12 Ideas to Dramatically Improve Your Performance as a Manager

Man with glasses staring at himself in the mirror
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It is rare that any manager or executive has no complaints about his team’s performance. More often than not, however, the more appropriate one to blame is the person staring back at the manager in the mirror.

Implementing the following 12 ideas can make a big difference in the improvement of team morale and performance. Incorporate them in your work life and watch yourself and your team grow into the effective and high-functioning team you're meant to be.

12 Ideas to Improve Your Performance as a Manager

To improve your team's results, you have to change yourself and take a few risks by performing differently than you have in the past. Try to implement as many of the following ideas as you can, and reap the rewards for yourself and your subordinates.

1. Create more opportunities for one-on-one discussions. It is easy to let the daily firefights keep you from spending quality time with your 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. Your team members will appreciate not having to move mountains to gain a grudging amount of trust from you. Your team 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. This colorful and less-than-desirable "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. When looking at your job description, no requirements stipulate that you must be the smartest person 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 backward 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. You might have found that you unconsciously run your team like you 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. You ca regularly schedule outings with your team members at businesses (in unrelated industries) known for remarkable customer service. Then come back to the office with ideas to strengthen the team's 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

Managers have a tough job, and they're 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.