Jean Chatzky's Advice to Managers

Posted by: Diane Brady on March 4, 2009

Finance guru Jean Chatzky has a new book out called The Difference: How Anyone Can Prosper in Even the Toughest Times (Crown Business).

I asked her to distill some advice for managers, and here’s what she had to say:

What’s the difference between successful managers – and not so successful ones? Successful managers (and bosses and executives) are those who inspire others to do their best for work them – often for less than their true value.

That’s something I learned when researching and writing my new book. And if this quality is an asset in a good economic environment, it’s a necessity in a bad one. If you can rally the troops to innovate, think flexibly, and work hard after you’ve informed them that there will be no raises this year or – worse – that the entire company is going to a reduced schedule, you may be able to keep your company afloat while others fail around you.

The question is how do you inspire this sort of attitude? Know that there are two things that, if not more meaningful to your staff than money, might actually come pretty close:

1/ A connection with you. Your team will be more driven to perform if they believe it matters to you personally. Let them in to who you are as an individual. Ask them about themselves and listen well enough to follow up with some sort of thoughtful, if inexpensive, gesture.

2/ Autonomy. Anything you can do to encourage your team to feel as if they have their own fiefdoms – from setting their own hours, to working a day from home, to being able to move their office furniture around – will enable them feel as if the job is theirs. They’ll take ownership in their work. And that pride of ownership will drive them to do a better job.

Reader Comments

Thomas Huynh

March 5, 2009 7:11 AM

The subtitle is appropriate. Having read literally hundreds of business and business-type books, I know there is no lack of good ideas. The hard and critical part is in the execution. In fact I would venture to say you can have a mediocre idea but if applied well and thoroughly you can achieve your objective. Sincerely, Thomas.

Derek Irvine, Globoforce

March 5, 2009 9:02 AM

What Jean describes -- inspiring others to do best work beyond their true value -- is what we call increasing employee engagement (getting people so engaged in the company and their work that they choose to give greater discretionary effort so that they are more productive).

But while a personal connection and autonomy are important, I would argue a critical element of both is simple recognition -- say "thank you" for efforts frequently, specifically and appropriately.

Your team will perform more and better if they know their efforts are not only appreciated but matter -- to you and more importantly, to the company. Use recognition to communicate and reinforce the strategic objectives by specifically recognizing actions that help achieve those objectives. This shows employees how their efforts help the company succeed, giving them a sense of importance and value across the organization.

Then give them the autonomy to recognize their peers as well. When people begin to notice the efforts of those around them, you reinforce a culture of appreciation and help your team become more cohesive in efforts.

More on this topic of getting all employees working on your strategic objectives here: http://globoforce.blogspot.com/2009/03/get-every-employee-working-on-your.html

Cathy O'Neill

March 10, 2009 12:13 PM

Connecting with your team is essential to building the busniess. Listening, emphathy and commitment to their well being will develop a bond which can help any business pull through the most difficult situations. It not only helps to motivate the team but it also brings a sense of pride, this in turn develops self esteem and confidence making everyone a winner

Cathy O'Neill

March 10, 2009 12:13 PM

Connecting with your team is essential to building the busniess. Listening, emphathy and commitment to their well being will develop a bond which can help any business pull through the most difficult situations. It not only helps to motivate the team but it also brings a sense of pride, this in turn develops self esteem and confidence making everyone a winner

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