Being a manager, and having people report to you, isn’t just about having more power and making more money – it also comes with responsibility. When you have the power to fire someone, you have very real control over their lives. That means you have an unspoken ethical obligation to do right by them.
Let’s face it: A lot of managers don’t live up to that obligation. Most of the time, it’s not because they are deliberately skirting it – they simply haven’t been trained to do it well. Being a great manager doesn’t happen overnight. Your job is to communicate, empower, motivate and delegate.
Whether you’re a new manager or a veteran, here are three quick fixes that can make an immediate improvement to your management style.
The Wrong Way: Expect your employees to adapt to you.
You’re in charge and you get to behave the way you want…right? Wrong. If your employees happen to have the same work style as you do, this can be an effective approach. Most of the time, however, that’s not going to be the case. When your employees have different work styles than you do, and you expect them to change to adapt to you without doing the same in return, it results in a perpetual butting of heads that leads to stress, anxiety, lower productivity, morale, and job satisfaction.
The Right Way: Understand your employee’s work style, and find a happy medium.
Your job is to bring out the best in your employees in a way that meets and exceeds organization goals. When you understand the work styles of your employees, sometimes it just takes small changes in how you approach them that can make a world of difference. For example:
- If you know your direct report has a tough time with change, don’t just spring information on them – give it to them in a way that allows them time to process the information.
- If you know they like public recognition (not all people do!) then publicly recognize them when the opportunity presents itself.
- If you know your employee does your best work when they are left alone, then leave them alone and give them the space to do it.
Your employees will tell you what’s working and what’s not – all you need to do is ask.
The Wrong Way: Don’t prepare for your one-on-one meetings…or don’t have them at all.
One-on-one check ins with your employees can be one of the easiest meetings on your schedule to blow off. But here’s the thing – when you don’t prepare for your one-on-ones, or blow them off altogether, that speaks volumes to your employees about how much you value them.
The Right Way: Use your one-on-one meetings as a critical tool in your management toolbox.
These are the types of meetings that should only be cancelled in case of emergency. And don’t use time as an excuse – Preparing and committing to one-on-ones isn’t a time consuming process. In fact, it takes less than hour hour per week per direct report: 10-15 minutes to prepare and 30 minutes for the meeting. If you don’t have an hour a week to spare for each of your employees, you probably shouldn’t have people reporting to you, or you should change the structure of you team so you have less direct reports.
Preparing for a one-on-one is easy:
- Make a list of things your employee needs to know (err on the side of transparent, over-communication) that have happened around the organization in the last week.
- Make a list of things your employee is working on that you need updates on. If you’re documenting your weekly meetings, this will just come from last week’s list.
During the meeting, go through each list – it’s that simple! Over time, your employee will know that they are going to be asked for updates and will also prepare with their own list.
One last note: It can be easy to make one-on-ones about you, but they are really about making sure your employee is OK and on track. For that reason, I recommend that you start off the meeting by asking them what’s going on. Don’t be specific – make it a very open-ended question. That way, you’ll hear about the things that are more important to them before getting into the things that are most important to you.
The Wrong Way: Treat coaching as a corrective action.
In sports, a coach is considered a key element of developing an athlete and helping them to reach their full potential. At work, coaching is the mandated HR step that you have to go through when you want to fire someone. That gives it a horrible reputation – if a person is being “coached”, they must have done something wrong and be on their way out of the organization.
The Right Way: Engage in ongoing coaching with your direct reports.
Coaching employees is a key part of their professional development, and is something that should be a consistent, ongoing part of your relationship with them without any sort of negative connotation. We don’t coach because the employee has done something wrong – we coach because professional development is a positive thing, and something that every single employee should be engaging in.
Coaching should be approached as a collaboration between the manager and employee to focus on things the employee wants to learn that also align with what the organization needs. That could be any number of things – being better at Powerpoint, getting to know other areas of the company outside of their department, being a better public speaker, etc. The possibilities are endless.
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