Great managers are constantly performing at a high level, and they do it by effectively balancing their responsibilities.
Sometimes, they are strategists who build great and detailed plans. Other times, they are master tacticians that show the team how it’s done. There are still other times when they are a psychologist, hacking human psychology and motivating team members for a final push on a project.
Think of it like managerial whack-a-mole. You’re constantly switching the multiple hats you have at your disposal to get the best out of every single team member and the team as a whole.
Switching hats effectively and making sure that you have the right hat on is difficult. With that in mind, here are five simple tips that can help you be a better manager.
1. Double down on fundamentals
Most teams don’t have problems with state-of-the-art technologies or advanced concepts. They have problems with the fundamentals of the team.
These fundamentals all boil down to just a couple of things.
Effective communication relies on having a message, making sure that you send it through the right channel, and then knowing that the recipient received and understood the content.
This can seem like a simple concept. But, truth be told, it’s the cause of almost all team problems today.
Sometimes the message that you’re trying to send might not be clear to the fullest, and team members might not understand it.
Other times, you might be using a misaligned channel of communication for a message—maybe it was something that required a team meeting to discuss instead of sending a memo.
And then there are times when team members do understand the message but have no idea what to do with it. This is because there’s no action plan with clear steps that they need to do.
All of these problems affect the team’s results and can cause a lot of frustrations from both sides!
As a manager, try to double down on the fundamentals of effective communication: To do this, you should:
- Use a single channel of communication so that you know team members will receive the message
- Say what needs to be done, and be clear in your message
- Say when you’re doing it, give a timeline to members, and make deadlines because if it isn’t on the calendar, it’s not getting done
- Align expectations by having everyone say, in their words, what the expectations are for each team member
Usually, the problem is ineffective communication. But then there are times when it can be two more things.
Feedback is an important extension of communication. This is when you send a ping out and receive a ping back with new information.
Feedback needs to be trained and engrained as a habit in every single team—both in giving and receiving it. If you need help on how you can structure giving and receiving feedback, check out this article on the Johari window matrix.
Feedback needs to be a daily thing. Managers need to communicate with team members on a daily basis and give feedback on their work. They also need to receive feedback on the plan that their managers have created for them.
With feedback, it’s easy to iterate on plans and make sure that you still hit the goal at the end of the project. And a practice of giving feedback on a daily basis ensures that the effective communication you have with your team doesn’t go to waste but that you’re using it to course-correct.
Also, feedback is one of the best professional and personal development tools you can use to help your team members develop new skills.
Play on your strengths
Last but not least, realize what the team’s strengths are and play on them.
If you have data-driven people who like to analyze things before making a decision, don’t make rash decisions. Take the time for everyone on the team to get comfortable with the decision.
This also extends to your individual team members. Put the right team members on the best opportunities. Don’t try to force a team member onto a project where you know they won’t do well. That will just lower their motivation and productivity.
Instead, always keep in mind their personal and professional competencies and try to match them with the opportunities at hand.
If you have a great “firefighting” person—someone who makes decisions on the spot and handles stress like a boss—put that person on a volatile project where you can expect those skills to come in handy.
The same applies to a slow, analytical thinker. Put them on a project where they can take their time to analyze the situation at best and then make a decision.
Play on the strengths of your team and when in doubt, double down on them.
2. Course-correct constantly
Most teams make a plan at the start of their term and then put it in the drawer and take it out again only when they have failed. And then they wonder what happened.
To avoid that, use the CCC acronym—correct course constantly.
A plane’s route is wrong almost 90 percent of the time. But the pilots correct the course so that the airplane reaches the planned and desired destination.
You need to do the same. Correct course constantly by having alignment meetings with your team and your team members individually.
- “What are we trying to accomplish in the next month?”
- “Are we on the right track?”
- “What can we do to make sure to stay on course?”
Questions like these might sound simple. But they are super effective when it comes to alignment and course correction.
You need to do this often and correct course when things go slightly off. That way is better and easier than waiting for the end of the project and then wondering how the team failed.
3. Teach by providing growth opportunities
As a manager, there are almost no situations where you need to micromanage. But it’s a trap that many managers fall into. To avoid micromanaging, you need to make a clear and distinct line that separates the things you absolutely must do on one side and things that others can do for you through delegation.
To develop your team members and make leaders out of them, you need to provide them with opportunities to grow and lead. And you can do that by delegating tasks to them and trusting that they will do them properly.
That’s how you create leaders.
Here are a couple of situations where you can create opportunities to delegate tasks and push your team members out of their comfort zones:
- Leading team meetings
- Creating presentations for team meetings
- Picking and creating a team-building activity
There are plenty more situations where you can create opportunities if you want to develop leaders out of your team members. Take advantage of them.
4. Stay flexible
Staying flexible is very important as a manager. As a manager, you’re doing three distinct things:
- Managing processes
- Managing people
- Managing expectations
You need to stay flexible and open-minded when it comes to these three distinct areas of work.
Why is that? Because of innovation.
If there’s an innovation in any field that leads to better outcomes for your organization, you need to spot it and use it in your team.
Be flexible in your approach but rigorous in your determination for results. Your team members might just surprise you by finding a new way of doing things that you might never think of.
5. Be empathetic
Suffice it to say that 2020 has been a difficult year for everyone. In tough times, managers need to lead with empathy as much as possible.
With the transition to working from home (WFH), job insecurity, major changes and shifts in the business world, the one reliable person for the team member is their manager.
With the best results coming from teams with the highest psychological safety and trust, leading with empathy becomes the ultimate priority for every manager.
This means having an “open door” policy even if you working remotely. This could mean 1-on-1 meetings with your team members or quick Zoom calls.
Empathy is about two things:
- Putting yourself in other person’s shoes
Sometimes, your team members just want to be heard. They don’t want you to give them solutions. They just need reassurance that someone heard their problems and insecurities, and that someone cares about them—not just the numbers they provide.
That’s how you build trust with your team members and provide psychological safety. And your team members will cherish that by being more productive and hitting goals because they will feel safe, heard, and respected on the team and they will “repay the favor” back to you.
Follow these simple five tips and become a better manager
Ready to take your managerial game to the next level? Follow these five tips to build a happier, more engaged, and more productive team:
- Double down on fundamentals by effectively communicating, using feedback, and playing on your strengths
- Correcting course constantly
- Teaching by providing growth opportunities
- Staying flexible
- And being empathetic
Here’s to becoming the best manager you can be!