A couple of weeks ago, I had a former co-worker email me out of the blue. Though we haven’t seen each other since I moved out of Arizona((Where he and I worked together.)), he was excited to tell me that he had been promoted at his current job. As a result, he is now in his first managerial role at a company. While I didn’t have much formal managerial experience((I’ve had about 6 months as a true supervisor, though I’ve been in leadership positions of various levels for about two and a half years at various jobs.)), he asked what advice I could give him about being a manager.
After thinking about it for some time, I decided that there were five areas he needed to focus on in order to be an effective manager. While I highly doubt that my ideas are revolutionary, I did decide to put them in a nice acronym.
My advice to him was that if he follows the five items listed above, he will have the skill set to be both effective and useful to leading a team of people. I expanded a little bit on each of the points I sent to him, and I thought I’d share the same points I made to him with all of you.
The foundation of any good managerial relationship is built upon communication. While it’s an understood that managers may not always be able to tell everything that they know to those who they manage, beginning and maintaining an open dialogue with anyone who reports to you. Honesty is the primary component to clear communication, however there are a few other communication items — expectations and advising — that I’ll get to a little further down the list.
Even more important than communicating with someone by speaking to them is taking the time to actively listen to those who report to you. You’ll get two valuable pieces of information by doing so. First and foremost, those who report to you will typically let you know at least a portion of the things that they feel like they’re struggling with. Combine those items with the things you feel like they need work on and you’ll be able to make action plans that allow the employee to feel like they have input in. The second piece of information you’ll get is feedback as to how you can improve yourself as a manager. While there may be someone who says you need to work on something and they’re the only one who has that opinion, if you’re hearing the same feedback over and over, perhaps that’s where you have room to grow.
As much as communication and listening are vital skills to leading a team of people, setting expectations for what should be done by those you’re leading is equally important. It’s great to have rules and policies about various items, including attendance, performance, and attitude. That said, if you don’t make those expectations clear…and by extension hold people responsible for those expectations…what you say begins to have little weight. Being transparent and consistent about your expectations will help you to build credibility as a manager.
I’ve had a few managers over my time in the working world who felt that the best way to lead was to teach someone what to do, then let them do it on their own with no feedback. If that employee succeeded, great. If that employee failed, too bad. Managing people is just as much about coaching people as to what they can do to improve their performance as it is making sure they show up on time((If showing up on time is what they need to work on, awesome. You can kill two birds with one stone here.)). The role of a manager is best viewed not as a boss, but as a teacher or adviser. You don’t have to be completely hands off to help someone succeed. If anything, the opposite should happen.
While not a direct management technique, per say, an effective manager uses their recruiting efforts to improve their team within the vision and ideals that they want to see exhibited in their personnel. Though I generally dislike the concept of a vision statement(Or similarly cliche items.)), a manager should work to build a team that has the traits that they feel will best help their team and department to succeed. Seek out people who have those qualities — and make sure you actually find people with those qualities instead of those who are lying about having them((I recommend using behaviorally based interview questions. They’ll give you a more clear picture as to someone’s future behaviors.)) — and work to improve your team as it grows and changes.
Are there specific skills that you feel are important for managers to have? Sound off in the comments.