Balancing Support and Structure for Your Employees

When consulting with managers I am often asked if there isn’t some inherent conflict between being supportive with employees while simultaneously insisting on accountability.  It is an interesting question especially because so many managers tend to lean to one side of the equation; some seem naturally supportive and some are more clearly authoritative.

One of the most difficult aspects of leading and managing people is striking that ideal balance between nurturance and structure. It is at the heart of great leadership.  You want your staff to know that you care and that they can function like a family, but you do so because as a business leader you know that family-like structures enable people to work comfortably and optimally.  But as I’ve said before, a business is not a family and you’re not a parent.  Each business has a mission and people who are part of the business must be held accountable to accomplishing their jobs.  In a family, you are rewarded just for being yourself.  In a business, you are rewarded for your performance.

That’s why developing a culture that balances support and structure is so important.  Your management role is to respect and care for your employees.  They are the engine of your enterprise.  Your management responsibility is just as much to clarify the outcomes (or corrections) necessary for company survival and success.

What does this look like?  It operates on a human, adult to adult level.  Your message becomes, “I care about you and your work.  You are important to this business.  Your productivity allows us to succeed in the marketplace, which in turn allows us to pay you well. Let’s be a team (as manager and employee) where we define what needs to be accomplished in your role. I will do all I can to help you succeed.  When you do succeed, I will be pleased for you and for our business. If you are having a performance difficulty, we will work together to resolve the problem, one way or the other.”

This approach fosters autonomous, self control toward goals.  It builds a commitment to the job, such that each employee “buys in” to the work mission.  It allows you to celebrate victories with the large measure of employees, and sensitively hold people accountable when they are struggling to do it themselves.

Tom DeMaio

www.DeMaioPsychology.com

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