The other night while on the phone, catching up with an old friend we got on the topic of one of our favorite and most respected managers we have ever worked for. She is a very strong, goal oriented, assertive woman with amazing problem solving skills, classy to a fault and great with people. It was an absolute pleasure to work for her. After some time was spent reminiscing I began to wonder why there aren’t more people like her; why so many other people in leadership roles get it so wrong, and yet she makes it look so effortless! I started to think about all the things I have learned from her, from other managers I have had, and feedback I have received from individuals who have worked for me and put together some do’s and don’ts when it comes to taking on a managerial role.
- Be Assertive: Being assertive is one of the best things you can do for your team and for yourself. People want a strong leader – not a wallflower, and some people don’t respond well to managers who seem unsure of themselves. Send clear and concise messages to your team about what you need from them. Using words or phrases like; “maybe”, “probably”, “do you think you could” and “might be”, is giving people the impression that what you are saying isn’t that important or time sensitive which can lead to miscommunication. You can’t expect people to read between the lines and just assume they will get it. Some people are very literal. So instead use words like, “want”, “we need to”, and “can we get this done by_____?”. Outline your expectations clearly and leave your team with a clear direction and confidence in you, their leader.
- Stay calm: This goes somewhat hand-in-hand with being assertive in the sense that employees don’t want to see their manager freaking out when things get tough. As a manager, you are your employee’s support system. I think back to my days as a server and when one of the restaurants I worked in would get “slammed”, one of my managers would more often than not, be visibly flustered and quite obviously unhappy. If I needed help, they were the LAST person I would go to for help and I would ask my coworkers instead. How on earth was this person going to help me if they could barely keep themselves together? It didn’t instill a whole lot of confidence so I was left fending for myself. So don’t do that! You’re no help to anyone if you’re losing your cool. I’m aware that this seems easier said than done and I agree; it’s definitely not easy but it shouldn’t exactly be hard either. That’s your job – to handle the tough stuff. That’s why you are the manager and not them, isn’t it? This brings me back to my above statement; People want a strong leader, and part of that is being able to keep your cool. How does that saying go? If you can’t handle the heat…. and something about a kitchen?
- Listen: If your team has ideas and want to express them, listen. Moreover, don’t make judgements about their idea right away and for GOODNESS sakes don’t cut them off. Don’t reject their idea or start pointing out flaws before they have even finished their thought. Honestly, this one doesn’t just apply to the work environment either it should be a best practice of life – don’t be rude. If you cut someone off or shoot them down right away there is a very high probability that you will create an unhealthy environment that makes people feel unvalued or even stupid. If they don’t feel like they can come to you without getting their head bit off, you may have inadvertently created an office of “yes” men, and that’s not good for anyone, especially you.
- Don’t Micromanage: This one baffles me to no end. Why should you have to micro manage anyone, really? If it is absolutely necessary that you hound your staff about the smallest of details, then it’s time to re-evaluate the situation and make adjustments as necessary. If they are smart, proficient and capable individuals with a positive attitude, then you should leave them be. You have enough to worry about (being a manager and all) so don’t add to your stress by smothering your team and stifling their creativity. Check in on them of course, ask them if they need anything from you and tell them your door is open if they do. Encourage them to make decisions on their own so they have the opportunity to grow and learn through their own ability to think critically. If you do this and they make a mistake, show them were they went wrong and offer a solution instead of just reprimanding them. Guide them in a way that teaches them where they went wrong and how to correct the error for the future while still offering encouragement like telling them what they did right. If you spend too much time tightening the collar on any person for any reason, they will naturally begin to search for freedom and try to get away from you! Loosen the tension on the leash a little, and you will be surprised how often they start coming to you on their own for your advice and guidance.
- Be Humble: You are nothing without your team and it’s best if you remember that. A great team is like a mint condition classic muscle car with a great driver. What good is a 1967 GTO if you’re just going to do donuts and drive it into a brick wall? Don’t act like a spoiled teenager that was just handed the keys to daddy’s car. Acknowledge that it is your team that helps you reach your goals and that of the company. Praise them for a job well done because everyone needs their tires pumped up every once and while. Praise feels better than a raise, and it makes constructive criticism easier to swallow if and when the time comes. On the other hand, you don’t want to overdo it with the gratitude; hearing it all the time is like getting flowers from your boyfriend every day – it gets old and no longer feels special.
It’s a bit of a balancing act sometimes when leading a team, especially a large one. But, if you can keep your focus on not only your goals, but also on being a strong, supportive leader for your team you will be able to accomplish some amazing things!
Now get back to work!