Being a better and more effective manager should never be about just the bottom line. Though that is an essential consideration, the opportunity to lead and help others grow should never be overlooked.
Business management is not an innate skill, and the prospect of putting skills into practice can be daunting for many. The good news is that it never needs to be complicated. There’s a process you can put into action which will help guide you along the way.
The first step is empowering your team members. A top-down approach to management can work in certain situations, but often giving your team members the power to act on their own without constant hand-holding. There’s a few keys to proper empowerment.
First, you need to be certain your team has the skills to be successful in whatever you ask them to do. This takes training and education. You’ll need to assess their skill level and assign tasks commensurate with their level of experience and training.
Next, after each task they complete, engage in a reflective process of assessment. It should be simply a matter of success or failure. Instead, identify areas of strength and weakness. Then, constructively share with your employees your assessment. This is a great opportunity to build trust. When they know that they’ll be receiving constructive tips on how to improve and further develop competency instead of just getting criticism, they’ll feel more motivated.
The second step is setting appropriate and constructive goals. Goal setting improves motivation. When people have a goal to reach for, they’ll have the satisfaction of reaching higher every day. Again, the focus should not be on measuring success and failure, but rather finding what factors led to success, and what factors led to failure.
Identify an attainable benchmark. Unattainable goals set your team up for failure. Set a time for completion. When that time arrives, have a team meeting to discuss how closely you met or exceeded your goal.
An easy and common example is a sales goal. If sales in Q4 of last year were 1.7 million, and you think it’s possible to get to 2 million in Q4, set that as your goal. At the end of the quarter, review the sales figures. Assemble the team and evaluate your performance.
Did you fall short? Figure out why. Learn from your team members and employees. Did they have the tools they needed to generate leads and make sales? Were there uncontrollable factors that got in the way? Ask how you can be better prepared for unforeseen eventualities in the future. If your team struggled with motivation and morale, find out why and look for ways to change in the coming quarters.
Did you exceed your goal? Now’s the time to evaluate if you should be setting your sights higher. Or, perhaps there was some unique factor to that quarter. Being in the best place to take advantage of favorable trends is paramount going forward.
Being consistent is so key to the morale of your team members. Consistency doesn’t mean stagnation. You are always going to reflect on your management style and practices, but integrity in your practice of principles should always be consistent.
I’m reminded of Bulls and Lakers coach Phil Jackson, certainly one of the greatest managers of all time. He was known for harnessing the very different playing styles, skills and experiences of his players.
No player was more different than Dennis Rodman. Jackson allowed Rodman to travel to Las Vegas before a big game, something that other players wouldn’t be allowed to do. You might think this was inconsistent, but it gives us a window into true consistency of principle. What Jackson was essentially practicing was a philosophy that he would allow players to do what they needed to perform at their best. As long as they got the job done on the court, he would give them the leeway to prepare in whatever way they saw fit.
Indeed, Rodman performed at the highest level at this time, and had he been made to feel stifled, perhaps he wouldn’t have. Other players may have had different idiosyncratic preparation methods. The rule he was following was, “As long as you perform at the highest level and help the team meet its goal, I’ll allow you the freedom you need.”
Constructive listening is one of the biggest keys to success in so many areas of life: relationships, service to others and management. When people feel heard, they develop trust. When your team trusts you as a manager, they’ll perform at a higher level.
If you think back to the example of Phil Jackson, listening to Dennis Rodman may have allowed him to know exactly what decision to make. Listening to your employees can be a great source of insight into what motivates them, and what roadblocks might be in their way which can be easily removed.
Active listening is a skill you must master. Simply sitting quietly is not effective. You need to engage the person you are talking to. Asking questions and follow up questions gets to the heart of the matter and lets them know you are interested.
Being involved in the conversation can help steer it in a more productive direction. Sometimes a topic can be visited and revisited so many times that it becomes a waste of time. Instead, get to the root of the issue. For example, an employee might list off a laundry list of complaints. This is when you might step in and say, “Okay, I hear you. Now tell me what things you need to be effective.” By steering negative conversations to positive and constructive ones, everyone will walk away motivated.
By practicing these above skills, you can foster an environment of accountability. Consistency requires accountability. Imagine that Dennis Rodman had gone off to Las Vegas and come back and had a series of bad games, accountability demands a coach saying that they tried it one way, it didn’t work, so we are trying it a different way.
Accountability is fostered by encouraging a constructive look at fixing mistakes and preventing them in the future. Employees will avoid accountability if they feel they are going to be judged harshly, ridiculed or demeaned. If they know they’ll be given the opportunity to own their error and make it right, they’ll push themselves to do better. An environment that is human is essential! No one is perfect, but we have an amazing ability to improve over time.
Even if accountability demands that someone be let go, approach it as an opportunity: perhaps letting that employee know that they’ll be better suited and happier in a different position.
Always remember that challenges are opportunities. As a manager, you have the opportunity to both help others grow and grow yourself. Embrace it! Use these five steps to get started on the right foot and put yourself in the best place for success.
Living Pono is dedicated to communicating business management concepts with Hawaiian values. Founded by Kevin May, an established and successful leader and mentor, Living Pono is your destination to learn about how to live your life righteously and how that can have positive effects in your career. If you have any questions, please leave a comment below or contact us here. Also, join our mailing list below, so you can be alerted when a new article is released.
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