Does this sound familiar? “When I become a manager, I’m never going to be like __________.” Most of us, before we become managers, have an idea of what kind of manager we want to be, and it’s usually our response to some manager we have worked for. But if that’s your guiding principle for being a manager, you’re going to have a great deal of trouble, and let me suggest you’re taking it all too personally. Management isn’t about the troubles you have seen. It’s about influencing subordinates to do the organization’s work effectively and to become the best versions of themselves while doing so.
If you try to manage every employee the way you want to be managed, you might be following some version of the Golden Rule. But you will probably not get the results you want. Your employees are not all versions of you. They are their own persons. Your task as a manager is find the unique formula for influencing each of them.
Allow me to suggest four tips for effectively being a new manager or supervisor.
- Start with a listening tour. You want to hit the ground running. You want to achieve some early successes. But if you start right in making changes, you will surely meet with resistance. Before you make any substantive moves, make sure you have met with each person who reports to you. Ask questions about the job, where the person sees the organization going, where the person sees herself or himself going, what the person wants out of this job/career. Make sure your questions are open (i.e., can’t be answered “yes” or “no”), and then use active listening skills to appreciate and probe the responses.
- Model effective behavior. Your employees will always pay more attention to what you do than what you say. Like it or not, they are going to scrutinize your every action and look for meaning in it. Just remember you are always on stage. If you behave with honesty, patience, and fairness, your subordinates will perceive you as honest, patient, and fair, and they are more likely to behave that way themselves.
- Make your expectations clear. Often a new manager wants to avoid micro-managing, so they take a “hands off” approach, thinking if they set the goals, everybody will figure out on their own how to work toward them. Don’t do that. Eliminate the guessing game by helping employees know what success looks like and how you’re going to measure progress toward it. Then keep them in the loop as you measure.
- Get some coaching skills. You must recognize the performance needs of your direct reports and give them the confidence that they can accomplish their task responsibilities through their own efforts. Learn to diagnose performance problems and to be flexible in the precise mix of advice, support, guidance, and expectations needed in every situation. There’s a real upside to this: if you develop excellent coaching skills, you will be in the top 8% of managers. Almost two thirds (61%) of managers get a failing grade in coaching effectiveness.
There’s a lot more to being a manager than these four tips. We have, in fact, found seven key principles to effective performance management. You can get a good idea of the full scope of effective managerial behavior by reviewing the descriptions of the classes in our Leadership Skills programs.