As I said in my previous post, there are numerous ways to combat management stress and make life easier for both you and your staff. That post offered a few solutions for you, but what about your staff? Maybe you’re thinking ‘Wait, what? I have the stress, not them!’, or something along those lines. But not only would you be wrong (don’t you remember the chaos of 3am night shifts when the whole city has been partying?), you’d also be doing yourself a disfavor. Making things easier for your staff to manage inherently means a happier staff and, therefore, a less stress filled you. Everybody wins!
So how do you do it? I’ll be the first to admit, I don’t have all the answers. Or even when I do have them, I’m not the poster child of following them. That being said, I think it’s worth sharing three important points that I have learned no matter how much I struggle to implement them. Hopefully something here resonates with you, and helps both you and your crew.
1) How you talk to people is really important
This very first point is advice we could all use, no matter the situation. When I first started at my current hostel my boss told me that there were two rules. “1) Be kind and considerate whenever possible. 2) It’s always possible.”
Indeed, there is a way to speak with people even when you are upset. Feeling stress does not give you the right to project that, even if the person you are interacting with is the one that caused the problem in the first place.
I was talking with a previous staff member once about that grey area between staying friendly yet firm if something was wrong, versus being the boss and really putting my foot down. She reminded me that I have a very powerful and strong personality to begin with, and therefore I would rarely need to ‘get upset’ for someone to know I was not happy with the situation. A fair reminder for any of you out there who also wear your heart on your sleeve and don’t tip toe around problems.
I also remember growing up hearing “It’s not what you said, it’s how you said it.” We’ve all felt the difference between someone yelling at us or discussing an issue with us. There are many ways to approach a situation, but keeping in mind how we say things will always get us further.
2) Creating a supportive atmosphere
Speaking of getting further, another lesson I’ve learned the hard way is the need to create an atmosphere where people feel safe to try and mess up. I remember a time in the past when I came home and our new vacuum we had ordered was sitting in the box unopened. I had been anxiously awaiting this vacuum, as ours was broken, and I said ‘Why’s it just sitting there?? Let’s open it up and use it.’ In the end, I found out that the staff member was afraid to do something ‘wrong’ based on my reactions in the past, so rather than try to help, thought it was safer to just wait and make sure I indeed wanted it opened, how to set it up, etc.
What I saw as a lack of proactiveness was actually a direct response to my inability (or I should say priority- I think we all have the ability) to create an atmosphere where staff members felt supported and encouraged to try, even if they didn’t get it quite right. I may have told each new staff member while training ‘Ask me any questions, that’s why I’m here’, but often my negative reactions from poor stress management directly opposed that. And since the old cliche ‘Actions speak louder than words’ could not be more true, it didn’t matter how much I told/asked/begged them to try, if they knew the reality of messing up meant some form of negativity. Part of being a good leader is making sure those you work with know that you have their back, even if they screw up.
Stick figures saying I've got your back, with one of them holding the line of the other's back
3) Finding out what motivates staff- and what doesn’t
A couple years ago one of my favorite managers from a past job was in San Francisco. I asked if we could meet so I could pick his brain about not only what made him so great, but how he did it. I wish I had taken notes, but the one thing I remember him stressing was finding out what motivates people. Some employees are going to be motivated by money, others by praise. Some are going to be motivated by doing just enough to fly by neutrally- no praise, but no reprimanding. Whatever it is, he encouraged me to figure it out and other things would naturally fall in line.
I can’t say I’ve done this well. What I have done, and often at a price, is figured out what doesn’t motivate certain people. For instance, it’s a given that no one wants to be yelled at or reprimanded. However there can certainly be a difference in how people take any kind of correction. I have figured out the hard way that some people who are more sensitive are not only unmotivated by being directly or firmly told what to do or what they did wrong, but using this technique will actually push them away further.
I’m an extremely direct communicator, which can be hard enough for some people on a normal day. Add stress to that, and I’ve been downright intimidating or even rude. Of course when this has happened it’s always been unintentional, but the damage was done. I’ve had to learn from both day to day interactions, as well as some unfortunate incidents, that just because it’s easier for me to communicate in one way doesn’t mean it’s going to be well received by everyone. It’s my job to guide our team to success and no matter how much I may want it to be, that is not a one size fits all job.
Admitting that I’ve been rude or alienated people is not easy. Especially on a hostel blog post about how to manage people. But I also believe in being truthful. Not only do I not have it all figured out, I’ve struggled a lot and made some big mistakes. Sometimes I get frustrated with myself at how many times I’ve had to ‘learn’ the same lesson, but I can only hope that bit by bit I’ve been getting better.
One morning after a particularly rough night of managing I expressed to my boss that I truly thought I was doing so much better lately. Better at managing my stress, not being so hard on myself, not being so hard on others, etc. He reminded me that not only is it a long journey up the mountain, but growth is in tiny increments. Sometimes so small we don’t feel it. When we mess up, it’s a jolt of falling all at once. However, just like climbers are strapped in and don’t fall all the way down to the base, neither do we. It may have been jarring, but it wasn’t game over. We are still further along than we were, even with a slip up along the way.
What tips or advice do you have on creating a good working environment for your staff? Sign in and comment below!
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