5 Easy Things You Can Do to Be a Better Manager
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Being a manager is harder than it looks from the outside. Being a good manager is even more challenging.
There are countless books and resources out there for anyone who wants to grow and develop as a manager. For most of us, getting promoted into a management role doesn’t come with access to training or mentors, and we often have to learn good management skills on the job.
It’s actually a bit crazy when you think about it, especially when you know that tons of research indicates that people don’t leave companies or organizations; they leave managers and supervisors.
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So, what are some low-risk and easy-to-implement steps you can take today that set you up to be a good boss?
1. Be on time for your team members.
I know, this one seems too simple. But the reality is that many managers don’t demonstrate that they value their staff’s time as highly as their own or that of senior leadership.
If you know you’ve been showing up to meetings with your team members late, this is one of the first things you can do to foster trust and respect. Even if being late feels like part of the company culture and your boss is late to your meetings, that doesn’t mean this is a healthy or supportive management practice.
Imagine working hard to meet a deadline and going above and beyond in your work only to have your boss show up 15 minutes late to your meeting. Talk about disappointment and frustration. Part of what leads people to burnout is continual frustration and disappointment, and feeling a lack of control in their work. When your team doesn’t know if or when you’re showing up to meetings, they don’t feel in control of their work and their time, and this in effect pushes them toward burnout.
Even if it means cutting another meeting short, show up on time for meetings with your team members.
2. Ask people questions and truly care about the answers.
This one also seems easy, but when things get stressful and everyone’s overwhelmed with the amount of work on their plate, this is one of the things to fall by the wayside.
Employees who are engaged in their work feel that others, in particular their supervisors, genuinely care about them as people. Gallup research suggests that one of the first five key indicators of engagement (which is tied to performance and a variety of other metrics) is whether or not someone at work cares about you.
Why is this important? Relating to others as people builds social capital, which Gallup goes on to say supports collaboration, commitment and positive organizational behavior.
So how do you do this? If you’re a relationship builder, it might come naturally for you to ask about someone’s vacation or how things are going with a sick parent. If it doesn’t come as naturally to you, make a note of important dates (like staff birthdays or anniversaries), or add to your private agenda to ask about a personal update in check-ins with staff.
3. Invite everyone to speak, and make eye contact.
A lot of research has been done on the traits and practices of great teams. Creating space and time for all perspectives and thoughts to be shared builds trust, which is one of the most important characteristics of effective teams.
One of the best practices to encourage inclusion and trust is to invite or ask everyone in meetings to speak and contribute. Respect is a critical piece of trust. If you’re not acknowledging everyone in the room by looking at and talking to each person, you’re not respecting everyone. Initiating eye contact with everyone in the room builds trust through respect and recognition.
The next time you’re in a meeting, make note of who speaks and how often. When you notice someone hasn’t shared or contributed, invite them to.
When you’re talking to the team, check in with yourself to see if you’ve initiated or maintained eye contact with each person at least a few times.
4. Invest in both orientation and on-boarding of a new team member.
The first day on the job is a big transition moment for people. It sets the tone for what to expect moving forward. Why not make it more impactful than just an excuse for the team to go out for lunch?
Many people mistake orientation for on-boarding. Orientation is where you learn how to use the copy machine. On-boarding is when you understand what people do, how they do it and the unwritten rules of the culture. To be a good manager, you want to invest in both orientation and on-boarding.
The next time you have a new person joining your team, think about what you wish you had experienced in your first week that would have made your transition easier. What could you do to make their transition more supported and impactful?
You might set them up with meet-and-greets with other important colleagues they’ll be working with, or have someone make key intros for them. You could put a plant on their desk so they feel like this is going to be a home for them. Check in with them before they head home on their first day to let them know what’s next to keep the momentum going.
5. Take time for self-reflection.
Management guru Peter Drucker once said, “You cannot manage other people unless you manage yourself first.” You have to understand yourself on a deep level in order to really appreciate the similarities and differences with those you manage, and leverage them for better outcomes.
A recent Harvard Business Review article discussed the results of a survey of more than 1,000 leaders in various companies from around the world and found that senior leaders “tend to have better self-awareness than leaders lower in the hierarchy.”
Why is self-awareness tied to reaching higher levels of leadership and success? Productive collaboration and communication is only possible when you understand what you bring to your work and how, and what others bring.
Related: 4 Powerful Ways to Prevent Burnout
Take some time every week to think about how you naturally approached your work. What really stressed you out? What happened when these triggers appeared? What was your approach to the problems you solved or tasks you did this week?
And how was your reaction and approach different than your team members’? Can you spot the benefits and drawbacks of both your own and your team members’ approaches?
When you really understand the benefits and challenges of your own strengths, motivations and unique lenses through which you see the world and your work, you are living authentically and at a deeper level that promotes a higher level of leadership.
(By Emily Lamia. Lamia is the founder and CEO of Pivot Journeys LLC, creating experiences that help individuals navigate their next career move and find meaningful work.)