Six tips to becoming a better manager

July 10 • Leadership

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We share the secret sauce.

Cast your mind back to the age old question – ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’ You probably got answers like a teacher, a lawyer or even maybe an astronaut.

You rarely get the answer – I want to be a manager. No one really sets out to be a manager in their career, it just happens. The thing is management is a by-product of career progression. You do well technically, therefore the “logical” move is up into management responsibilities yet you’re rarely if ever taught how to do it well.

Companies that are well managed are more likely to remain in business over time: Ethan Mollick at Wharton University recently conducted a large-scale analysis of the computer game industry and determined that the behaviour of middle managers accounted for 22.3% of the variance in revenue.

Managers are often the forgotten but most influential layer in businesses. They see the vision at the top of the organisation and the pain at the bottom. They are the carriers of change as well as those most impacted by it. To succeed they must be many things to many people: effective communicators, implementors and trust builders as well as goal hitters, motivators, organisers and people developers.

At Hustle House HQ we wholeheartedly believe that managers matter – in fact a lot of workshops and programmes we deliver are dedicated to that fabulous yet often forgotten group. So, we wanted to share some of the key skills a manager should have, plus some tips on how to implement it with your team.

The secret sauce to being a manager:

Trust:

When Google launched a project into analysing what makes a successful team, they found it’s not about the skills of the individual teammates, and it’s not about strategy or vision. The most successful teams had one thing in common – high levels of trust. Building trust is one of the fundamentals of being a great manager no matter how many people you’re managing or what area of the business you sit in. We trust people when we see and hear consistent behaviours and actions that demonstrate things like empathy and honesty.

We recommend: Being patient! It’s not something that happens instantly but built over time. As a manager, sharing more of yourself, if you feel comfortable doing so, and focusing on building a relationship instead of making ‘friends’ with your team is the best way to go.

Motivate

Daniel Pink wrote an amazing book called Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. He explained that extrinsic motivation is driven by external forces such as money or praise. Intrinsic motivation is something that comes from within and can be as simple as the joy one feels after accomplishing a challenging task. Only 12% of employees actually leave an organisation for more money, the extrinsic motivation. Great managers empower their people through intrinsic motivation. You can’t really motivate your employees by simply telling them – BE MOTIVATED – you must set the conditions for them to motivate themselves.

We recommend: Asking open questions like ‘what do you love about your work?’ and ‘what do you value?’ and ‘what was the best day you’ve had at work’ might be cheesy – but these types of questions will help you tap into what motivates them.

Communicate

This might seem like an obvious and simple one but it’s possibly the hardest to get right. When we talk about communication – it’s more about listening than anything else. The key is to listen to understand, not to respond. To truly listen to employees, the best managers remove any distractions, they open their mind – really focus on what the person is saying and plays it back to get to the heart of what they’re really talking about.

We’d recommend: regular check-ins. In the book 9 lies about work it finds that managers who check in once a week, see on average, a 13% increase in team engagement, those who check in only once a month, see a 5% decrease in engagement!

Engineer learning

The fourth dollop of secret sauce is to engineer learning. As humans we innately crave knowledge and a need to understand things. According to LinkedIn’s 2018 Workforce Learning Report, a whopping 93% of employees would stay at a company longer if it invested in their career. Great managers have got to invest in their people, and this doesn’t mean throwing money at them. It’s about capitalising on the opportunities they already have.

We’d recommend: Turn weekly check-ins into learning opportunities, coach them through different situations by asking powerful and open questions (who, what, how, why) and helping them get to the conclusion themselves. Check out Michael Bungaey Stanier’s book all about powerful questions – The Coaching Habit

Give feedback

When people here feedback they tend to automatically think negative feedback but it’s important to give positive feedback too! It reaffirms we’re doing a good job and it boosts our confidence. And it’s just nice to hear we’re doing well. When employees feel recognised, they stick around.

Now, it can be easy to praise people but one of the most difficult parts of being a manager is giving critical feedback. And it’s harder for us to receive negative feedback as it is praise. HBR surveyed over 7,000 managers and asked whether they believed that giving negative feedback was stressful or difficult, and 44% agreed.

We’d recommend: Be specific, candid and do it regularly. By doing it regularly they create a feedback culture. If we hear feedback infrequently it becomes a big deal but if we’re hearing it often it gets easier because we know the person has our best interests at heart and that it can be really useful and essential fuel to help all of us learn, develop and grow.

Help find their purpose

We’re not thinking life purpose, that’s probably going above and beyond the scope of a manager, but their purpose within their role and how it connects to the bigger picture within the organisation. If people don’t know why their doing the work their doing and what it’s contributing to, they won’t be motivated to do it or at least to do it well. People need to believe they are working on something bigger than themselves. Setting goals to accomplish for people is one thing – the key is to give them a clear vision on what those goals lead to. As Simon Sinek famously said, people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.

We’d recommend: Find ways to facilitate conversations around the bigger picture, make sure the team understand why they are doing things, rather than just being told to take the action.

So, there you have it. Our secret sauce to being a great manager. We know that none of this is rocket science and although you’ve probably come across most of these before and maybe even thought, I know these well – they are some of the hardest skills to implement and get right, consistently and that’s why they need to be repeated and taught again and again within organisations.

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