Management is no easy task. Yes, it’s about ensuring the smooth running of business operations, and all those daily tasks and problems that have to be dealt with. But ultimately successful management depends on mastering the ability to inspire others to deliver commitment, rather than simple compliance.
A poor manager will not only damage productivity, but will also undermine your company culture, and stunt employee morale. Poor management results in teams becoming disengaged with their roles and the goals of their company in the wider world. Disengagement leads to apathy, and employees stop putting in the extra effort (or any effort at all); they stop caring and potentially leave.
When this happens, customer service suffers. Performance stalls. Your business reputation takes a knock.
That might sound dramatic, but I’ve seen it happen time and again.
A good manager, on the other hand, can push creativity, engagement and motivation levels through the roof. They unite employees in their common goals and lead them towards future success.
The strange thing about management is that there really is no such thing as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ managers. Managers are just people, with learned behaviours and attitudes that have naturally developed over the course of their lives. Some of these traits unfortunately result in poor management skills.
However, the traits of bad managers can be changed.
With the right support, everyone has the potential to develop themselves into good (and even great) managers. The best part of all of this is that good managers still have the potential to further develop themselves into what all successful businesses need: great leaders.
If you need to develop your managers for better success, or are a manager yourself, here are seven easy ways to dramatically improve performance in your business…
#1 Start Communicating…
It sounds obvious, but communication is absolutely vital in gaining employee trust and engagement.
Everybody thinks they’re a good communicator – it’s a standard skill most of us put on our CVs.
However, good communication is not always easy when you’re busy running a department. You become so swept up in fire-fighting problems and keeping things moving along that you forget to actually talk to your employees.
Yes, you speak to them regularly about the immediate problems and concerns of the day, but there’s no wider communication, no deeper connection. You lose sight of where they are in your business, how they relate to you and each other, whether they’re happy and fulfilled in their roles and even personal lives, or whether there is distance developing.
There’s an underlying assumption in most businesses that the status quo will simply carry on. We don’t tend to see big shakeups coming as a result of things like staff dissatisfaction and resignations, because we’re not having the conversations needed to keep us in touch with our team.
That communication is vital to ensuring we’re aware of and addressing any concerns at the time they occur.
Keep talking to your people.
And don’t just rely on firing out streams of impersonal emails – it’s important to make sure managers interact face-to-face with those performing the tasks they set.
This could mean simply making sure you check in daily with your team, possibly introducing more social get togethers and introducing a suggestion box so they can always give their feedback.
Make your communication methods employee-led. Find out what their preferences are and adapt your style appropriately. For example, if you’re insisting on a team meeting every month, step back and think about what this actually achieves. Is there a better way to bring your people together?
Managers need to open up the channels of communication between themselves and their employees in a way that works for everyone and eliminates any sort of ‘them and us’ culture.
Better communication will help you to uncover little problems before they become big problems. It will clear blockages in the workstream, allow minor grievances to be aired and encourage new ideas. Give your team opportunities to talk through informal gatherings, team catch ups, or going for a coffee.
If there are changes afoot within the business, chances are your employees can sense it. Be open and honest with them about the changes. Be clear in your communication and you can help them stay with you through challenging times.
Good communication has become even more important due to a rise in remote and agile working, where employees may not be full-time office based. This requires managers to think creatively about how they bring teams together and effectively communicate across a number of locations.
Being a good communicator also means listening.
Good managers encourage employee feedback, and they actually act on it. This shows employees that their voices are heard and valued, and that they are a part of the bigger picture, not just a body behind a desk ticking tasks off the to-do list. There is real authenticity in the simple act of listening. It creates opportunities and safety, enabling your team to volunteer the nuggets you need to hear without you ever having to press for them.
#2 Do Away With Appraisals…
Don’t wait every three, six or even 12 months to have a meaningful conversation with employees.Carve out the time for them, it will pay dividends and show them you care which makes it more likely they will be loyal to your organisation.
Open up a continuous dialogue. Employees may be sitting on issues or concerns for months without a real opportunity to discuss them with managers, by which time they have grown into big problems.
Be generous with your praise and open about anything you would like to see improved. Be positive and constructive – the aim is to help the employee improve performance, not grind them down with criticism. Offer personal development and training, not only will it upskill them but also increase their allegiance to the company. Discussing their objectives, aspirations and performance should be a continuous conversation, not an annual event.
#3 Allow Mistakes…
Here’s something managers don’t want to hear. Sometimes it’s ok to make mistakes. At whatever level.
Creating a culture of fear where employees daren’t put a foot wrong, or tell you when something has gone amiss, is completely counter-productive.
If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not trying anything new.
You have to eliminate fear.
Let employees be creative. Encourage new ideas, even if they don’t work out. Strive for innovation to keep your business relevant – and profitable. Because while you’re not innovating, your competitors are.
#4 Stop Micromanaging…
Nothing stops productivity in its tracks like an overbearing manager.
You know what needs to be done and how you want it to be done. But this top-down style of management doesn’t leave room for new ideas or perspectives.
There’s no point hiring top talent with a diverse range of skills and then trying to squeeze them all into doing things the same way – your way.
Create an environment where each team member can bring their unique approach and expertise to the table, working towards a common goal.
Show your employees trust. Give them a goal and support them to get there by themselves. You might be surprised at the new ways of thinking or doing that emerge.
#5 Get To Know Your Team…
You don’t have to be your employees’ best friend (it’s probably better if you’re not!) but getting to know each individual to a certain degree is important.
Show a genuine interest in them as people and their lives outside of work. Share some of you too and add some personality to your management style.
Figuring out what drives them, their background, attitudes and goals, will help managers to tailor their approach. For example, a motivational technique that works for one won’t necessarily work for all.
Showing compassion in this way means your top talent is likely to stick around, and that is very good news for business.
#6 Stop Being The Google Manager…
Good managers never stop learning and improving. While they might be great organisers or be skilled in their particular field, what’s often overlooked is the equally important ‘soft’ skills.
These include communication, confidence, having difficult conversations…all of those things that give managers the ‘human touch’. And business is as much about its people as it is numbers and profits.
Too many managers spend too much time answering questions. They become the ‘Google Manager’, constantly answering questions from staff, which only lead to more questions and your time being stolen, and your team being completely dependent upon you. You might think you’re solving problems, but really you’re disempowering teams. You’re stopping them from thinking and problem-solving for themselves.
This is where it can help to seek out some coaching, for managers and teams.
Coaches help managers improve performance by giving perspective, developing their skills and supporting them through difficult challenges. In today’s work climate, more and more executives are utilising coaches to help them excel and outperform their competition.
Coaching for teams and career coaching for individuals can also make a huge impact in upskilling across a workforce.
#7 Look At The Bigger Picture…
The daily tasks of management – the actions that keep projects and people moving forward – can leave little room for reflection or forward planning.
Losing sight of the big picture, however, can spell trouble. By ‘big picture’, I mean taking a wider view of what’s happening in your market and the business landscape as a whole. By doing so, you’ll spot risks and opportunities in good time to plan for them.
Questions you should be asking include:
- What are your competitors doing?
- How is new technology going to affect your sector?
- What is the economic or political climate?
- Are there any big disruptions on the horizon?
- Are there any new consumer or market trends you need to know about?
Again, you may be thinking, how on earth do I find time for this? In short, you have to make time. If you stop micromanaging and have truly engaged teams, you can afford to take a step back from the daily noise and start to do the big picture thinking.
Managers that want to elevate themselves to truly great leaders need to be planning ahead and ensuring their company succeeds into the future.
Improve Manager Performance…
If your managers can embrace all of these things, they are on the right track to becoming great leaders. And it’s great leaders that really drive business success. They are the ones that step beyond operational tasks to inspire, motivate and empower their people.
If you want to find out more about leadership, communication, innovation or executive coaching sign up for my free video series on The CPR Method, and see how it can transform your business…