d like to share what I’ve found to be the greatest gift of appreciation in almost any occupation – knowledge.
Many people in the food industry are promoted to managers because they are good at their jobs – jobs where individuals work towards their own success based on individual goals. When promoted to manager, this paradigm shifts. Many do not understand how to use their newfound authority to motivate those under them to drive the goals and objectives of their company.
For managers to be successful, it is important to recognize how to best encourage and empower others. Managers have the ability to destroy morale, derail a culture of safety, impede productivity, and inadvertently promote laziness if they are not effectively communicating the information needed to meet expectations.
My “aha” moment as a people manager for guiding others came when I was working with the Quality, Food Safety and Sanitation teams at a mid sized food manufacturing plant.
It was during a team building experiment that I realized giving guidance and instructions, with the appropriate amount of detail and not just telling people what to do, was critically important to the end product and to those making that product.
I gave a bag of balloons and some string and scissors to my team and told them to blow up the balloons and tie a string on each one. I then left the room. They looked at one another, shrugged their shoulders and started on the project.
They had many questions not answered by the original instructions:
- How long was the string supposed to be?
- Was there a certain way to tie the string?
- Should the balloons be fully inflated or partially inflated?
- How were the balloons going to be used?
- Should they tie the balloons together?
- Should they be sorted by color?
Unfortunately, since there was no one available to answer these questions, they were forced to make assumptions and continue the assignment. When I returned, I found a room full of frustrated people.
I had not provided enough information for them to know if they were doing the job in the way intended. They were unsure of the expectations. Their morale was shot, and as a result, their work was haphazard.
I pulled out a product specification sheet and used it to ‘inspect’ their work. You can imagine the rest.
The project did not meet the specifications of the document. How could it?! The team didn’t know what the specifications were. In turn, their work and valuable time were wasted. They didn’t feel that I appreciated their time and effort because I didn’t give them the knowledge they needed.
This experiment was a great springboard for further conversation related to the need to provide the ‘who, how, why, when, where, and how often’ when providing direction to teams or individuals.
What really made an impact on me as a manager was the level of frustration each person felt and how I had contributed to it through this exercise.
This ‘aha’ moment has served me well during my career and helped me fully understand the importance of training and education in the workplace.
I feel that I understand how critical it is to offer the benefits of knowledge to your team.
Set your team up for success -- it’s the best gift of employee appreciation you can give.