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5 key pieces of advice for managers from Dr. Barry Schwartz

Free coffee, snacks and team happy hours all sound great, but office perks and treats are no longer on the top of employees’ list when it comes to well-being improvement in the workplace. It turns out, managers are the single most important driver of how supported your people feel. According to American psychologist and top TED speaker, Dr. Barry Schwartz, “Meaning and purpose embodied in day to day activities are key to employee appreciation.”

Dr. Schwartz is an expert on all things intrinsic and incentives in the workplace. His recent book “Why We Work”, sheds new light on how employees and employers should all think about incentives — including a deep dive into the science behind intrinsic motivation. During Gratitude Month at Limeade, we had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Schwartz on how to find purpose in your work, intrinsic motivation, incentives and how managers can make a big impact.

When it comes to employee appreciation and the employee experience in the workplace, Dr. Schwartz believes managers play a huge role in the well-being of employees.

Here are Dr. Schwartz’s top five tips for effective manager support:

1. Learn to listen rather than to tell

Often times, the people you manage have more to teach you than you have to teach them. Being a good listener is a big deal. An effective manager cultivates an open dialogue that invites discussion with employees on a certain task, project or team decision. As a manager, when you take the time to listen to employees, fresh insights or ideas you may never have thought of can be brought to the table.

2. Give employees the freedom to fail

“When you design systems that are failure proof, you’re squashing innovation,” says Dr. Schwartz. Failure can sometimes be as illuminating as success. Managers need to empower people to take risks. When employees have freedom to fail, this also allows them to learn and grow. Good employees take risks and make mistakes — great leaders allow them to.

3. Hire based on skills you don’t know how to train

You should hire on the basis of skills you don’t know how to train, and then train the skills you do know how to train. You’ll figure out right away who can be a good listener. When it comes to managing or hiring new employees, Dr. Schwartz believes, “You can teach people to code, analyze spreadsheets, or even to write, but to be a star, a new hire needs to have the soft skills that you don’t know how to teach.”

4. Not all smart people can be managers

As Dr. Schwartz says, “Just because you had the idea, doesn’t mean you should be running the company.” Not all smart people can be managers. You hire people who are brilliant at what they do, but you can’t assume they’re going to be brilliant managers. Many people aspire to be in a leadership role — but it’s not for everyone. Take the time to step back and really think about why you want to be in management.

5. Give employees flexibility, autonomy and control over their work day

Flexibility in the workplace has grown immensely over the past few years. As a manager, it’s important to give employees autonomy and the ability to control their own work flow. Evaluate employees on their performance, not the number of hours they spend in the office. Another way to empower employees is to allow decision-making opportunities — and provide explanations as to why major (or even minor) decisions were made. When you involve employees in decision-making, people are more likely to feel valued, trusted and motivated to be more involved.

Want to learn more about how you can better support your employees? Check out these six ways managers can support well-being improvement.