12 Ideas to Dramatically Improve Your Performance as a Manager

Man with glasses staring at himself in the mirror
••• GettyImages/ClausChristensen

 It is rare when I go a week without encountering a manager or executive who does not complain about his team’s performance. More often than not, the only one to blame is the person staring back at the manager in the mirror.

Here are 12 ideas guaranteed to improve team morale and performance. Incorporate them in your work life and that person staring at you in the mirror might just start smiling!

12 Ideas to Improve Your Performance as a Manager:

1. Create more opportunities for one-on-one discussions. It is easy to let the daily firefights keep us from spending quality time with our team members. Fight hard to free some space in your crowded calendar just to talk. Your team members will appreciate the effort and the face-time.

2. Stop micromanaging. The micro-managing boss is no one's favorite. Good people do their best work when you're not staring over their shoulder. Give them space and let them show you what they can do. 

3. Change your approach to "trust." Instead of requiring everyone to earn your trust, try giving it first. We all appreciate not having to move mountains to gain a grudging amount of trust from you. In my experience, your team members will respond to this approach by not only trusting you faster, but by working hard to exceed your expectations.

4. Avoid becoming the wrinkly-shirted bridge lizard. I learned about this colorful and less than desirable manager-type during interviews with employees at a major retailer. The bridge lizard is that manager who remains firmly planted in his chair watching store employees from the observation deck and peppering them with regular, and often unfounded criticism. No one likes or respects this character. Push away from your desk and insert yourself in the work of your business and learn firsthand about your team and their challenges.

5. Quit trying to be the smartest person in every conversation. I looked at your job description, and I didn't see any requirements stipulating that you must be the smartest in the room at all times. Remember, it is your job to hire and develop people who are smarter than you.

6. Increase the flow of information to your team. Everyone on your team wants to know how the firm is doing and whether the sales team landed that big contract. Set up regular update sessions where you brief your team on the firm's results. Make certain they have an opportunity to ask questions. A great technique is to invite a different executive to every meeting to handle the bigger, strategic questions. The executives appreciate the time with your team and your team members get to know the executives while learning about the firm's performance.

A true win-win. 

7. Learn and live the 3:1 ratio. Deliver 3-times as much positive feedback as constructive (the negative kind). Just remember that the positive feedback must be well-earned and behavioral in nature.

8. Quit stalling on the difficult conversations. Good people want input on how to improve. No one wins when you avoid tackling the constructive feedback discussions.

9. Read more. If you are not reading and learning, you are moving backwards at the speed-of-change. From industry journals to the latest business periodicals and bestsellers, there is no excuse for not keeping current with your reading. And of course, do not limit yourself to industry or business fare. Any topic or genre that exposes you to ideas, approaches, and histories serves the purpose. Share your findings and insights with your team members. Kudos if you or your team members identify ideas you can incorporate to improve performance.


10. Help your team read more. Set up and fund a reading discussion group. Get the team started with the initial few titles and then let them make future choices. Make certain to schedule time to meet and discuss the books. One human resources manager hosted a well-attended monthly reading club discussion session over a lunch with pizza or subs on him. A senior software engineer substituted one weekly status meeting per month with a discussion session. Find an approach that fits your culture and schedule.


11. Schedule downtime for your team. We run most of our businesses and teams like we are in a state of perpetual hurry-up. Create opportunities for some brain-stimulating down-time. Take your team on a field-trip a few times per year. Kudos if you can use the field-trip for some creative brainstorming in the workplace. A customer service manager I know regularly schedules outings with his teams at businesses (in unrelated industries) known for remarkable customer service. They always come back to the office with ideas to strengthen their performance.


12. Renew your vow to live by the Coach's Credo. When things go wrong it's the coach's fault. When things go right, it's because of the team. 

The Bottom-Line for Now:

You have a tough job. You are on the hook for driving great results and promoting continuous improvement. There is no doubt getting things done through others is hard, often frustrating work. However, all of the work you do to promote a healthy work-environment that is free of fear and unnecessary stress, will pay huge dividends on your mission to strengthen results.