“There are three secrets to managing. The first secret is have patience. The second is be patient. And the third most important secret is patience.”
Managing people is not easy. It takes patience and practice. It takes experience and patience. It takes insight, foresight, hindsight, and of course patience. Many people think that managing people is easy, right up to the time they actually have to manage people. Actually, anyone can manage people. But if you want to manage people well, avoid turnover, increase productivity, improve morale, and gain trust and respect, well, that’s another story. You will never become the perfect manager. All of us who have managed people continue to learn, and with knowledge comes experience and with experience comes improvement. So even if you’ve managed people for years, here are ten tips that I hope will help you become a better, more effective manager:
Manage to their level of ability – There is no such thing as one size fits all when it comes to managing people. You will always have some that you can delegate to and not worry about whether the job will get done in a timely and effective manner. Then there are others who need to be closely supervised. Still others will require additional handholding. Never expect your direct reports to all be at the same level. It’s up to you to get them there.
Learn how to communicate effectively – Many people don’t understand why others don’t understand them when they communicate. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard things like, “Well, I told them what to do, but they didn’t do it.” Or worse, “I don’t want to have to tell them, they should know.” It is imperative that you understand how your individual team members want and need to be communicated to. Some people like a high-level, limited detail approach. Others like more detail. People hear and retain differently, just like you. There are assessments that can be used to help managers better understand the most effective and efficient methods for communicating with team members. If you don’t want to take the time to find out, then be ready for continual and constant misunderstandings, frustration, and disappointment.
Make sure you establish yearly goals – You can’t effectively manage and assess people if you don’t have specific, measureable, attainable, time bound goals established – individual goals and team goals all tied into the strategy so people know what they are doing, why they are doing it, and how they are going to be assessed. You can’t improve what you don’t measure.
Get close to those you are managing, but not too close – You want to get close to your team. You want to know what makes them tick. You want to know how they do things, why they do things, what their skills and competencies are, and how they can best contribute to the team. You want to know about their personal lives, their hobbies, their motivations so that you can better work with them. Having said that, however, you are not and should not be their “besties.” You shouldn’t “friend” them on Facebook and you should be careful of the degree of socialization outside of work. You are their manager and you need to be careful you don’t give the perception of favoritism. Additionally, someday, you might have to let them go.
Learn to be a good listener – Good managers are good listeners. No one knows everything and believe it or not, you can actually learn new things from your team. During one-to-one meetings, team meetings, and project meetings listen more, talk less. Give your team the opportunity to show you what they can do.
Fix the processes, not necessarily the people – People make mistakes, no one is perfect. And of course people need to be corrected, behavior changed when appropriate. However, make sure that you don’t try and fix people errors when the problem is with the process. Look at the process first and then take the appropriate action.
Deal with problems immediately – When you have team problems, deal with them immediately. Problems that fester, issues that remain unattended will never go away, they will only get worse with time. Identify the problem, get to the root cause, look for a win-win scenario, gain concurrence, and move on. In many cases, you may not be able to completely address the entire problem, but the fact that it was attended to immediately shows leadership and caring.
Don’t ask them to do things you would not do yourself – Never ask someone to do something you wouldn’t or haven’t done yourself, especially if there are consequences that may lead to failure. Teams work together. Teams rely on each other for backup and support. Team members should not be walking out on the edge of the cliff without you holding the rope.
Don’t use them as target practice – Never use your team to advance your own career. Never blame them for things that were your fault. Never pit them against each other. Never use them. Never fail to reward them. Never play favorites. Never sacrifice their wellbeing for your own. You will find yourself with team members who don’t respect you or your decisions and who will do whatever they need to do in order not to work for you.
Admit when you’re wrong – We all make mistakes. When you do, admit it. Apologize when necessary. Don’t get defensive or come up with excuses for why you did what you did. Admit you made a mistake. Ask for forgiveness, if necessary, and do all you can to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Want to be a better manager? Work at it. Use all the tools at your disposal and take the time you need to be a better manager. Wanting to be a better manager is good. Believing you can be a better manager is good. Taking the action to become a better manager is great!