It's easy to understand why managers make significant mistakes in their daily management of the people they employ. Many managers lack fundamental training in managing people, which is usually manifest in their inability to practice the significant soft skills necessary to lead.
But, even more importantly, many managers lack the values, sensitivity, and awareness needed to interact effectively all day long with people. The best managers fundamentally value and appreciate people. They also excel at letting people know how much they are valued and appreciated.
How important is it to help your managers succeed? Beyond description. Managers and how they manage their reporting staff members set the tone for your entire business operation. Managers are the front line representation of your business.
The Importance of Managers
They are the cogs that hold your organization together because all of your employees report to them—for better or for worse. The majority of communication about the business is funneled through your managers. For your business and employees to succeed, your mid-level managers must succeed and become adept at managing in a style that empowers and enables employees.
Skills and techniques are easier to teach, but values, beliefs, and attitudes are much harder to teach—and harder for managers to learn. These are the underlying issues that will most make managers successful—or not.
Select Managers for Managing People
In a job description for a manager, core job functions, traits, and abilities are listed. With this as a guide, manager selection should focus on both the management skills and the candidates' cultural fit. Since they are in a position to influence a large number of your employees, you want to make sure that you get both components right.
Within the cultural fit component of your interview and selection process, a candidate for a manager position must demonstrate that he or she has beliefs, values, and a work style that are congruent with those of your organization. It includes having a commitment to empowering and enabling other employees also to contribute their best work.
In a people-oriented, forward-looking organization, you'll want to interview and select managers who exhibit these characteristics.
- Value people
- Believe in two-way, frequent effective communication and listening
- Want to create an environment in which employees are empowered to take charge of their jobs
- Able to hold people accountable and responsible without using punitive measures
- Demonstrate leadership and the ability to set a clear direction
- Believe in teamwork
- Place the customer at the center of their reason for existence and regard reporting staff as customers
With all of this in mind about managers, preventing management mistakes and dumb decisions is paramount for a successful organization. Do you want to become a better manager? Here are the managing behaviors you should most want to work towards.
Get to Know Your Employees
Developing a relationship with reporting employees is a key factor in managing. You don't want to be your employees' divorce counselor or therapist, but you do want to know what's happening in their lives. When you know where the employee is going on vacation or that his kids play soccer, you are taking a healthy interest in your employees' lives.
Knowing that the dog died, expressing sympathy, or that her daughter won a coveted award at school make you an interested, involved boss. Knowing employees will make you a better manager, a manager who is more responsive to employee needs, moods, and life cycle events.
Provide Clear Direction
Managers fail to create standards and give people clear expectations, so they know what they are supposed to do, and wonder why they fail. If you make every task a priority, people will soon believe that there are no priorities. More importantly, they will never feel as if they have accomplished a complete task or goal.
Within your clear expectations, if you are either too rigid or too flexible, your reporting employees will feel rudderless. You need to achieve an appropriate balance that allows you to lead employees and provide direction without dictating and destroying employee empowerment and employee engagement.
Trust Them From the Start
All managers should start out with all employees from a position of trust. (This shouldn't change until the employee proves himself unworthy of that trust.) When managers don't trust people to do their jobs, this lack of trust plays out in a number of injurious ways
Micromanaging is one example. Constantly checking up is another. Treat people as if they are untrustworthy—watch them, track them, admonish them for every slight failing—because a few people are untrustworthy. Are you familiar with the old tenet that people live up to your expectations?
Listen to Your Employees
Active listening is a critical management skill. You can train managers in listening skills, but if the manager believes that listening is a way to demonstrate that he or she values people, training is usually unnecessary.
Listening is providing recognition and demonstrating your values in action. When employees feel heard out and listened to, they feel important and respected. You will have much more information that you need when you daily open the floodgates.
When employees resign, one of the top reasons for their resignation is their relationship with their manager. People often leave managers, not jobs or employers. (They also leave for reasons such as lack of opportunity, low work flexibility, inability to achieve growth and development in their jobs, and boredom, so managers are not exclusively on the hook.)
Ask For Input Before Making Decisions
You can fool some of the people. But your best employees soon get the nature of your game and drop out. Good luck getting those employees to engage again. Along the same lines, create hierarchical permission steps and other roadblocks that teach people quickly that their ideas are subject to veto and wonder why no one has any suggestions for improvement.
Enabling people to make decisions about their work is the heart of employee empowerment and the soul of employee engagement. Don't throttle them.
Address Problems and Issues Immediately
Managers have a habit of hoping that an uncomfortable issue, employee conflict or disagreement will go away on its own if they don't provoke it or try to resolve it. Trust that It won't.
Issues, especially among people, get worse unless something in the mix changes. Proactive intervention from the manager to coach and mentor, or to make sure employees have the skills necessary to resolve the issue, is imperative. Drama and hysteria do interrupt productivity, motivation, and employee engagement.
Develop Working Relationships
You can develop warm and supportive relationships with employees who report to you. But, you will have difficulty separating the reporting relationship from friendship. Friends gossip, go out together, and complain about work and the boss. There is no room for their manager in these kinds of relationships.
Communicate Effectively and Create Transparency
The best communication is transparent communication. Sure, some information is company confidential. You may have been asked to keep certain information under wraps for a while, but aside from these rare occasions, share what you know.
Being a member of the in-crowd is a goal for most employees, and the in-crowd has information—all of the information needed to make good decisions. Ask for feedback, too. Ask people for their opinions, ideas, and continuous improvement suggestions, and if you fail to implement their suggestions, let them know why, or empower them to implement their ideas themselves.
Treat Everyone Equally
You don't necessarily have to treat every employee the same, but they must feel as if they receive equal treatment. The perception that you have pet employees or that you play favorites will undermine your efforts to manage people.
It goes hand-in-hand with why befriending reporting employees is a bad idea. Employees who are not in your inner circle will always believe that you favor the employees who are—whether you do or not. This perception destroys teamwork and undermines productivity and success.
Take Responsibility for Failures Too
Rather than taking responsibility for what goes wrong in the areas that you manage, blame particular employees when asked or confronted by senior leadership. When you know the responsibility is ultimately yours if you are the boss, why not act with dignity and protect your employees? When you blame employees, you look like an idiot, and your employees will disrespect and hate you.
Trust this. They will find out, and they will never trust you again. They'll always be waiting for the other shoe to fall. Worst? They'll tell all of their employee friends about what you did. Your other staff members will then distrust you, too.
Your senior managers will not respect you either. They will question whether you are capable of doing the job and leading the team. When you throw your employees under the bus, you jeopardize your career—not theirs. And, it won't remove one iota of the blame from your shoulders.
Managers make mistakes in addition to these ten, but these are the ten that are most likely to make you a terrible manager—the type of manager that employees love to leave.