Managers often have no problem evaluating their employees' strengths and weaknesses, but taking stock of their own skills is just as important. After all, one of the keys to success in business is knowing what you're good at and what you need to improve.
"Nobody is strong in all areas," says business performance coach Victor Holman, CEO of Washington, D.C.-based Lifecycle Performance Professionals (www.lifecycle-performance-pros.com) and author of Win: 35 Winning Strategies From Today's Leading Entrepreneurs (CelebrityPress, 2011). "The key is to take an honest and unbiased look at your management skills and discover your true strengths as well as your weaknesses, so you can build a strong team to support you in those areas."
Here are the 10 key questions to ask yourself when evaluating how well you manage people.
1. Do my employees know what is expected of them?
Failure to clearly communicate expectations is one of the most common – and most damaging – management mistakes, says Joe Calloway, a Nashville, Tenn.-based business performance coach and author of Be The Best At What Matters Most - The Only Strategy You Will Ever Need (John Wiley & Sons, 2013). Many managers assume that employees understand what's expected when often that is not the case. "Be sure that you have made clear exactly who is responsible for each task, that they have the resources necessary to complete that task, that the objectives are clearly defined, and that timelines have been established," Calloway says.
2. Am I communicating the company culture in a clear way?
The company culture, which can be defined as a way of working with each other, customers, and vendors, is the "soft stuff" that many managers avoid thinking about because it's hard to quantify. But culture is what drives your results, both positive and negative, says Calloway. "Be sure that everyone knows what the rules of behavior are, that your values are clearly established, that everyone abides by those rule and values, and that those who won't are invited to work elsewhere," he says.
3. Do I encourage innovation?
Competitors can take away your customers with a slightly better product. "Just think about how much innovation there is in toothbrushes: bristle color, handle shape, etc.," says Amie Gray, a partner with Mt. Kisco, N.Y.-based DataKeyConsulting, which specializes in management and operations. "Managers need to be innovative, continuously creating new products and services that stand out in the market." She suggests creating a formal feedback loop whereby developers, engineers, and product managers are getting critical information directly from sales and field support so that those responsible for product development can be in tune with customers and the market.
4. Do I delegate work or try to do it all myself?
A key to good management is being able to delegate tasks and be comfortable holding people accountable. If you aren't able to delegate effectively, you can become a bottleneck in the organization. "The pace of business is fast, which is why you can't do it all yourself," Gray says. "Managers who effectively delegate work to others get more done – in less time – and are valued for their level of productivity."
5. Are my meetings efficient and effective?
There are lots of people who find meetings to be a waste of time. That said, efficient and effective meetings can be a powerful driver of productivity, according to Calloway. He suggests these guidelines: be sure that everyone is clear on the purpose of each meeting, define the specific objectives, set a time limit, stay on point ("don't let the meeting be hijacked by people going off on tangents") and keep it interesting. "Boring meetings are quite literally a waste of everyone's time because no one is engaged or paying attention," he says. To make meetings more interesting, he suggests having attendees join in the discussion, using key points as opposed to a script, speaking conversationally and using unexpected aids such as video, props or guest speakers.
6. What can I learn from my last successful project or high-performance period?
What better way to determine your management strengths than to examine a successful project or performance period for your company? Holman says you should determine the drivers of that success and repeat those behaviors. Maybe you had a great rapport with your team, which means you're a good communicator. Or maybe you got the project done on schedule, which indicates good time-management skills. Or, if you were able to overcome negatives and navigate around roadblocks, you probably have admirable problem solving and analytical skills.
7. What would customers say are my strengths?
For any manager to get a 360-degree view of his company, he or she should speak not only to other managers and employees, but to customers as well. "A lot of people find it difficult to ask clients for their feedback, but you find if it's a long-term client and they feel you want to improve, they're usually very willing to help," Holman says. He gives his own clients surveys asking them to rate his company's performance in several areas, using a scale of 1 to 4. "This is how we can learn how well we were able to service them, see the strengths of the team and determine how we can make that customer – and other customers – more satisfied," he adds.
8. Do I model the qualities that I want from my employees?
The greatest influence on your employees can be your own behavior. "If you want employees that are focused, on time, respectful and any other attributes you expect, then you must model those attributes yourself," Calloway says. Your attitude, communication and interpersonal behavior sets the tone for your organization, and there is no "time off." Employees are paying attention to what you do in every situation.
9. What is my company's turnover rate?
Although it isn't an exact science, low turnover can often be indicative of your strength as a manager. Strong communication, leadership and interpersonal skills are all keys to retaining staff, Holman says. Conversely, high turnover can indicate that you're not communicating well with employees nor providing them with what they need to be successful and happy.
10. Am I able to communicate a vision to employees?
To be successful, you need to create a vision of the future that’s compelling. "It must be trusted, rational and, most importantly, inspiring," Gray says. "If there is a goal to introduce a new product line or enter a new market, and you can explain how to get there, others will follow you toward a better future." Picture what a successful future looks like and write it down in as much detail as possible, she suggests. Next, understand the gap between where you are now and the new place you want to be. Then create the steps needed to get to realize that vision from start to end.