Being a good manager isn’t easy. And it’s arguably never been tougher with increasing demands and responsibilities passed down the line. The thing is, bad or even mediocre managers tend to lead less engaged and lower performing teams. And, when that is replicated across your business, it will hit your bottom line. Hard.
For one powerful example of this, Engage for Success research shows that organisations where there is high vs low employee engagement enjoy an average of +19% annual growth in operating income. Managers are pivotal, and they need help to lead more effectively.
Where to start?
What’s needed first is a re-evaluation of the things – skills, behaviours and practices – that are most important for managers to lead happy, engaged and high-performing teams. Now, there will likely be nuances and differences for some organisations but there are, undoubtedly, also some universal and foundational areas. Through our work with organisations, we’ve pinpointed six such things for managers to focus on to up their game…
- Enable high-performance
It is interesting to explore the science behind effective team building. There’s no one-size-fits-all model but we like using Lencioni's 5 dysfunctions of teams and the ‘trust pyramid’ as a basis here, focusing on five key components:
Trust – being vulnerable as a leader, being prepared to go first and revealing something to create an open culture
Conflict – creating a place that is safe for healthy conflict; remember, it is ok to not always agree in teams!
Commitment – being absolutely clear on purpose and direction; what are we signing up for and why are we here?
Accountability – hold each other accountable, raise and resolve difficult issues without fear of fallout.
Results – being prepared to be brutally honest about our performance, about results within the team.
Watch video guide on how to enable high-performance.
- Host better meetings
One critical everyday thing all managers can try to do is to lead better meetings. Purposeless, over-long or so-called 'floppy meetings' can sap employee engagement and team performance. We suggest using the POP method to run more purposeful, structured and action-oriented meetings:
- Purpose – let people know beforehand and reconfirm at start of meeting
- Outline – again communicate up front and stick to it religiously
- Plan – be sure to end with a clear plan of action and next steps to take forward.
Watch video guide on how to host better meetings.
- Establish a team charter
Team charters can play an important role in building high-performance teams – particularly with hybrid and geographically dispersed teams now the norm in so many organisations. These agreements or contracts could entail things like:
Where are we heading – what are our milestones, ultimate goals, and what will success look like?
Who are our key stakeholders, who depends on us and who are we dependent on to deliver our goals?
What ways of working, rules and processes do we want to establish?
How can we encourage accountability and what are our non-negotiable behaviours?
Watch video guide on creating team charters.
- Learn to coach your team
Today's managers and leaders all need to be able to coach to some degree. But it doesn’t always come naturally and, moreover, often the skills needed to be a good coach are counterintuitive to the skills a manager may have leaned on to get promoted in the first place.
At its simplest, coaching is about managers being able to look at team members and provide support to get the best out of them - by asking questions and listening. It is a style often best used in one-to-ones and is characterised by asking short questions and then being quiet. Resist the urge to problem-solve yourself; your job here is to coax the answers from your colleague.
Watch video guide to becoming a better coach.
- Master the art of delegation
Another key skill for managers is recognising how and when to delegate and 'let go of the reins'. This is pivotal to empowerment – a key aspect of employee experience – and helping to develop others.
We refer to the SIMON model as a useful framework to become a better delegator:
Select the person carefully – it’s important that, when delegating anything, there is scope for development for that person and that it offers a time-saving for you.
Instruct them fully – providing a clear brief to set the person up for success
Monitor, as agreed – find the right balance here to empower the person but be on hand to help
Ongoing feedback – look for opportunities to reinforce behaviours and offer support
Not my job now – doesn’t mean let go completely but rather than you have passed over the operational responsibility for that thing.
Watch video guide to the art of delegation.
- Become more emotionally intelligent
The importance of emotional intelligence for today's managers and leaders simply cannot be overstated. The good news is we can all become more emotionally intelligent - here's some guidance on how:
Self-awareness – how self-aware are you of your emotions, frustrations, and triggers?
Emotional regulation – are you able to use that knowledge of your emotions constructively in terms of how it impacts on your behaviour?
Empathy – how aware are you of others and what might be going on in their world? To learn more about empathy, check out Brené Brown’s Ted Talks.
Social skills – to some extent, this is the ability to pull all the other things together and to put it into practice. So, for example, using it to improve your assertiveness, to build trust and to improve influencing skills.
Watch video guide on becoming more emotionally intelligent.
A last word on manager development
It’s clear that many of today’s line managers need more help than they are currently getting. As their role continues to evolve – and as workplaces themselves transform – so too must managers’ skillsets and behaviours.
The job of HR, OD and L&D functions is to pinpoint exactly where their organisation's manager populations most need support and to help enable that development – this is a crucial next step. The effectiveness of teams and organisations everywhere depends on it.