BY CHRISTINA DAVISBear Bryant, Red Auerbach, Tony Dungy, Phil Jackson, Yogi Berra, John Wooden, Pat Summit, Tom Landry—why do we remember these coaches decades after they retired? Leadership is a transformative, life-changing quality that people are drawn to. Some leaders are born, while others are made—but all managers can continue to grow and develop skills to lead people well.
In the previous issue, we examined the soft skills that managers need to develop: body language, a firm handshake, and eye contact. Now we will focus on the attributes found in successful managers across the board, ones that are productivity-specific rather than industry-specific.
One of the most important skills a manager needs is the ability to meet deadlines without creating stress for his team. This takes planning, setting clear goals and expectations, assigning tasks, open communication, organization, and consistent follow-up and updates. Even the best-laid plans can be derailed, but a successful manager will adapt and know how to get everyone back on track.
Beyond meeting deadlines, many successful managers excel in relationship-building and communication. Connecting with employees is the first step to building a solid, reliable team who works together toward a common goal, cares about the group, and motivates each other. Continued feedback—both positive and constructive—keeps teams encouraged and plays a huge part in boosting morale. In addition to positive feedback, tackling performance issues swiftly and honestly, setting fun goals, sticking to a schedule as much as possible, and encouraging ideas and solutions are other ways to improve employee engagement.
Addressing performance issues promptly and directly demonstrates your involvement and commitment to the success of your team. Learning when to step in is the first piece of this puzzle. Don’t micromanage, but stay on top of progress to be sure work is not derailed. Ignoring poor or incorrect performance sends a powerful message to your high performers! If you don’t correct poor performance, why should they continue to work as hard as they do? However, don’t overlook or turn a blind eye to bad behaviors just because someone is a high performer. Rewarding those who aren’t team players could have a significant impact on the rest of the staff and affect their productivity.
In performance conversations with employees, lead with questions. Your employees will see that you want their points of view and you aren’t simply jumping to conclusions. Control your emotions because employees (really, people in general) tend to remain more open to suggestions when their emotions are in check also. Then fix what is broken. Put a plan in place to refocus your employees’ work, provide additional training as necessary, and schedule follow-up meetings.
As you watch your team’s performance, they are watching yours—maybe even more than their own! Accepting feedback from them shows that you desire growth and understand that people can always learn from each other. Being transparent in your management style, accepting responsibility for your team’s work (even if it isn’t what you want it to be), being flexible, and knowing your limits instill confidence in your ability to run a successful team. No one is perfect, and no one knows everything; we all have room to learn and grow as individuals and managers. Demonstrating this in the workplace does not make you weak: It makes you stronger!
And finally, go above and beyond in your work each and every day. As a team’s manager, you need to lead by example. When your team sees you focused, asking questions when you don’t have an answer, providing suggestions and ideas when someone is at a roadblock, and empathizing with others who may be frustrated or having a hard day, they will know that you aren’t perfect and you do not require perfection from them, but that you are committed to your personal best.
The great Vince Lombardi of the Green Bay Packers once said, “Individual commitment to a group effort—that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” Teamwork doesn’t come naturally; it takes work, a great leader, and a common goal. Being the leader of a team is just one piece of the team puzzle, albeit an important one. By meeting deadlines, watching your performance, resolving problems, and going above and beyond, you will instill confidence in your team and inspire them to work at their highest level.
I leave you with Henry Mintzberg’s words that bring together the soft skills and the hard skills of management: “Management is, above all, a practice where art, science, and craft meet.” [CD0817]
Christina Davis is the HR Director for The LMC Group. She can be reached at christina@LMC.group.