Congratulations, you have done it — your first job as a manager. After years of arduous work, you have been promoted to manage a team of people. You are in charge. While it is exciting, it can become a bit overwhelming.
Moreover, it is essential to do your job well. Managers are the cultural cornerstone in the organization — they set the tone for their team. The rest of the organization could be fantastic, but if your boss is not, that clouds all the great things happening.
You don't quit your job...you quit your boss."
Here are the secrets to help you get the most out of your team and create a work environment for them to be successful. I learned most of them the hard way, and I have the scars to prove it! Best of luck in your new role.
It is a new game
What got you here won’t get you there.” — Marshall Goldsmith
I was once coaching a new manager after he had his blow up with his new team. He told me "well, I've got to play the game that brought me here." Moreover, I replied, "you were playing hockey before, but you're behind the bench — no skates, no stick. Being a manager is a fundamentally different role.” The skills that make you successful in your old job may no longer apply. Failure to adapt your talent stack to play the new game sets you and your team up for failure. I suggest you read, my insight into the Peter Principle.
You made it into a manager position because you were a successful individual contributor, rather than your ability to manage a team. Those are two vastly different things!
You cannot get up one day and build an app if you have never programmed before. Just because you were promoted, you will not automatically know what to do to be an exceptional manager. Developing the skill, knowledge and wisdom needed takes time.
You are an apprentice. It would be best if you learned how to:
- step into the leadership role your team needs you to take
- delegate effectively
- inspire each team member to put in his or her each day
When you make mistakes along the way, own it, learn, and then commit to doing better. Develop a system of getting learning feedback. It is a lot less painful than learning from mistakes.
Understand the behavioural competencies that you need
It's not an accident that musicians become musicians and engineers become engineers: it's what they're born to do. If you can tune into your purpose and really align with it, setting goals so that your vision is an expression of that purpose, then life flows much more easily.” — Jack Canfield
To get off on the right foot, you need first to understand the behavioural competencies required to be an exceptional manager. High performers in each role share a standard set of behavioural traits. Managers are no exception.
Our ladder of leadership model sets out the competencies needed at each level of leadership. It is important to know which ones you need to master at this level. As you progress, you will let some of them go and need to rely on other ones. For example, you are not Tim Cook launching the newest iPhone, so “promoting a compelling vision” is not one of the top ten competencies for a new manager. However, it is for your CEO.
Manager — Top 10 Behavioural Competencies
|Builds Consensus||Preferring to work in teams, to be compromising, democratic, sensitive, and understanding toward others.|
|Communicates Clarity||Offering persuasive and articulately written and oral recommendations. Believing problem-solving needs subtle verbal sophistication.|
|Demonstrates Character||Maturely honouring interpersonal commitments while keeping ethical convictions and playing by honourable rules.|
|Leads Decisively||Demonstrating a forceful and robust leadership style and a readiness to influence others directly.|
|Maintains Accountability||Assuming full accountability for what happens and being first to invite criticism and personal responsibility.|
|Overcomes Adversity||Optimistically pursuing difficult challenges and being positively motivated in the face of adversity.|
|Reasons Critically||Tackling intellectual ambiguity by using logic, quantitative support, and consequential thinking to find common sense solutions.|
|Thinks Conceptually||Having a curiosity to search for root causes, a desire for intellectual complexity and a holistic perspective on problems.|
|Thrives in Chaos||Enthusiastically thriving under a chaotic demand and overlapping priorities. Displaying a preference for multi-tasking|
Manager — Behavioural Competencies
As part of your development plan, it is essential that you know which competencies are naturally strong — your strengths — and which you need to learn how to manage. As you were promoted, you are likely to be naturally strong in at least three of the above competencies. However, you need all ten to be successful. As your boss, if you can take our assessment, so you contribute more to your department.
Adapt your work style to theirs
If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself." – Henry Ford
As a manager, you want your people to be:
- highly productive
Then it would be best if you learned how to adapt your work style to theirs.
Everyone you are managing brings their natural work style to the office. Under pressure, we all revert to our natural behaviours. Your team members have different things that inspire and motivate them or hold them back from doing their best work.
Occasionally you get lucky your employees have a remarkably similar working style as you. You gel at once. However, most often, employees will approach work differently than you. Different is not necessarily bad or wrong. Our behavioural traits define our preferred work style. Some work styles are a fit better with the job at hand. When the individual’s micro-motives, purpose, the position aligns with their superpowers, they find fulfillment, and you have a high performer.
In a perfect world, we would understand the work styles of our colleagues, and proactively adapt to meet somewhere in the middle. None the less, you need to take the first step. As a manager, that is a big part of your job as you are the one in the power position. Moreover, if your goal is to support your team in performing at their highest level, you will work to understand their needs and adapt your work style to them.
Most importantly remember, when they are successful, you have been successful too.
Most people like structure and guidance
Faith, culture, structure and guidance are good things.”— Bethenny Frankel
I was not too fond of structure and hierarchy. I reduced at least two levels of management at every organization I led. I imposed on the organization what I preferred — give me the goals, stay out of my way, and let me meet achieve them in the manner I saw best. It is hardwired in my behavioural DNA. However, many of the staff were uncomfortable with the new freedom and accountability.
In 2013, Zappos made headlines by restructuring to a holacracy. A “holacracy” is a method of decentralized management and organizational governance, in which authority and decision-making are distributed throughout a holarchy of self-organizing teams rather than being vested in a management hierarchy.
In 2015, Zappo’s CEO, Tony Hsieh felt the transition was moving too slowly and asked the staff to get on board or take a severance package. Effectively he cut many manager positions. The result — eighteen percent of Zappo’s workforce left, a huge turnover rate.
The idea of promoting collaboration, abolishing hierarchy, and allowing lower-level employees to be more entrepreneurial is appealing to me. However, it rarely works. Most people seek out structure and guidance. We have been taught to do this from the time we are small children. When we wanted to know what to do and what not to do, we learned to look to our parents, our teachers, our extended family, our coaches, and our friends for guidance and structure.
When you joined the workforce, you cannot turn off 20+ years of programming. Most people want ongoing feedback. It is easy to praise gratuitously or criticize. When you offer learning feedback — you will both win.
Sixty-five percent of people say they want more feedback from their boss than they are currently getting, even in traditional structures. I suggest that you establish weekly check-ins with each of your team members where you get as much learning feedback as you provide. Team members need structure guidance, and resources to do their best work. Your job is to supply it.
Leadership is about influence, not authority
Most people will sink under too much structure and direction. All that said from the last point, it is important to know that you need to walk the tightrope between supplying guidance and micromanaging.
Critical differences between an exceptional manager and a micromanager
|An exceptional manager||A micromanagers|
|leads through influence||drive through control|
|knows that experience (and the occasional failure) is the only way to learn, grow, and push beyond business as usual||fears a failure of any kind, no matter how small or insignificant|
|asks questions that guide their team members to a solution||dictates a solution without exploring different options or opportunities|
|empowers their team members to do their work on their own if they supply updates and ask for help when needed||needs to be involved in every meeting and CCed on every email|
|keeps their cards always face up and shares information openly and transparently||holds their cards close to their chest as if they compete with everyone on their team|
|stays open to innovative ideas, willing to explore them if they seem reasonable||defaults to doing the things the way they have always done them before|
|assigns roles and responsibilities and supports team members in achieving their objectives||takes pride in “running a tight ship”|
|takes the blame for failures and gives away the credit for success||proclaims that “the buck stops here”|
Managers will rarely describe themselves as micromanagers. One of the most frequently cited reasons employees hate their jobs, or their bosses is that they work for a micromanager.
All the micromanagers give managers get a bad reputation. They refuse to let go of the control and empower their employees to succeed on their own. However, your job to delegate — the only way for your team members to learn and grow. Be an exceptional manager and lead through influence and do not micromanage.
Ask more questions
A prudent question is one-half of wisdom.” – Francis Bacon
We just talked about micromanaging. So, you want your employees to be empowered to do their best work. You recognize that you need to take a step back. Your role is to supply guidance. You can best do this by asking questions to ensure your team member has fully considered their approach.
When their ideas are different from the way you think you would do the assignment, the best way for you to go is to let them proceed with what they want to do. There is always more than one way to meet a goal. If they fail, it is a teaching moment. Moreover, if they succeed using a strategy that you would not have picked, it is a win for you!
Forget performance reviews manage with weekly check-ins
Stop setting goals. Goals are pure fantasy unless you have a specific plan to achieve them.” — Stephen Covey
Effective goal-setting motivates employees. Nobody likes annual performance reviews. Rigid or arbitrary goals can demoralize even high performing employees. However, what if you could find a way to flip it – turning the yearly performance review process into an opportunity where employees feel empowered to learn and grow?
As noted above, I suggest that you establish weekly check-ins with each of your team members where you get as much learning feedback as you provide. Not many people want more meetings in their lives. However, for a manager, a weekly one-on-one check-in with every direct report is an absolute must.
At a minimum, it must be weekly. I prefer to call it a check-in as it is a two-way dialogue to how you are both doing. Having coffee with a colleague is not a meeting. Do not make these formal meeting with minutes and a lengthy list of follow-up action items. You will not know what support a person may need unless you ask. You will not see how you are doing unless you ask.
Think about it: If you cannot give each of your team members 30 minutes of your time every week, it is a problem. You either have:
- not fully embraced your role as a manager and you are continuing to focus your efforts as an individual contributor
- too many people to manage
The weekly check-in requires active listening. Understand what your team members are stating and providing support when needed. You need to be curious about what team members are doing, their levels of frustration or inspiration, and their innovative ideas for services, products or the organization.
In those one-on-one check-ins, you want to hit on three things:
- Their update — stuff they have been working on, along with what they may need from you to help them succeed.
- Your update — information they need to know to do their job well
- A quick brainstorm — future goals, ideas they have and development they might need. This is a suitable place to integrate coaching.
Also, ask a broad, open-ended question at each meeting. Here are a few to choose from:
- How do you feel about work?
- What is the morale like around you?
- Which company value would you like to have a new high mark in? (as in, which do you feel you are not living to its potential?)
- Anything in your work world that is less than stellar/causing frustration or delays?
- How are you feeling about the support I am providing?
- How can I better help you achieve your goal?
- To what level do you feel that I micromanage your work?
Frequently, people cancel the weekly check-ins with the excuse of "I have nothing to talk about."
DO NOT CANCEL YOUR ONE-ON-ONE CHECK-INS.
This face time is a critical part of building a relationship and trust with each of your employees. It is one of the most important things you can do to support their success. Nothing replaces regular face to face contact.
Active listening, and always default to trust
You cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” ― M. Scott Peck
At your weekly check-in, the most critical part is not what you have to say — it is what your team members are contributing to it. You are going to hear the good and the bad because that is what happens when you have open communication.
It is critical that you listen to your employees and assume they are coming to you with positive intent. Active listening means when they are complaining about the problems — they want your help in solving them. It is incredibly demotivating for the employee when he or she is making a good faith effort to do the right thing, and you approach the employee from the vein of distrust.
Success occurs when your team member leaves the check-in in a better, more empowered place than when they arrive. By listening carefully to what they are asking for, reading between the lines, you will get to the core of what is going on. It gives you the opportunity to do your best to provide the support they need.
Focus on behaviour and impact — never give critical feedback on people's emotions
We all need people who will give us feedback. That's how we improve.” — Bill Gates
The workplace creates many feelings. However, you do not need to supply commentary on them. People will think, feel, and even say anything they like if they are showing up and doing what they need to achieve their goals. When you are giving out critical feedback, focus on things you can see.
Your goal is to change the person’s unacceptable behaviour — get them to stop doing something that is not effective or helpful and to take a different approach. It would be best if you were clear about what they are doing, and why it is vital to change.
A good approach that I learned from the One-Minute Manager is:
BEHAVIOUR → IMPACT → EXPECTATION
You state the problematic behaviour, explain why it is a problem, and set the expectation for future action.
Try something like:
When you come late to the staff meeting (behaviour), you throw off our agenda, and it takes us an extra ten minutes more than we need (impact). Please make it on time in the future (expectation).
Thank them and supply positive feedback when they meet the expectation!
One misconception about highly successful cultures is that they are happy, lighthearted places. This is mostly not the case. They are energized and engaged, but at their core, their members are oriented less around achieving happiness than around solving hard problems together. This task involves many moments of high-candour feedback, uncomfortable truth-telling when they confront the gap between where the group is, and where it ought to be.” ― Daniel Coyle, The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups
It would be best if you gave out much more positive feedback than you are negative feedback. Positive feedback is significantly more motivating than critical feedback. Plenty of research states that business outcomes rise when your brain is in a state of positivity.
Moreover, most employees are doing things right on any day. However, they only get feedback when they are doing wrong — the way you offer feedback sets the tone for your management style. Consistently look for reasons to offer praise. Saying thank you is an excellent way to appreciate and recognize your employees.
Job #1 — make your people successful
Research indicates that workers have three prime needs: Interesting work, recognition for doing a good job, and being let in on things that are going on in the company.” – Zig Ziglar
Managers are judged on the success of their team. So, your team members are your priority. The minute you begin to deviate from that path is the minute you meander into "horrible boss" territory. It leads to miserable employees and lower productivity. You stunt your growth and the growth of every employee. You are on the slippery slope to poor long-term performance and the loss of good talent.
Your awareness of a problem is the first step towards improvement. It is best if you do a quick self-assessment at the end of every day. It is helpful to make a list of the ways you set your employees up for success that day.
It will help you to take stock. I like a “strategic doing” approach where the list has for sections:
- What could I do?
- What should I do?
- What will I do?
- What did I do?
You will get plenty of ideas at your weekly check-ins to add to the could and should sections of your list. Hold yourself accountable. Focus on the things that matter most.
Being a manager is a tough job. It is not for everyone. However, it can be rewarding. The rewards of being a manager have little to do with you. Once you are a manager, the rewards come through the success of your team and the business. For me, the most rewarding aspect of management is the interaction with people. The relationships that a manager develops in the course of his and her work are incredibly gratifying. Good luck on your career journey!
In the paper we share the competencies that are:
- Always On: Only two behaviours from manager to C-Suite
- Leap: “Bridging” behaviours for moving between each management level
- Lead: Unique behaviours for every stage of management
- Leave Behinds: The “once and done” list— suitable only for where you are, not where you’re going