It’s an important role. Some people think being manager means you are the boss, but in fact what you are, for all intents and purposes, is an enabler; your job is to enable your team to do their job to the best of their ability. A recent Gallup study has shown that managers account for at least 70% of the variance in employee engagement scores. When you take into consideration the cost of disengagement (in the US alone, a 2014 Gallup poll estimated that disengaged workers cost the country between $450 billion and $550 billion), this means managerial competence is extremely valuable.
Of course nobody ever sets out to be a bad manager. Stress, ego, insecurity, pressure and fear can all play a part in leading managers to use the wrong tactics to get results. Dictatorial, mercurial management sows unhappiness, and unhappiness within the team yields poor productivity and performance. It may even lose you team members.
So what can be done to ensure you don’t fall into this trap?
First and foremost, communicate clearly. You need to be aware of what is happening in your team, and you won’t know that unless you talk to them. Remember that your team is made up of individuals, with different goals and motivations. As manager, you will need to find what works for each individual member so you can have a better idea of how to support and encourage them. Explain the logic behind your management decisions and keep them informed about company issues as much as possible. You are a team, and teams require trust. Listen to their input and never dismiss concerns out of hand.
Don’t Divert Blame
If something goes wrong (it inevitably will), do not point fingers and blame members of your team. This will only sow mistrust and resentment, which is not a winning combination for any workplace. Take ownership of the mistake. Show that you are prepared to take responsibility and, instead of dwelling on it excessively, start working on a solution as quickly as possible.
The rules are the rules, and the rules are for everybody. Be consistent both with expectations and accountability. Be consistent with your treatment of all members of the team and extend the same understanding to all. Exceptions are problematic; they often lead to exhibitions of favouritism, which brings us to the next point…
Do not show favoritism. Do not play team members off each other. You need your team to work as a cohesive, happy unit, and pitting them against each other to vie for your favor will not achieve this. Favoritism leads to employees feeling ostracized and undervalued. There can be such a thing as healthy competition, but this is not it.
Respect your team members and be mindful of unconscious bias. The members of your team are individuals with different career goals, different motivations, and different work habits. Respect this individuality and work hard to understand them as people. This will enable you to decide on the best managerial approach for each team member. Some may need constructive criticism, while others may need gentle encouragement. Never criticize or reprimand team members in front of others; do it in private.
As manager, you will sometimes come up against obstacles and challenges that won’t always be immediately obvious. You will need to be observant and listen to your team members. If they have complaints or concerns, make sure they know they can come to you. Be discreet and trustworthy; it will be far easier to identify and solve challenges if your team trusts you enough to approach you at the first signs of trouble.
It is important that your team members feel valued, and in this area a little can go a long way. Recognizing and publicly acknowledging the hard work of your team can provide a boost to morale, and will prevent the employees from feeling taken for granted. Avoid taking credit for the work of others; give credit where credit is due. Let your team members know that if they work hard, it will be recognized and appreciated.
Resist the temptation to micromanage. For employees, there are few things worse than having somebody breathing down your neck to the point where you feel unable to do your job without somebody pointing out something they think you should do differently. It shows a lack of faith in their ability to do their job properly and lowers morale. Give your team members the freedom and space to do their work, and step in when it is truly necessary.
Remember, your team are individuals. You manage a team of people who are, each of them, single and distinct human beings. Do not expect a one-size-fits-all managerial style to be a successful strategy. Take your time to get to know your team. Communicate and respect them both as a group and as individuals, and you will manage just fine!