Five ways to be a better manager

People pleasing

I was in the business section of Dymocks recently and it struck me how overwhelming the choice and sheer number of books there are that have been written essentially all on the same theme – how to manage people better.

While I don’t proclaim to be an expert (I haven’t got a book on the shelf at Dymocks – yet), it’s clear to me from the thousands of hours of coaching I have done in the last six years that there are some very common issues that arise for all professionals who seek to be better managers, and some obvious ways in which you can improve your style and competency in this area quickly and easily.

Here are my top five ways to be a better manager.

1. Communicate, communicate, communicate

Silence is not a virtue when it comes to leading and managing a team. The biggest source of frustration I see from employees is poor communication from above. Too little, too much, ambiguous or conflicting messages – all of these are factors in eroding your credibility and impact as a manager.

There is no such thing as one style of communication that will suit all. Some of your team will want you to give details, some will want the bigger picture – learn the individual preferences of your team and how to communicate in a way that serves the team best. You can do this through diagnostic tools and from listening and observing carefully.

2. Trust easily, forgive quickly

You’re got to where you are today through hard work, commitment, determination (and maybe a few skills). Now that you’ve made it, show some compassion for what it’s like to NOT be there yet, to be on the way up – whether that’s as a junior member of the team, or a new recruit.

Give people the benefit of the doubt – show them you trust them and let them do their best work, with your help.

And when they make mistakes, which they will, again and again – forgive but don’t ignore it. If there’s a performance issue, address it. If it’s been caused by an error on your side – admit it, and move on. Lack of trust will kill any relationship.

3. Throw a rope … but don’t let them hang

Walking the tightrope of being too hands off versus being a micro-manager can, at times, be tricky. Recognise your own natural style and be prepared to alter it to suit the individual or the circumstances.

Empower your team to make good decisions and choices without having to check in every five minutes, but equally let them know you have an open door and they can walk through it should they need help.

4. Be consistent, but flexible

While I don’t advocate a “that’s the way it’s always been done” approach, I do believe your team value consistency of message and actions. Make sure you follow through on anything you say you will do, but remain flexible enough in your management to shift course should the need arise (which it will, frequently).

5. Be human

You don’t need to be a best friend to your team members, but they will respond better to a manager who is real – who admits they’ve made an error; who is compassionate, yet firm; who is vulnerable yet strong.

Most of us sit in front of a computer eight hours a day or more. Make time for human interaction, and make a pact with yourself to create a real connection with the people you have the privilege of leading and shaping. Even if they let you down, you’ll rest safe in the knowledge that you didn’t let them, or yourself, down.

This post first appeared in Fiona Craig’s Career Column in the September edition of The NSW Law Society Journal and on Women’s Agenda


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