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LESSON 1 - HOW TO BE A GREAT MANAGER THROUGH STRONG LEADERSHIP
Part 1 - Employee Interaction - Tips 1 through 27
Get them excited about a better future. As a leader, you need to rally the troops as a whole to find at least one common goal for all, and then focus a shared vision around that commonality. There might be a lot of ways to inspire, but in the same token, different people have different opinions on a better future. Where some might be inspired, some will miss the point. Find the one goal in which they can all rally behind, and they will truly be able to share in the same vision as yours. They will see you as an inspiring leader, which will make them even closer to you. The common goal might be a key metric for company growth, or satisfaction results that shows they are providing world-class customer service, etc. By keeping them all focused and inspired on at least one common key metric, you will have a more unified and better performing team to obtain that goal. You want your employees to have faith in the future by eliminating the possible fears we all have in common. By making them feel secure about the company, providing a clear and shared hope for the future, keeping everything under control, being someone they can count on, and someone they respect who respects them back, you will be seen as an effective leader.
Make sure your employees listen to you. If they are not listening, they will not follow. If they are not following, then you are not leading. You need to establish the fact that when you talk, you expect their full-undivided attention. If you are losing their attention, stop what you are doing or saying, and let them know you need them to focus on what is being said or shown. It doesn’t have to be awkward, just say it as a matter of fact, in a normal tone of voice, and get back to business. Once it has been established that you will not tolerate being ignored, it will stop happening.
You define, and then let your employees conquer, the goals and expectations. It is more important to define the outcome you desire, rather than the steps on how to get there. If you hired and/or trained your staff right, then they should be able to accomplish this through teamwork and pride. Let them know that they are smart and bright, and that you have the confidence that they can achieve the expectations and goals. They just need to utilize the skills they already possess. Also make sure the goals are truly attainable and reachable with a realistic timeline. If you ask for the near impossible in an unrealistic timeframe, you will not only miss the goal, but lose the respect from your team.
Make it a point to personally meet with everyone in your department. If possible, take a person to lunch each day until you have gone through your whole department. At least meet with them one-on-one for 15 minutes or so. If your department or company is just too big (i.e. over 100 employees), then you might want to have a couple of small, but still very personal group meetings or lunches. Also make it a point to meet with your fellow managers. Get their ideas and feedback which will not only break the ice, it will make them feel good about themselves. This in turn will make them like you more. You might learn some valuable information as well.
Motivating a group differs from that of motivating an individual. Part of being a great leader is to know your employees’ strengths and weaknesses. What inspires one person differs from another. Once you know what makes each person tick, you can capitalize on it by inspiring in a way that finds the positive, which will make them feel good about themselves. At the same time, you are earning respect and more credibility in their eyes. We will discuss more about motivating in lesson 3.
When motivating, focus on the employee’s strengths and accomplishments. You can use past examples of achieved goals, customer compliments, etc. Leave the weakness out, and only bring it up at a later time if there is a disciplinary action. Also, again find out what makes each employee tick. Some are more motivated by the way you present a challenge. Some are more motivated by recognition either publicly or privately. Some are more motivated at different times of the day, week or month such as month-end sales. Some are more motivated by needing constant reassurance, yet some are more motivated by just letting them work independently. You need to know your employees to get the most out of motivation. One thing to keep in mind, you should never try to motivate by using threats. It might get short-term results, but you will pay for it in the long run, and most likely lose some good employees.
Find the strong pointsand unlock the employee’s potential. When your developing an employee, point them in the right direction that will truly help their career in what they would like to do. For example, promoting a great employee to customer service supervisor, when their strengths are more technical engineering related, might not be the best idea for both of you. Let them shine, and make sure they know that you are spreading the good word about them. That you are sharing their ideas, contributions, successes, and customer compliments with upper management. Never steal their glory or thunder. You will already look good because you have a great employee that you manage and are mentoring. That is enough of an award in itself. It will also show your fellow managers and upper management that you truly are a team player who wants everyone to succeed, and not one to hold all the cards…
Keep your employees close, but your best employees even closer. Of course, as a leader, you want to make sure your employees are close to you. But lets face it, there are always a few people in your department that truly make a difference that you want even closer. You might have someone whose skills and talents are beyond all others and are just supreme, or you might have someone who is just so customer focused that you know you can always trust that person to provide the greatest customer service, etc. These key individuals can make a big difference to the overall big picture. It shouldn’t be that way, but that is just the way it is. You do not want to lose these key players, unless, it is for possible promotion outside of your department but still within the company. These individuals should get extra good personal treatment such as praise and raises. Just watch the fine line of showing favoritism.
Be personable, and show you care about your employees as a person. One of the most effective ways to have people want to follow you as a leader is to make them feel like you truly care about them. Ask about their interests and genuinely be curious about their lives. Many employees who feel you are uncaring or unfair are more willing to cheat on their expected workload and think they can get away with it. They will feel like they are just a number, so what does it matter what they do? If they feel they are being managed by someone who is trustworthy and acts with integrity, and at the same time cares about people as well as the business, they will feel like they are a true part of the company. They will see you as a leader to follow and will perform better.
Open communication and honesty with the team. Be yourself while always maintaining a professional persona. People deal with situations, good or bad, when they feel you are being honest in a professional yet personable way. This will also create a good union-company relationship if applicable. Encourage input and opinions. Be open for debate. Also, always suggest that an employee, or group of employees, talk to you first with any grievances before going to HR or upper management. Most of the time the issue will be worked out right then and there. Human Resources will love you for it as well.
Continually communicate. Always keep the communication line open whether in person, chat, phone call, or e-mail. There will be times when you are so busy that you will forget to talk to your staff. Don’t be so involved in your own projects that you end up ignoring the hard work performed by your staff. If you do not talk to your employees, you might be looked at as not trying or caring. We will discuss more about communication skills in lesson 7.
Sometimes make them find the answer. Giving your team the responsibility to find the answers, even if they have to struggle a bit, challenges and shows trust in the team. You might be able to do it quickly, but what about the next time a situation pops up? Don’t get caught in the trap of doing everything yourself. It’s stressful for both you and your team. Instead of finding the answer for them right away, you should instead ask questions like, “What would you do?” They will learn by committing mistakes, and that should be the time you coach them. They will learn and build confidence over time. You should always be there to look after them, but not do it for them. This also goes for tasks you delegate, but somehow comes back to you. Try not to let this happen.
Make your employees believe that you are in awe of their skills and that their work is challenging. The more self-assured a person is, the better they will perform. You are making them feel good about themselves by letting them know that you recognize the difficulty in their tasks. Show them you recognize their strengths, and then even challenge them more. You get more productivity, and they do not feel like their job is meaningless.
Praise when praise is due. Everyone likes to be complimented and receive a good pat on the back. When goals have been exceeded, exceptional work has been done, or employees went beyond the call of duty to ensure customer satisfaction, be sure to praise your employees. There is a difference between praise and saying thank you. You thank your employees for the hard work they have done, but you praise when exceptional work has been done. Praising the team for a true accomplishment goes a lot farther than praising for every completed task. It shows you have the leadership trait to recognize meaningful projects. We will discuss more about praising and recognizing in lesson 3.
Do not be scared of your employees’ success. You want to see your employees shine with confidence and build their skills, even if you start feeling like they are surpassing you. You want to continually build up their self-assurance to utilize their strengths. The more they grow, the more you grow. It is a compliment to you when praise is given to your group or one of your team members. A successful employee usually means the manager must be doing something right, and upper management recognizes that fact. The only way you can be surpassed is if you lose the individual and teams respect by holding them down. Loss of respect turns into a lack of confidence in you as a leader. The last thing you want is a “coup d’état” type of mentality amongst your team.
Get the most out of recognition. The saying, “Different strokes for different folks,” comes into play here. Some people prefer public recognition, so you can praise them in front of their peers, whereas others are more inclined to private recognition and praise. Also, giving recognition to an employee’s true strength and passion goes much further than praise for something they are not passionate about. For example, one person might be more technically inclined who will get more out of technically related praise, whereas another might be more focused on providing excellent customer service who will get more out of praise due to a customer compliment, yet they are both in the same group. You need to find the right buttons to push to get the most out of recognition and praise. Again, this goes back to knowing what makes them tick. Something else to keep in mind, do not praise an individual in public when it was a team effort. It can destroy team morale.
Learn what makes them learn. Part of sharing the vision as a leader, and making sure everyone performs their job functions correctly as a manager, requires that they understand just what it is you are trying to relate. You can’t assume that a blanket statement or process will be fully understood by all. Each person learns a little differently than others. Some people get more by looking at visual examples, while others like watching others do it. Some like a hands on approach, while others like to analyze the data. As a leader, you need to make sure the whole team understands what you are trying to share. As a manager, you would want to know how each individual learns best. A leader would visually show ideas and visions in charts or slide presentations, have the team participate with ideas based on your vision, and document for those who want to dig a little deeper into your vision. A manager might want to take a hands on approach with those who are better at doing it rather than reading about it, give documentation to those who are more comfortable by analyzing and applying the information to the project themselves, use a visual step-by-step approach to those who get more out of visual learning, or just have them watch others do it. You need to use whatever method works best, both from a leaders and managers point of view, even if it is in a few different formats. This will ensure that the goals of the overall vision will be achieved. In short, you might need to adapt your style and figure out how to work well with the competencies of your team members, rather than always expecting that they adapt to you.
Always keep an “open door” policy. Your employees need to know that they can talk to you at any time. You need to have this open door policy no matter the person or issue. Whenever an employee approaches you, you always have to be ready to feel sympathetic and show you care. Show them you are willing to help. It might be about money, a conflict with another employee, or a personal issue. No matter the situation, make sure they know you are listening. You don’t necessarily need to come up with any magic solution at the time, but make sure you get back with them as soon as possible. Even if it is not what they want to hear, they will know you tried and took their concerns seriously. Most of the time it is just an opportunity to let them vent, however, you come out looking good. This is because you did not shrug it off or made them feel stupid for talking to you in the first place. Look them in the eyes while they are talking, and do not work on e-mail or answer a call unless absolutely necessary. If you need to interrupt them, make sure you let them know the urgency of the immediate situation. You would politely ask them to either wait a few minutes, or come back in around 15 minutes. The main point is not making them feel you do not care. If, however, this person is a constant bother to you, you will at one point need to let them know that these continuous problems need to stop. You will have to draw the line. You might suggest a meeting with human resources, which might scare them off in presenting future complaints. No one wants to be known as a complainer.
Always be open, flexible and approachable. Being laid back and approachable, while at the same time showing you have a desired commitment to achieving results, is truly a successful combination. Do not come across like an unreasonable, mean, or sarcastic person. Intimidation might seem like it gives you more power, but it backfires most of the time. You will lose respect. People will pretend to like you, but secretly hate you. They will leave the first chance they can get. Humble yourself with honor, and you will get the best out of your staff. This only makes your job easier. Always keep in mind this old saying, “You catch more fly’s with honey than vinegar.” Be nice, open to new ideas, and show flexibility. Even the smallest gesture will look big in your employees’ eyes. Be open to everything, even if you know within the first few seconds that it will never work.
Do not rule by intimidation, but don’t be intimidated either... Leaders need to have a certain dominance about them and be assertive in both their thinking and ability to deal with others. However, dominance and intimidation are two separate entities. Only short-term gain is usually achieved through intimidation and a higher rate of attrition usually occurs. It is good for a little healthy fear associated with the natural approach to hierarchy and respect for the position, but that is as far as it should go. If, however, you start to feel intimidated by someone else or with particular events, remember this: You are reading this paragraph right now for a reason, you desire to excel at your management and leadership skills. That desire, and what is taught throughout this course, should instill confidence in you to never be, nor show that you are, intimidated by anyone. Maturity in your management style by empowering, rather than ruling, will show you do not intimidate nor are intimidated.
Develop a collaborative approach. When your employees are engaged in the vision and goals of the department, they will feel a sense of pride. Creativity, loyalty, and motivation will grow. Absenteeism and employee turnover will decrease, while problem solving and productivity will increase.
You have to deal with conflict with confidence. You will most likely have, at one point in your managerial career, an argumentative troublemaker with a bad attitude. You will also have employees with poor performance. You need to react immediately and know when it is time to fire the individual, unless of course you can remedy the situation. We will discuss more about conflict and firing in lesson 5.
Have effective meetings. Communicating with upper management and to your staff, as described throughout this course, is extremely important in creating clear-cut direction to achieve the well-defined goals and objectives. Meeting with staff is of vital importance, however, you need the meetings to follow an agenda and stick to the point to truly be effective. We will discuss more about holding great meetings in lesson 7.
Stand behind your team. If you feel justified, and it is within reason, you should always go to battle for your team. If your team feels passionately about something, you need to show them that you have their best interests at heart. If someone has a complaint about someone in your department, make sure you deal with the issue and not let another manager or supervisor bypass your authority. You need to always show that you are an advocate for your team.
Empower your employees. Give them bigger projects to handle rather than just the simple hour-to-hour assignments. Once they have tackled a few of the bigger types of projects, both you and your employees will have more confidence in the projects yet to come.
Get the most out of your employees. In order to do this, you need to give the most of yourself to them. Continuously ask if there is anything you can do for them. Be there for them and always let them know you have their back. Always keep their best interests at heart. The more you do for them, the more they will follow your lead.
Help people grow their skills and develop their careers. You do this through training, providing opportunities, and spreading the word through upper management. This will make you the person people want to work for. When employees feel they are learning and growing, they work harder and more efficiently. Don’t let them become bored and stagnant or else they will become sluggish, both personally and professionally. Challenge and empower your employees with tasks, projects, and assignments. You will both win, they are improving and you are getting more work done. Coaching and mentoring your employees, by focusing on the needed strengths for them to learn and grow, is one of the best things you can do as manager and leader. Build their confidence when they are unsure about themselves, bring them out of their shell when they are shy, and help with reporting and process skills when they are not documentation experts. By helping your employees learn and grow, you will have more people in which you can delegate tasks. This in turn gives you more time to focus on other aspects of improving your department, which is another win/win situation.