DID YOU EVER HAVE a great idea for your own business that you just had to pursue? Todd McDonald of ATW Training & Consulting Inc., Urbandale, Iowa, did. Years ago, Todd would talk about his idea all the time: “What if we were to ask employees to name just one thing they wish that their manager would do to help them be more productive in their jobs?”

Today, he has built a consulting business around that concept. Later, he added a section to his survey asking managers the same thing about their employees. His Web site, www.iwishyouwouldjust.com, features his research and articles, along with training tools for companies.

Last year, ATW Training polled 1,500 employees from across the United States and asked them what their managers could do to help them be more productive and successful. Their top 10 responses were:

  1. Be available.
  2. Help me learn and grow.
  3. Be fair.
  4. Set clear expectations.
  5. Tell me what's going on.
  6. Understand what I have to deal with.
  7. Listen.
  8. Tell me how I'm doing.
  9. Recognize my efforts.
  10. Relax.

There are simple actions that managers can take — from making themselves more accessible to more frequently recognizing their employees' efforts — in light of these findings. Yet they often don't. Why?

I think it's because managers have a need to be doing things — achieving things, finishing things, fixing things — and sometimes, they don't view managing people as part of their jobs. In the rush to get more done and to do so faster, they forget to focus time on their employees.

Todd believes that managers need to make people part of their to-do lists, checking in with them periodically to see how they are doing and how they can help them be more successful. They need to take the time to show that they care.

Iwishyouwouldjust.com is a good way to start.

Bob Nelson, PhD, is president of Nelson Motivation Inc., San Diego; best-selling author of 1001 Ways to Reward Employees; and a frequent presenter to management groups and conferences. For more information, visit www.nelson-motivation.com.