"The true measure of the value of any business leader and manager is performance." Brian Tracy
In my last post I gave seven tips that nobody should ever want to adopt since they represented a quick-fire way to be the Worst Manager Ever. I was delighted that the article resonated so positively with many readers (you clearly recognised many of those poor managerial traits in people you have worked with!) but I think it’s only fair that I redress the balance and come up with seven tips that you should definitely adopt if you wish to be not only a good manager but the Best Ever. After all, in a survey released less than two years ago during the day of celebration of National Boss Day (for those wondering which is the day, note that it is the 16th of October), it was revealed that 65% of participants say getting rid of their boss would make them happier than a salary increase!
The 7 tips are the following:
Listen And LearnAs an employee, your personal success or failure is dependent on your own performance. Things change when you become a manager because your success or failure, which is inextricably linked to that of your department or the entire company, depends not only on you but on your employees’ performance. The first thing a manager needs to understand is that in business, great things are never achieved by one person. They are achieved by a team. It is essential that you have excellent communication skills – otherwise, as Lee Iacocca said, “You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can't get them across, your ideas won't get you anywhere”– but being a great communicator is only half the battle. The other half is being a good listener. Listening is a trait that 88% of employees value in a boss. However, only 60% of employees say their managers listen to them. Being in the “Best Manager Ever” category means allowing time for your team members to speak and for you to be willing to accept that they may sometimes come up with better ideas than your own.
Show that you careA healthy workplace is one where mutual trust thrives and keeps the team together. A caring manager takes time to get to know the individuals in the team and to be aware of each one’s personal circumstances as well as the tasks they are working on. Such a manager is genuinely interested in people’s success, personal well-being and career development, recognizing that each employee is different and identifying and appreciating those differences. Not a coincidence that a Gallup study, involving 7,712 adults, found that ‘engagement is highest among employees who have some form (face to face, phone or digital) of daily communication with their managers. And when employees attempt to contact their manager, engaged employees report their manager returns their calls or messages within 24 hours. These ongoing transactions explain why engaged workers are more likely to say their manager knows what projects or tasks they are working on.’
Remain Calm Under PressureAs a manager, you should know that no matter how organised and efficient you are, difficult situations are bound to arise from time to time with clients and employees. The way you behave in challenging circumstances can have a significant impact on your team. If you remain emotionally resilient, others will see this and will similarly remain calm and productive under pressure. Even when someone makes a mistake (and who doesn’t?), a good manager treats the incident with understanding and adopts a positive approach, despite the potential seriousness of someone else’s error. You need to show respect at all times and to set an example by tackling problems in a calm, organised, positive and determined manner. People expect leadership and guidance from their manager, especially when the going gets tough.
Coach Your TeamAt a basic level, good management is all about getting the job done. However, the best managers see beyond that and focus on developing the people they work with. According to Gallup, ‘the best way for people to grow and develop is to identify how they most naturally think, feel, and behave - their talents - then build on those talents to create strengths, or the ability to consistently provide near-perfect performance.’ In other words, building employees' strengths is a far more effective approach than a fixation on weaknesses. By including a coaching or mentoring aspect in your responsibilities, you will ensure that you are passing on your own knowledge and skills and actively encourage your team members to find their own solutions to problems. You might think that, with some tasks, it is easier to do everything yourself but if you do, you won’t be allowing your employees to do what they were hired to do. The words of former US President Ronald Reagan apply to any successful organisation: “Surround yourself with the best people you can find, delegate authority, and don’t interfere as long as the policy you’ve decided upon is being carried out.”
Adopt An Innovative MindSetGiven the speed of change and the transformative role of technology in business today, you need to have an innovative mindset. You don’t have to rival Bill Gates or Steve Jobs in this but an openness to change and an understanding of its power will definitely serve you well. Innovation is more than just a buzzword these days: it is an essential component of company success and it is one that your younger employees will certainly view in this light. Don’t get left behind simply because you don’t understand certain aspects of new technology: there is nothing wrong with asking team members who are more familiar than you with technology to explain its advantages and capabilities. The best managers encourage innovative ideas and approaches and help their people to implement them. As Brent Beshore, owner and CEO of AdVentures, a company that believes that ‘boring’ is beautiful, says in a Business Insider article titled “12 Ways to be a More Innovative Boss”, "Let people explore and make mistakes. Be good with failure - as long as there is learning in the end."
Motivate Your PeopleWhen managing, talk to the team about their strengths and learn to bring out the potential of your people. As Jack Welch, the former Chairman and CEO of General Electric, memorably remarked, “When you've got somebody who's raring to go and you can smell it and feel it, give 'em that shot!” Managers who are effective help people stay motivated to do their best work by making them feel valued and supported. They also understand that each person they manage is different. According to Gallup, ‘each person has different successes and challenges both at and away from work. Knowing their employees as people first, these managers accommodate their employees' uniqueness while managing toward high performance.’ When your employees are successful, they will in turn recommend and praise you as a good manager and your organization as a stand out organization. There are countless ways of motivating your team, but some of the most effective are (1) creating an open work environment, (2) involving employees in decision-making, (3) giving them a chance to grow and learn new skills and (4) showing that you have a sense of humour. It always helps!
Lead By ExampleThe best managers are willing and able to roll up their sleeves and work alongside the team when necessary. They understand the challenges facing the team and can find ways of resolving them. Additionally, as noted in point 3 above, the way you behave affects your team:if you are positive and energetic, the team members are more likely to feel that way too and it is a well-known fact that happy employees are more productive and more creative. Good management means providing the right balance between freedom and advice to your people. Empower them but don’t micromanage them. As another former US President, Theodore Roosevelt, said, “The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it.”
On the face of it, being the Best Manager Ever may seem like a lot of hard work but my experience, working with some of the most successful managers in over five continents, has shown, that it is not. Being the Best Manager Ever, however, requires being thoughtful of the impact of your words and actions. It requires that you think differently than the majority of the managers out there and it starts with your willingness to implement all of the above seven steps. As the legendary football manager Arsène Wenger once said: “I believe one of the best things about managing people is that we can influence lives in a positive way. That's basically what a manager is about. When I can do that, I am very happy.”
Think of the best manager you have worked with: What was it that made him or her so special? I’ll be delighted to hear from you.
Infographic by Stella Komninou Arakelian.