Many management practices are based in Industrial Era thinking, a time in which people were treated as a series of interchangeable moving parts. It may have been efficient in a factory setting, but it was always demotivating.

When this thinking infects a modern team—teams who need to be engaged, creative, and deeply concerned about the customer’s welfare—it can be pure poison.

Consider a truly successful football team. No successful coach in the history of football has ever treated his valuable players like mere moving parts. He cares about them. And the team members aren’t just co-workers. They care about each other. They come together as brothers in the pursuit of a common goal. If someone doesn’t show up 100% the team loses, period.


Employees need to know exactly how vital they are.

How many of your employees actually understand what their presence or absence means to the team’s success or failure? How many employees truly understand the workings of the business?

Without this information some employees might conclude that they just don’t matter that much. Remember, most of your employees have not run businesses themselves. They don’t really know, at a gut level, that you wouldn’t hire someone unless you thought that person could ultimately benefit the bottom line in some way.

It can be as simple as saying, “I really appreciated how you handled that customer. You saved 10 accounts last month, and without your hard work we’d have lost $56,000 a year, which is 22% of our revenue.” This will inspire your employee to save even more accounts, and taking the time to quantify that accomplishment and share it doesn’t cost you a thing.

Take a genuine interest.

You can’t expect your employees to take a genuine interest in your employees if you don’t take a genuine interest in them.

Interest can’t be faked. You don’t want to veer into mindless flattery.  But if you look hard enough you can find something to admire, appreciate, or be interested in while dealing with just about anyone.

A recent article made a similar point.

“Not every business can afford to shower staff with generous pay and benefits, but not every business has to. Small companies, says McCartney, can show “intense interest” in employees, in their welfare, their families, and their future — what McCartney calls the family model. It’s also important to recognize an employee — publicly — for a job well done. Some companies also offer incentives for exceptional customer service, but if you can’t spare the cash, you might throw an office party or offer another token of appreciation. When he was a manager at cable provider Tele-Communications Inc., for instance, Proffer personally washed the cars of notable employees.”


Hire teammates, not underlings.

I’ve spent a lot of time on this blog talking about hiring A-players. I’m not reversing my stance. But you should also hire people that you want to spend time with, people that you can see as members of your team.

You should avoid getting into a mindset that paints your employees as groveling nobodies who should be grateful that you are bestowing a job upon their unworthy heads. Many managers do. Employees can smell it. And when they do, they become passive-aggressive and disengaged, which actively contributes to failures large and small.

Hire people who you respect. Hire people whose accomplishments inspire you. Hire people who actually do ignite your interest.

After all, you’re going to spend 40, 60, or even 80 hours of your week with these people, trying to meet very real, very persistent challenges. Many of those challenges will revolve around forging external relationships. Why not build internal relationships, too?