Tips from the Leadership Coach: Invest in Your Management Skills
Skilled managers provide the bedrock for organizational performance. They can shape the culture, improve productivity and drive creativity and innovation. But fewer training dollars are typically earmarked for managers than for people at other levels.
David Deacon, whose career in human resources leadership has included executive positions at Credit Suisse, MasterCard and Capita, believes there are key steps managers can take to boost their careers and have a greater impact on the organization. “What makes a great manager has far more to do with your attitude than anything else,” said Deacon, author of “The Self-Determined Manager: A Manifesto for Exceptional People Managers.”
Deacon focuses on the importance of attitude and intention, the cornerstone of becoming a self-determined manager—one who creates environments where people thrive and produce great work. “Bad managers are so focused on their own needs or their own fears or their own performance that they lose sight of the negative, unproductive, demotivating or destructive environment they are creating,” he said. “On the other hand, the best managers intentionally choose the environment they hope to create.”
Here are nine suggestions from Deacon’s book to boost your management skills:
- Recognize the power of amplification. Every pronouncement you make may be repeated many times by your direct reports, and the expectations you set will be reflected in the work of your team. Make sure that you remain aware of how anything you are “putting out there” is being received and interpreted.
- Set your own high standards. You should be the one who defines professionalism and sets benchmarks—and when you do this, you will be recognized as a role model for others.
- Be willing to ask for help. If you need training in a certain area, put in a request. Be proactive about developing the communication and leadership skills that will help you create the best environment possible for your team.
- Treat employees like adults. Great managers don’t bully, shout, patronize, belittle, name-call, behave aggressively or condescend. To generate trust and respect, you must create an environment where adults can do great things.
- Don’t play favorites. Be aware of your personal preferences but be sure pay attention to everyone on your team. That keeps the focus on performance rather than favoritism.
- Demand more. Ask yourself and your team: What can we do better? The best managers have an instinct for continuous improvement and want to see changes made sooner rather than later.
- Manage your own energy. Self-determined managers know that maintaining their energy and enthusiasm is their own responsibility. Pay attention to your energy levels and develop habits that help you sustain them. “Remember, one of the most powerful outcomes of maintaining your energy is how it enables you to be positive,” says Deacon. “If you feel good, you will show it and transmit it!”
- Keep learning. Take a class, master a new skill, even take up a new hobby outside work. The best managers enjoy seeking knowledge beyond their professional work that reflects their interests, passions and pastimes.
- Don’t expect perfection, but keep working toward it. Even in a crisis, stay focused, catch people doing things right, articulate goals clearly and find meaning and purpose to transmit to your people.
As Deacon says, “Decide right now that you not only deserve to become the best manager you can possibly be, but that you are capable of reaching this achievement on your own. Once you do this, you’ll be unstoppable.”