You’ve probably heard the saying “with great power comes great responsibility” before. Although the origin of this proverb is not quite clear (no, it wasn’t Uncle Ben), it speaks to an important truth. Being a manager can be exciting, but it’s not always a smooth ride. You’re now responsible for others, and part of your job is to inspire, motivate, and lead your team towards success.
It sounds like an almighty position, but there are always difficult situations that managers have to face. Not every team member is going to be easy to work with, not every project is going to have the desired results, problems always arise when you least expect it, and it is part of your job to solve those situations and ensure everything can still run smoothly without a hitch.
Not everything is scary though, leading a team can be very rewarding as well if you play your cards right!
Before I share with you my ideas about how to successfully lead teams, I want to let you know that I am always learning and growing as a manager. But I'd love to share with you my current belief structure about leadership that I have learned throughout the years.
My main management guidelines can be compressed into 5 tips:
- Clear purpose - A higher calling
- Treat and respect as people and individuals
- Team and autonomy
Let’s break these down so I can explain how they’re all connected:
1. Clear purpose
My first guideline is to ensure that your team has a clear purpose connected with a higher calling. By this I mean, step beyond the "we're here to make money" area towards what will be the legacy of your organization. If you are a for-profit business, the money you make is merely a measure of the value you have added to your customers and society. And make that your organization's clear purpose for all employees to align and engage with.
That plans into my second guidance, which is around engaging your team in not only that higher purpose, but all ongoing activities and special projects. It is no accident that the words “organism” and “organization” have the same Latin roots. Organisms have specialty organs that when working well together create a successful being.
In organizations, each specialty department mimics a specialty organ and leadership mimics the overall brain and central nervous system. The difference is each department and team needs to proactively engage in our overall goal and the ability for us as a collective to achieve success.
That alignment and engagement towards the higher purpose and collaboration are what differentiates highly successful organizations from mediocre ones.
3. Treat and respect people
My third guideline is around how we treat each other. In our clients and customers, we often see a degree of inhumanity creeping into our work lives. We've seen an escalation in this behavior in our recent work from home environment. I'm not suggesting that you should become personal friends with each of your co-workers, but you do need to understand they’re individuals with their own needs, loves, passions, and weaknesses. Like with any other team, we need to work effectively together and a large part of that comes with treating each other with humanity and respect.
Whenever I see a shortcoming in performance, I always assume the person is doing the best job they can and either we're providing them with very bad raw materials or have expectations of performance beyond the capability of resources and personnel that we have given them, and what is required is not a reprimand but rather better resourcing, coaching, and team support.
4. Team and autonomy
This blends nicely into my fourth guideline, which is about effectively working as a team and supporting each other in our shared success. I have noticed that when I watch professional sports teams play, there is an incredible amount of dialogue between the players, and these conversations happen on the field, off the field, during the breaks, and in between timeouts.
What if we could emulate this in our organizations? I have noticed that my highest performing teams are the ones that have the highest level of conversations, emails, slacks, team meetings, and ongoing social connection.
I do not know if this strong team and communication behavior is what causes greater performance or greater performance leads to better team behaviors, but I do know that when we see great team behaviors, almost inevitably we see great performance.
My final guideline is about providing clear and concise progress feedback. We have observed in many organizations that employees do not know day-to-day, week-to-week, or even month-to-month whether the work they're doing is moving the organization forward or not. We need comprehensive scorekeeping down to the team and individual level so everyone can tell for sure that they are making progress. You can use a software like Hirebook, which includes anfeature that allows employees to see the impact of their work by automatically converting daily activities into key results and visualizing progress.
This self-assurance allows the employee to do multiple things, including staying motivated, maintaining engagement, more effective learning, better development of personal processes and behaviors, and most importantly, creates a culture where we are continuously mindful of how we're performing in the environment.
Being a manager is challenging, but the more you support your team, the more support you’ll get back from them. Take advantage of the high-tech era we’re in now and use automation apps to help you manage your team and your other responsibilities.
You'll notice that none of my guidelines are specific methodologies or tasks that need to get done but rather categories of focus for you as a manager to enhance using your skills, interests, and capabilities.