Respecting Frontline Employees: How Hard Can It Be?
In most organizations, “respect” is a topic that gets plenty of attention. Employee handbooks state clearly that each person will respect others. So everything is understood and everyone respects everyone else, right? The thinking seems to be that if we just say it needs to happen, it will. Then why do we hear the recurring complaint from frontline employees that they do not feel respected?
Respect doesn’t just “happen” because of some section in the handbook. We may respect a title, for example, like “President” or “C.E.O.” But respecting the title a person holds is not the same as respecting that person. Perhaps we show respect for the person with the title, but we may not actually respect that person.
As stated by dictionary.com respect means: “esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, a personal quality or ability, or something considered as a manifestation of a personal quality or ability: I have great respect for her judgment.” So as I understand it, this means that we give worth to how a person conducts himself or herself. The human element in the definition cannot be ignored. When we respect someone we have decided that that person has worth.
In many businesses, the front line employees are often the first and only representatives of the company that the customer ever sees. They are the customers’ impression of the company. They are counted on and missed when they are absent. They affect almost every aspect of the business and are important to its success.
So, what is the “worth” of a front line employee? When front line employees are no more than a cog in the business it is easy to treat them as such, even if it is inadvertent. The employees will feel no less demeaned and devalued, and ultimately demotivated in spite of good intentions. In essence, as the foundation that keeps the business going, their “worth” is immeasurable. Most certainly, they deserve respect before anyone who happens to have a title.
My suggestion? Notice and praise your front line employees, treat them with dignity and respect them for their critical role in the business. They’re worth it!
Front Line Management – It’s Not Your Fault
Over the years of being in management I have talked with several different administrators, read reports and surveys, and now have been reading the 2010 surveys. It has not changed in the last 20 years. This is very interesting on how the problem has been noticed and yet has not been fully corrected. Yet it is my belief that thought there is a sense of the problem it has not yet been fully identified. The result of this however is many, if not all businesses, running at an average level. Luckily that is enough to keep going and to make money but it is not excelling.
The front line is the key to any organization and yet spends a lot of its time in corrective actions. The are many disciplinary actions in companies which are costly, there are corrections of problems, and the thing about mistakes is they happen but when not reported they become more costly. Not reporting occurs when there is not a good relationship with the front line manager.
Speaking of the front line manager, these are often the employee that was really great at the front line job and is now promoted. This is great but then this person is often left with figuring out how to be a manager. The front line manager gets it from both sides. Now trying to meet the needs of the employees, while learning what it take to manage and keep the boss happy. From my experience and continuing to read it is evident that these managers do not get enough training.
Yet it’s not as simple as just more training, even though this is not simple at all. What are the things they need to be trained in? This is the part that is still getting identified and figured out. There is one thing becoming known however, the front line manager is at a disadvantage.
What Makes a Person Successful?
Success is talked about throughout society and people seem to be working towards being successful with almost every job that is done. It is interesting that people even decide at an early age at times which profession will be looked at as a successful one. A prestigious job so to speak is one that seems to say successful by just the title. But this doesn’t always make a person successful. There are examples where poor jobs were done by people with impressive titles. Mostly it is people doing regular jobs everyday and trying to do them well.
However the workplace is not the only gauge of success. Sometimes people spend so much time at work that the home structure suffers. Is this success? Or at times people are late for work a lot or do not complete the job in a correct manner. That can’t be success. Success is at times gauged by awards but this is a fleeting reward though a terrific reward for a good job it never means a person can stop there. Plus a person can be a success without ever receiving an award.
Success is something that must be decided individually. The workplace can assist in this in explaining what is wanted and needed at the job but it will really be the person doing the job that completes this work. Each day this is done is a success for the day. Success needs to have the home life included in its definition seeing that life is also dealt with there. There needs to be a balance of fun and relaxation in regards to life and to evaluate success. When one aspect is sacrificed for another aspect of life though someone may seem successful, sometimes the price is too high.
When looking at success a person needs to take into consideration the happiness that will come from the life lived. If there is not a balance in regards to life something will fail along the way. It doesn’t have to be one way or the other.
Excellent Maintenance of a Team
So let’s say that everything is being done to build and excellent team, communication is clear, individual skills are recognized and utilized, goals are defined, the jobs are getting done, and most of the time things are running smoothly. Seems like this team doesn’t need much attention at all, right? Wrong. However when using the thought of maintenance it is much less time consuming.Instead of being in a building the team mode, at least until the next level comes along, I view it as a correction mode.
All teams have times when things are just same. No new things for a little bit of time. Usually this means that everyone relaxes a little and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. But if time and energy are taken away from the leadership things will start to slip. It’s just human nature to get a little bored and not be as sharp. Unless leadership stays in the corrective mode.
This is not a discipline mode but instead simply a reminder of the little things that might slip or get missed. Like a simple tune up.First of all it shows the leader is still and always involved. It shows the leader hasn’t relaxed but still cares about the every day jobs. it shows attention to the crew. And it shows that what is done matters. But this can be and should be done in a calm manner without a blaming attitude.
The reason is that you want to show that people are human but you still believe in what they do. Use you leadership qualities of being clear and concise, being brief, noticing the good, never lying, staying calm, saying than you, and reminding that it all needs to get done. But especially make sure the team knows that you are their biggest fan.
Knowing What Drives Team Members
There are many techniques to team building and they are very good at bringing people together. I have mentioned in other articles that communication is extremely important and in fact can make or break a team. This is not just the leader giving information in a clear way but making sure the information was received. People learn and understand in different ways, the larger the team, the more difficult this becomes.
I have talked about friendships (not clicks), praise, clear roles, trust, and fixing problems together. But there is something that is not talked about very much. I’m not sure if it’s felt that it is not easy to teach or it is just something that has not gotten much attention. I can only say that it has been the foundation that allowed success with my teams in the past. It didn’ matter what industry it was it always worked to cement the team.
Most teams, let’s face it, are built from the top down. That needs to be reversed, whether the team is new or well established when a new leader comes in, it should be formed again. By this I mean there has to be a relationship formed between the leader and the team. No matter where I go to assist leaders when I ask a few questions they seem to act surprised. I won’t ask about techniques at first but instead I will ask if the leader knows the team. What are the goals and desires of the team members? In this respect I mean on an individual basis.
So what is this aspect that is missing? Where is your team going and working towards individually? This has a huge effect on the team because this is where individual goals need to mesh with the team goals. Sometimes people want to get to the next level so much they don’t concentrate on the level they are in now. So it simply needs attention to make sure there is not a conflict between team and individual goals.
Knowing What Drives Team Members