Though being a good manager requires a combination of experience, education, and learned and honed skills, stylistic and subtle changes to how you communicate and direct your teams can make significant impacts. Here are some simple tweaks all managers can put to use, for improved leadership outcomes.
No one said it would easy, but does managing have to be so darned hard? The Manager's Handbook: Solutions to the 8 main management headaches.
1. Pay attention to good employees
Balancing how you handle the actionable responsibilities associated with your role in addition to managing your team can be a challenge, but don’t make the common mistake of assuming you can or should spend less time with your top performers, because your underperformers and problem employees demand so much more attention.
“Good employees are often punished in a sense for doing a good job,” explains Dr. Noelle Nelson, author of Make More Money By Making Your Employees Happy.
“Managers will often load a particularly effective employee with more and more work just because they’re good. Not only is that unfair, but everyone has their limits—and when taken advantage of, a breaking point.
Good employees won’t complain that they’re overloaded; they’ll just quietly look for other employment,” says Nelson. Plan time in your calendar to spend as much as time with the employees who consistently succeed as you do those who are failing.
If star performers indicate that they do not need your help with a project, believe them—but don’t cancel their ongoing “one on ones” or delay checking in with them regularly, simply because you’re confident in their ability.
2. Tweak your hiring processes
Inviting employees to participate in the interview process when you’re hiring new employees can make major changes to the way your team performs as a unit, adapts to “new hires,” and positively enhances how they feel about the importance of their contributions to the organization at large.
Additionally, Nancy S. Ahlrichs, a human resources consultant and author of Manager of Choice: 5 Competencies for Cultivating Top Talent, suggests being highly strategic about how new employees are welcomed to the team.
If only there were one resource for help with your everyday management issues. A resource with no lofty theories ... no buzzwords ... just practical advice that helps you get the job done while staying out of legal trouble. Now that resource is here: The Manager's Handbook: 104 Solutions to Your Everyday Workplace Problems.
“Be there on every new hire’s first day. Take him or her to lunch, and plan tours, introductions and training events that will expedite the new hire’s ‘time to productivity.’”
She says this little bit of extra effort can reduce “buyer’s remorse” in new hires, and cultivate a deeper sense of inclusion among your entire team.
3. Ask instead of telling
Though the occasional error in judgment can happen to the best of employees (and managers), you can unknowingly create an environment of defensiveness based on how you shape your language when addressing such issues.
Zachary A. Schaefer, Ph.D., founder and president of the organizational development firm Spark The Discussion, suggests reframing statements into questions when dealing with an employee who has done wrong. (For example, a statement like “You should not have filed that paperwork in that manner” is replaced with “What is the benefit of filing the paperwork that way?”).
Schaefer explains this tiny language adjustment shifts the interaction from a mode of blame to contribution, and ultimately, improves your relationship with those you lead.
“Employees are more honest with managers that they trust,” says Schaefer.
4. Evaluate yourself as much as your employees
Conversations about an employee’s performance as well as your own should be part of an ongoing dialogue. Morag Barrett, best-selling author of Cultivate: The Power of Winning Relationships, suggests asking three basic questions of employees to gain a sense for how you’re doing (in their opinion) as a manager:
(1) “What am I doing that’s working well?”
(2) “What am I doing that’s getting in the way of your success?”
(3) “What is one thing I can do (more of, differently, stop doing) to help ensure your success?”
Not only does inviting their feedback about you create a sense of mutual respect, it can help you identify problems and build a sense for which types of guidance and motivation each of your employees responds to as individuals.
The 104 solutions in The Manager's Handbook are conveniently divided into 8 sections, each a mini-handbook on its own. At the end of each, you can take a self-assessment quiz to test your management skills on these topics.
1. Communication Skills—from earning employees' trust to inspiring healthy conflict
2. Coaching & Motivating—a key to ensuring MVPs keep playing on your team
3. Discipline & Termination—how to be fair but firm, and stay out of court
4. Employee Performance—how to get your people to meet your expectations (or exceed them)
5. Hiring & Interviewing—everything from how to spot liars to measuring the results of your decisions
6. Leading Teams—better brainstorming, avoiding bossy know-it-all remarks, knowing when to step back and let self-managing teams thrive, and much more
7. Management Skills—from the top 10 manager mistakes to 11 tips for hosting meetings that inspire your people
8. Legal Risks—the must-have knowledge to help keep your company—and yourself—out of harm's way
Yes, I want to become a better manager!