As a manager, it isn’t easy to manage a group of people. Sometimes, it feels like you’re team isn’t listening, or that you’re not doing a great job
CREDIT: This is an edited version of an article which originally appeared on When I Work
Here’s a 12-step process to improve your management skills and better manage your team.
Outline your goals
Whether you feel like your leadership strategies aren’t effective, or you simply want to continually work to better yourself, it’s important to set an intention and document your goals so that you can become a better manager. Make sure to get your goals on paper; interestingly, those who write down their goals are more likely to achieve them.
Determine where you can improve
We’re all different, and your areas of weakness are going to be different from other managers or team members. Once you’ve outlined your goals, you should determine areas for improvement. Consider taking a variety of professional assessments and personality tests to assess where you’re at. These five leadership personality tests might be a good start.
Talk to your team
Your team has a wealth of information on your leadership performance that can help you improve. These steps can allow them to help you:
- Tell your team you’re working on improving your leadership skills.
- Send out a survey, allowing your team members to remain anonymous. Ask employees how you’re doing as a manager, where you could improve, what they do and don’t like about your style.
- Conduct one-on-one meetings with your direct reports and ask them point blank how you could be a better manager.
One of the reasons leaders are ineffective is because they’re all over the place. They don’t have the right software solutions, they’re unsure of their goals, and they have difficulty resolving conflicts – good organisation can help.
At the start of every month, or quarter, outline areas that are disorganised and confusing, and strategise ways they can be improved. Maybe you need a software solution to help you organise your calendar, or a new meeting schedule.
Take a leadership course
Sometimes it’s difficult to improve on your own; this is why courses can help. Look to your local colleges and universities to see if they offer any courses on leadership. There are also many online courses that you can take at your own pace.
Dale Carnegie Training offers affordable leadership courses on decision-making, critical thinking, how to disagree agreeably and how to lead change effectively. Udemy also provides a large array of online courses, such as their habits of highly effective leaders.
Read management books
Each day you’re confronted with the same problems, so it’s unlikely your mindset will change; books transport you outside of yourself, and allow you to look at your situation from new perspectives.
There are lots of great books on business management worth reading, but here are a few favourites that will start you off on the right foot:
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change (Stephen Covey)
- What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School: Notes from a Street-smart Executive (Mark H McCormack)
- How to Win Friends and Influence People (Dale Carnegie)
Learn how to listen
One of the biggest complaints of employees everywhere is that they don’t feel heard; they don’t feel as though they have the ability to express their opinion or positively make a change in the organisation. When they speak up, they feel ignored, and that makes them unhappy and unmotivated.
According to Udemy, there are five aspects of good listening— receiving, understanding, remembering, evaluating, and responding. You need to be able to understand all five of these steps in order to listen to your employees effectively.
Practice praising and rewarding
To be a good leader, you have to give feedback to your employees, especially praise and rewards. When you’re praising an employee, be specific. Instead of saying “You’re doing a great job,” highlight a specific project, and explain why their help was so important. Try “The project for client ABC was very difficult, but the way you communicated their needs to the entire team is what made us get it right. I was really impressed with that. Nice work.”
In a survey on employee engagement, 72% of survey respondents said that recognising high performers had a large impact on engagement.
Find a mentor
It can be difficult to accurately assess your own leadership skills; this is why many people turn to executive coaches, mentors, and others they can trust. Perhaps you already have a mentor, or maybe there’s someone you can turn to for honest assessment of your skills.
Executive coaches are also a great option. Those who specialise in leadership can work with you to identify your strengths and weaknesses, and then help you put a plan in place to tackle your goals. Harvard Business Review suggests executive coaches and gives a great outline on how to find one who’s a good fit for you and your organisation.
Learn how to communicate effectively
Effective communication is one of the most important parts of leadership, and different team members will respond to different styles. Workplace psychologists have defined four communication styles that we all fall into. By reading about, and understanding, these four styles, you’ll be better able to communicate with those that you work with.
- Thinkers – Thinkers need time to process, and think things through, before responding. They work slowly, deliberately, and want to make sure everything is just right.
- Socialisers – Socialisers thrive on talking with others and get energy from their colleagues. Socialisers work fast, have great ideas, and process information very quickly.
- Directors – Directors are known for getting things done quickly and efficiently. They process things quickly, make fast decisions, and like research and proven facts.
- Relaters – Relaters are relationship-oriented and enjoy working with others. Unlike the socialiser, they move at a slower, calmer pace.
Companies are beginning to embrace transparency in the workplace. As a leader, you should embrace it with your staff. Today, about 25% of employers don’t trust their employer, according to the American Psychological Association. That’s bad news. Employees who don’t trust their company or their boss are unlikely to put themselves on the line for their company – but this can be fixed.
The Harvard Business Review found that 70% of people are most engaged if senior leadership updates them about what’s going on with the company as a whole. As a leader you’re in a great position – you can be transparent with employees and let them know what’s going on. In turn, they’ll be more engaged and regard you as a better leader.
Create a feedback system
It’s great that you’ve invested so much in becoming a better leader, but you have to continually go back to your people to find out how you’re doing. Implement a system for giving feedback, so that your employees always feel as though they can express themselves when something is wrong. For example, many companies offer performance reviews on a quarterly basis, but these reviews should also allow employees to make suggestions to their managers.
Managing people isn’t easy, which is why many leaders spend significant time investing in their skills. If you complete all 12 of these steps, you’re sure to improve your people management skills. In doing so, you’ll become the kind of leader you want to be – one who inspires, ignites and builds your team.
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