How Managers Can Bring Out the Best In Their Employees

Focusing on developing the skills of employees can also benefit employers.

Newsweek Expert Forum members share industry insights.
Newsweek Expert Forum

Organizational leaders have the unique position of driving business goals, but employees are the true lifeblood of an organization. A successful business meets those business goals by providing needed products and services to customers, but if employees aren't motivated to do their best, the chances of true success are slim to none.

Managers that place an emphasis on catering to their employees' needs and developing the skills of their workforce are more than likely to create an environment that produces and retains top-notch employees. To help leaders bring out the best from the employees working with and below them, a panel of Newsweek Expert Forum members each share tips on how to build a supportive work environment.

1. Meet Them Where They Are

I found meeting employees where they are to be an effective way of bringing out the best they have to offer. I see it as a way to understand the person beneath the title. When you lead from this perspective, you gain employee loyalty. That loyalty transitions into the employee wanting to do their best work for you. In return, the employee gains confidence and a sense of ownership in the mission. - Nickquolette Barrett, iRock Development Solutions, LLC dba iRock Résumés

2. Listen To Your Employees

One way leaders can bring out the best in their employees is by listening. Listening and being attentive to their team's needs and goals is key. Determining a career path by outlining what the employee likes about their job is really valuable. Although this may not be an overnight fix, working on an on-target earnings (OTE) plan and company culture vision to learn what each employee's motivations are and to make sure they feel heard is a great way to start. - Karolina Hobson, Radd Interactive

3. Create an Environment That Caters to Employee Development

Managers bring out the best in their people when they know and acknowledge their people's aspirations and personality styles. They can then provide an environment in which people are positively challenged, know they are contributing and have a path of continual development. - Karen Valencic, Spiral Impact

4. Give Stretch Assignments

For team members who really care about how they do and perform, giving them assignments or responsibilities that stretch them beyond their comfort zones can be very effective for bringing out their best. They may require extra coaching regardless, but when they accomplish these goals, their confidence and the sense of fulfillment they have from knowing you believed in them brings out their best. - Chris Heller, OJO Labs

5. Provide Mental Health Resources

One way that managers can bring out the best in their employees is to support their mental health. Because of the pandemic, mental health issues like depression and anxiety have soared. Many people are having a difficult time with these issues, which can affect their work performance. Provide resources for employees on mental health to make sure they feel supported and are able to get help. - Elliott Smith, The Ohana Addiction Treatment Center

6. Understand the Aspirations of Employees

We all have different dreams and aspirations in life. If you really want to bring out the best in your employees, take the time to talk with them and understand their dreams. Then, help them develop a path to attain those dreams. You will be amazed at the loyalty and dedication that you will inspire when they see that you are truly invested in helping them achieve their personal goals. - Tom Glover, Responsive Technology Partners

7. Lead From the Front

Always lead from the front. Never ask your staff to do something that you're unwilling to do. On a daily basis, you must exude excellence in all that you do. Only then is it acceptable to ask the best of your team members. If they see you giving a poor effort, it will influence them to do the same. - Anthony Martin, Choice Mutual

8. Provide Additional Work and Support

Give assignments and responsibilities that will push your team members to learn and grow. Give positive encouragement and combine it with asking how you can help. When you ask the question, listen intently. Be authentically sympathetic and offer suggestions when it makes sense to do so. Just listening and offering support will ignite their inner drive to push forward and do their best. - Matt Domo, FifthVantage

9. Ensure Your Employees Know Where You Stand

People give their best if they know you can do your job, know they can trust you and know you care. On the night I graduated from Sandhurst, the British Army's West Point, I was told this by the Academy sergeant major: "If they know that, sir, they will work hard for you and go through hell for you and, if necessary, die for you." Luckily, only the first two are ever required in business. - Chris Roebuck, Simply Success

10. Build Genuine Relationships

One of the leading indicators of an employee's engagement and performance at work is their relationship with their manager. This relationship can be built in small ways like ending each communication with, "If there's anything else I can help you with, never hesitate to call me." Taking a genuine interest in their development will build trust that drives higher performance from employees. - Sonja Wasden, The Gap Press

11. Allow Employees to Take Ownership

Create an environment where your people feel competent, take ownership and belong. Well-structured appreciation ticks all three boxes. For recognition to work, it needs to be precise, frank, succinct and future-oriented. For example, ask, "The way you dealt with the client's questions showed experience and critical thinking. How can you take advantage of these skills in your next project?" - Inga Arianna Bielinska, Inga Arianna Bielinska

12. Collaborate on Expectations and Timelines

Co-create expectations and timelines. Too many managers tell their employees what to do instead of collaborating with the employees to create a plan of action. When an employee is part of the creative process, they have buy-in. The plan is now theirs, so they are more likely to strive for excellence. - Diane Helbig, Helbig Enterprises

13. Offer Incentives

Dolphins are incredibly intelligent, and like us, they don't train well with punishment or force. Managers should remember this and offer their employees truthful and steady positive reinforcement and encouragement, just as dolphin trainers do. When dolphins successfully perform, they're rewarded with treats and praise. When they don't perform, their trainer supports the dolphin to try again. - Kimberly Brown, Meditation with Heart

14. Show Your Appreciation

Appreciate them. Let your employees under you know when they are doing a good job. Offer them incentives for doing a great job, working late or going the extra mile in job performance. A little kindness goes a long way. - Tammy Sons, Tn Nursery

15. Put Yourself in Their Shoes

The best advice I received comes from my brother George, who was an experienced mental health social worker. He told me that it's important to put yourself into the mindset of the person you are speaking with so that you can understand their maturity level and thought processes. Focus on the strengths and goodness inherent in each person, leveraging that to propel them forward. - Margie Kiesel, Avaneer Health

The Newsweek Expert Forum is an invitation-only network of influential leaders, experts, executives, and entrepreneurs who share their insights with our audience.
What's this?
Content labeled as the Expert Forum is produced and managed by Newsweek Expert Forum, a fee based, invitation only membership community. The opinions expressed in this content do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Newsweek or the Newsweek Expert Forum.

Editor's pick

Newsweek cover
  • Newsweek magazine delivered to your door
  • Unlimited access to
  • Ad free experience
  • iOS and Android app access
  • All newsletters + podcasts
Newsweek cover
  • Unlimited access to
  • Ad free experience
  • iOS and Android app access
  • All newsletters + podcasts