— September 13, 2019
The leadership gap continues to plague organizations globally, with the average organization losing over $ 1 million per year, and experiencing lower levels of productivity and engagement, due to less-than-optimal leadership practices. The impact is being felt at all levels with a high percentage of executives feeling a lack of confidence in their leadership pipeline, only a small number of CEO’s believing their leadership development has clear business impact, and employees themselves feeling that their skills are not being properly developed, causing many to look to leave within the next two years.
We have likely all felt the impact ourselves, experiencing great managers, and the ones whose role in our lives were more about teaching us what we didn’t want in a manager. With the changing nature of work, the changing workforce, and the changing expectations and demands on leaders, it is an issue that cannot be ignored for organizations that want to thrive. From years of research and application in leadership development, there are two traits that stick out in amazing managers. One, they make sure their employees have what they need to be able to focus on the work they are there to do, grow, and feel fulfilled, and two, they provide any air cover that may be needed. Both of which boil down to ensuring your employees time and mental energy can be best spent and empowering them to feel and perform their best. For example, if something reactive is happening up top, do you let trickle down stress impact your employees? Are your employees busy bashing their head against a brick wall due to some process bureaucracy, instead of progressing towards the goal, resulting in them going home and wondering what they accomplished that week? Here are some tips for managers who want to foster positive and productive teams!
1: Know Your People
Being a manager means you are managing people’s growth, their environment and how they experience their work day. You even impact their home life, as how you behave and the culture you instill in your team can impact your employees long after they have shut down their computer for the day. It is important to spend time getting to know your employees through 1-on-1 and group interactions. Knowing your employees as people (and not just for the work they do or role) will help you best support them, grow them and know how to communicate with them. Take notice of how people respond to different communication styles, their life goals, their strengths, how much direction they need, and their work style, and use these insights to inform how you manage them both individually, and within the team, so that you set them up, and the organization, for success.
2: Use Two-Way Feedback
No employee should have to wonder “how am I doing?”. It is critical to give frequent, clear, and actionable feedback so that employees know what they are doing well, celebrate their wins and personal accomplishments, and know their areas for enhancement. To be a great manager, don’t just tell them their areas for enhancement, go one step further and help them take action. Perhaps there is information you can give them, a class they can take, a connection you can make, or a behavior to practice that you can check in on after a period of time. The second part of feedback is soliciting employees’ thoughts and perspectives. Making sure you foster an open environment where they feel safe to share their thoughts and know that they are heard means actively listening as well as telling them what you are doing with their feedback. Yes…you actually need to take action to address it. There will certainly be times where you may not be able to take the action they desire due to a variety of reasons. In these times, it is important to provide clarity.
3: Be Transparent, as Much as Possible
Employees’ do not feel good when they do not know what is going on in the organization. As a manager, you can create a positive and productive culture by taking accountability to keep your employees as informed as possible with transparent communications. This can include decisions, the reasons behind decisions that are made (even if they are not favorable), and organizational plans and strategies. Even when going through challenging times, make it clear you are there for them, make time, and create space to help them through in the best way.
4: Focus on Value
It is important to help your employees understand how they connect and contribute to the organization’s goals and purpose. As a manager, you can help them see this alignment through communications and exercises that help them discover their why. Next time you have a 1-on-1 discuss the topic, what inspires them? What energizes them? How do they see their contribution and purpose? Additionally, you should understand what the cultural values are and take accountability for role-modeling behaviors that demonstrate them as well as holding others accountable. You can also ask others how you demonstrate the values, or what you can do to improve, just remember to be receptive to the feedback.
5: Be Totally Accountable
This includes for your actions, behaviors, and attitudes. Being an accountable leader eliminates time spent on wasted efforts and unproductive behaviors. Being able to take accountability for decisions, even when outcomes are not as desired, as well as hold others accountable, creates a positive workplace environment. When employees are accountable, and managers and leaders role-model accountability, employees feel valued and there are increased levels of trust. Remember, you control how you behave and the words that come out of your mouth, all of which will impact how your employees feel.
6: Spend Time on Your Own Growth
Taking the time to grow your own capabilities and skills enables you to be your best for your employees. Here, think holistically. You need to stay up to date in your domain but also remember to cultivate skills and practices that amplify your productivity, well-being, and self-awareness.
As a first-time manager, you will be making the transition from being an individual contributor to managing people and all the tasks that come with it. Learning and implementing strategies in stress management, emotion management, and resiliency, will enable you to build healthy and productive response systems. Even if you are a seasoned manager, understanding how to use your time and energy in the best way will keep you from being overwhelmed and enable you to keep a calm, balanced and productive culture within your team.
Why is this important? Well, resilience is quickly becoming the number one organizational skill for companies to thrive. With the increasing complexity from always-on technology, increased stressors, and increased demands on people’s time and energy, we are seeing high levels of burnout and stress in the workforce. Resilience can help employees at all levels move past challenging moments, grow in times of change or adversity, and decrease stress and burn-out.
Emotion management is a critical skill in creating positive and productive cultures. Being able to take pause, shift perspective, and purposefully respond in the best way produces less reactive and calmer workplace environments. Hiring for, and cultivating, emotion management skills, prepares employees to better process their emotions, leading to better working relationships, a better ability to handle high-pressure moments and healthier conflict resolution.
As leaders in fast-changing times, we can always enhance our skills and expand our knowledge. We all have areas we could work on and areas we are weak in. Successful leaders are able to prioritize where they spend their time and energy when it comes to elevating their capabilities and their own personal development. After understanding your strengths, you can then decide where you need to build relationships that fill the gaps, how you can use your strengths more in your daily life and work, how you can apply them to challenges, goals, and relationships, as well as what you need or want to work on depending on the context of your life, who you are, and what you desire to achieve. After all, a fulfilled, open, positively energized manager leads from a place in which they can best steer their team and organization to success — strategically, emotionally, and operationally.