Management positions are extremely challenging. So much so, in fact, that research has found that the only thing more stressful and challenging than securing a long sought-for promotion is going through a messy divorce. Yet every day, more and more responsibility and demands are being thrust upon managers and their teams.
So managers need all the help they can get. And one of the best ways you can help yourself as a manager is getting back to basics. Focusing on these 15 fundamentals will help you thrive in these challenging times.
1) Adopt a serving Attitude – As a manager, your purpose is to direct others to achieve certain goals. So, a prime function is to assist team members - to ensure they have the appropriate tools and training, remove obstacles, teach them, and so forth. The people on your team are absolutely critical to your success. You, in turn, must help them to succeed!
2) Teach – So often managers looking to hire a new employee say, "I need someone with experience that will hit the ground running. I don't have any time for hand holding." Guess What? Part of a manager's job is to teach. When you don't teach, you hurt the team members, the would-be team members, and the organization.
3) Provide Honest and Timely Feedback – We all know the value of timely and honest feedback. So, why don't we do it? It's because it makes us uncomfortable – especially giving negative feedback. This must be overcome. Timely, honest feedback must be given. The payoff is enormous.
4) Share Information - The people that you manage are busy too. They don't always have the time to actively seek out information. In many cases they don't have access to it. As a manager, you are frequently their sole conduit. So, tell them what's going on! Let them know what's happening in your department, in the department next door, in your region, your company, and with you.
5) Listen - Put down the cell phone and the PDA. Pull your eyes away from the e-mail and spend some time listening to your direct reports. Let them do some of the talking. In American culture we tend to equate leadership with yapping. There is no correlation. Speak when you have something valuable to contribute. Spend the rest of the time listening.
6) Treat People Like Human Beings - Although they are different, people all have a few things in common. One of them is that they'd like to be treated with respect. Before managers act on something that will impact team members, they should always ask themselves how they would feel if the same thing happened to them. The answer to that question will lead the manager down the correct path.
7) Set Goals, Plan, and Execute - Work with your team to set some goals. Ensure they are aligned with the larger organization/division/company goals. If you really want to enjoy and find meaning in your work, make sure that your own personal goals are aligned with them as well. Write the goals down. Let everyone know what they are. Develop plans to achieve the goals. Hold yourself and team members accountable to the plans. Review progress with the team frequently.
8) Learn – Don't rely on your company to give you the training you need. Capitalize on whatever they have to offer, but remember, it's your career, so take control. You need to make sure that you are prepared to do the best job that you can. Continue to read management and leadership books as well as those in your industry/area of expertise. Then, put the learning into practice.
9) Do the right Thing - Frequently, management incentive programs do not reward altruistic behavior. The bottom line though, is that to be a good manager, you need to do the right thing, even if it doesn't put an extra jingle in your pocket. Sometimes you and/or your group need to sacrifice for the good of the whole and do what's best for the company.
10) Embrace the Uncomfortable - We have a tendency to put off the things that we don't enjoy. Sometimes we never get to them. We say we're too busy. If an old friend calls we'll talk for 1/2 hour without blinking, yet we can't spare two minutes to give feedback to a team member. Unfortunately, when we don't do things that are outside our comfort zone, we don't grow. That's a big problem for us and a much bigger problem for others.
11) Clean Up Your Own House First - This tip really has to do with attitude more than anything else. As a manager, you must maintain a positive attitude. That doesn't mean that you ignore the ugly realities. It also doesn't mean that you have to be happy all the time. It does mean that you must work to improve things that you can control, and chip away at the ones you can't without allowing them to be all consuming. Don't blame others for problems. Look to you and to your group for solutions.
12) Persist - Don't give up! Work hard. Follow through. Have patience. Don't succumb to the pressure of those that worship the status quo. You can do better. The organization can do better. Take your good ideas and those of your team forward. Anticipate objections and overcome them. If your ideas get shot down, don't give up. Find a way to make them work. Enlist the help of your team members. Keep at it. Remain positive.
13) Do What You Say You'll Do - If you tell someone you are going to do something, do it! Managers frequently say they'll do something and then promptly forget about the commitment. This is just devastating to team members who make requests that don't get addressed. It is infuriating to other requesters (managers and clients) as well. Don't over-commit. You are not a superhero. You can't do it all. Also, most activities have negotiable due dates - so negotiate!
14) Always Follow Up - Follow up with EVERYONE (Clients, team members, peers, bosses, potential hires, vendors – YES vendors too)! If you claim to be "too busy" to return a call, to look into an item for a team member, etc. you are failing (no matter what your management "scorecard" says). Most managers are "too busy" because they are unorganized and/or they are working on the wrong things. So, get more organized. Write things down. Work on the right things, and follow up!
Nick McCormick's book, Lead Well and Prosper, expands on these 15 critical tips and demonstrates the common mistakes many managers make in an easy-to-read, real-world guide to becoming a more effective and successful manager.
15) Plan Your Week – In order to be a successful manager, you need to dedicate some time in your busy schedule to improve - to execute the tips above. One of the most effective ways to do this is to plan your week. How do you determine priorities?
Think about your role. One of your prime functions as a manager is to serve those that get the work done. You also need to care for yourself. So, set aside time each week for yourself and for your team. You should then have plenty of time left over to dedicate to the other important areas (i.e. your client(s) and your boss's litany of administrative tasks!).
Block off adequate time on your schedule for each task. Once you schedule is set, honor it. Changes should be the exception. Next week, review your progress and re-plan.
Dedicate yourself to following these 15 tips with consistency and you will be well on your way to becoming a successful Leader. Lead Well and Prosper!