by Julie Fuimano
As you know, being a manager is no easy task. And if youíve been promoted from a technical position you may not be prepared to meet the demands of your new position. For some, managing comes naturally while others struggle with creating cohesive teams, handling staff difficulties and producing satisfactory results. As a result, they are stressed out and overworked.
If this sounds like you, the good news is that you can learn to be an effective manager. There are four areas in which great managers excel. Learn to incorporate these four elements into your management style and youíll have a productive team with fewer problems, reduced turnover, decreased stress and a more fulfilled work life Ė for you and your staff!
Select The Right People
The best managers know that in order to meet the goals of the department, they must select people with the right stuff. Choosing well is probably your most important duty as a manager. When people with the right talent are chosen, then you, as the manager, can focus your energy on creating an environment where your staff can excel. The right talent means having the capacity, the attitude and the aptitude required for the position. Experience, while helpful, is not as important as talent. If those on your team have the right education, then you can develop their skills. But if theyíre not the right fit, if they have a poor attitude, have a motivational problem, lack the capacity to perform the work or lack the desire for achieving excellence, then your department suffers.
Coaching tip: Many mangers get caught spending their time with those who require the most assistance. And yet, the best time is spent cultivating the talents of your best staff members Ė itís less stressful and itís more fun. Choose staff with the right stuff so you can spend your time cultivating excellence.
Set Clear Performance Expectations
Setting clear expectations for results and for levels of excellence sets the standard for the work environment you require. Those on your team want to know what to do, how to do it and the level of quality that is demanded of them. This means, they want an authority figure to give them clear direction and focus, and a vision of what the end result should look like. When your staff isnít clear about what standard to follow or what the vision is, they do what they think is appropriate. Assumptions are never a good strategy for running a department. Your employees may or may not meet the standards you want for, or thatís expected of, your department. Without clear guidelines, your staff will waste time and energy guessing at whatís needed of them. As a result, they may be great at doing the wrong things right, but that wonít move you closer to meeting your objectives.
When you set clear guidelines, your staff knows exactly what is expected of them. Tie the mission of the department to each job so the staff can relate to how their position impacts your department objectives and the organization as a whole. Explain your standards of excellence so they know what to aspire to. As a leader, you set the tone. Focus on cultivating excellence and those on your team will stretch to meet it. With clear expectations, team members know how to proceed with minimal oversight, freeing you up to focus on areas that require your special attention.
Coaching Tip: Team members need to hear feedback about how they are doing and they need to hear it often. It follows that if you set clear expectations with your staff, you need to follow up with them regularly to be sure that they are on track. Once a year is not enough. Informal work reviews should be conducted weekly (up to quarterly for larger departments). Schedule time with staff members and let them know if they are meeting your guidelines. In addition, ask for their feedback on how they think they are doing.
Know Your Staff
Respecting the differences in your staff members is critical to building a cohesive and effective team. Knowing your staff means getting to know each staff member individually, identifying their strengths and weaknesses, knowing what motivates them and what they are passionate about. If you know what matters most to each employee, you can help them tie their values more closely to your vision and mission of your company. Sure, it takes time to get to know your team members; as a manager, itís your responsibility.
Annual performance appraisals tend to focus of reviewing what the person is good at, identifying areas of limitation and then setting goals to improve the areas of weakness or deficiency. Clearly, there are some areas in every business that require proficiency. But building your team is about recognizing the differences in each member and developing their strengths. You donít need everyone to be good at everything. Thatís a factory mentality; it works well with machines, not with people.
When you recognize the limitations of those on your team and learn to work around then, you are acknowledging the person for who they are and not setting unrealistic expectations for who you think they should become.
Coaching Tip: When hiring staff, look for people who complement your existing team with added strengths or unique skill sets.
Knowing your staff is what diversity in the workplace is all about. When you support the differences in each of the members of your team, you make people feel good about who they are. Recognizing their strengths and allowing people to spend their time, energy and talents doing the very things that they enjoy and do well, creates a workplace that is productive, fun and a great place to work.
Develop Your Staff
Spending your time and energy doing what you love is a recipe for happiness and fulfillment. As a manager, your job is to turn individual talent into performance. Developing your staff doesnít necessarily mean promotions; it means supporting your staff to become their best Ė that may mean staying right where they are and excelling at what they currently do. Encouraging your people to stay on the cutting edge should be expected at your company. Create a learning environment for your staff, making it easy for them to continue to master their profession. A company that makes learning part of their culture has few issues with the ever-changing face of society and technology. If change is constant, expected and everybodyís doing it, then change is part of the norm. This means, your company will evolve faster than your competition, offering you a huge competitive advantage.
If you know that every day you go to a workplace that respects you for what you do best, allows you to focus on developing your skills and respects you for your expertise, youíll feel wonderful about going to work. Do you think youíll have trouble retaining an employee who feels this way?
Your company can have the best benefit package and pay scale in your industry, but if you, the manager, do not have good relationships with those on your team, productivity suffers and team members wonít stay. If you want to make a difference, choose your staff wisely, set clear expectations for excellence, get to know your staff and focus on their strengths. The rewards are great.
Resource: Buckingham, M. & Coffman, C. (1999) First, Break All The Rules. New York; Simon & Schuster.