Employer

Did you see the recent news story about the Manchester, UK restaurant waiter who accidentally served a £4500 bottle of wine to customers who had ordered one worth £260?

The nicest thing about this story is the way the Hawksmoor restaurant’s management responded to this honest mistake and the comments of support that have appeared online.

Nobody knows exactly what the manager said to their staff member, but the latter kept their job and the restaurant’s owners made light of the issue on social media. Commentators praised the Hawksmoor management for remaining level-headed about the incident. After all, as one Twitter user put it: “why would I fire you, I just spent thousands of dollars training you.” Nobody makes that mistake twice!

The fact is, the way a leader treats their employees in the bad times says much more than what they do when things are rosy. And businesses are beginning to figure out that the ‘coaching’-style method of management leads to a team that is engaged, productive, and communicative – and has a lower rate of employee turnover.

Employees that need a guiding hand

It takes a while to get good at your job. It takes some people longer than others. A healthy work culture is one where employees feel confident that if they ask for help or instruction, they won’t be ignored or looked down upon.

Everybody is busy. But if a crew member asks for help or a meeting, a leader should let them know that they’ve been heard even if the matter can’t be immediately addressed. Booking in a training session or even just five minutes to go over something shows that the employee is valued.

Employees that mess up

Like the incident with the very expensive bottle of wine shows, mistakes happen. And if a business has gone to the trouble and expense of recruiting and training a member of staff, jeopardizing that relationship by making them feel terrible after a mistake or canning them all together is childish more than anything else.

A boss should never talk about an employee’s wages or job security outside official discussions about these matters. Statements like “I don’t pay you to do x” or “there are a million people queuing up for your job” just reinforce the idea that the employee is a hand-for-hire and not a contributing member of the company family. Even if they begin to toe the line, they are unlikely to commit their full energy to a job that’s spoken about in these terms. And if they believe themselves to be constantly hanging on to their job by a thread, they’ll always have one foot out the door, ready to scarper to the next opportunity that comes up.

Valuing reliable employees

The coaching style of management should also be extended to those who are regularly fulfilling or exceeding expectations at work. And that requires more than empty compliments or a pat on the back: it means constructive criticism even when targets are being hit.

“Keep doing what you’re doing” is a common refrain in performance appraisals. But an employee who is comfortable doing what they’re doing is a ball of potential just waiting to be realized. They may appreciate a greater challenge or even be sitting on great ideas that nobody ever thought to ask them about.

Without proactive development from above, a crew member like this at best plods along as before, a part-wasted resource for the business; at worst, they’ll seek that challenge elsewhere, and either quit or lose their workplace energy as it is diverted into a hobby, a home business, or just the serious work of being bored.

Figuring out how to use that potential, whether the employee is struggling, disinterested, or coasting along, requires the engaged empathy of a coach, not a boss.

This guide to common phrases managers need to avoid (and their more productive alternatives) is an excellent route into the mindset of the coaching-style leader.

About the author: John Cole writes on behalf of NeoMam Studios. A digital nomad specializing in leadership, digital media, and personal growth topics, his passions include world cinema and biscuits. A native Englishman, he is always on the move, but can most commonly be spotted in the UK, Norway, and the Balkans.

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