Tried and tested conversation starters and strategies for being a likeable and empowering manager
This month we will be focusing on a series around being an exceptional manager.
If you’re a business owner, we recommend forwarding these on to your team or managers, or take a look into our Six Week Management Essentials online course.
Let’s face it — one of the biggest fears a manager may come up against is being ‘disliked’ by their team. You may have the greatest intentions, and we all know that you cannot please everyone.
However, the beauty of self-reflection, openness and a willingness to improve and learn is that you can objectively sit with some of your potential blindspots and address them.
This takes courage and a level of emotional intelligence that is what makes you an exceptional manager.
It can be difficult not to take things personally, however here are some common behaviours you might be inadvertently displaying, that when addressed can create a new level of harmony between you and your team.
One thing that can quickly disengage a team member is a sense of micro-management or lack of autonomy. This can come in the form of too many ‘check-ins’, unsolicited advice on how to complete a task or over-correction of small issues.
Continuously reminding and asking staff about a task’s progress before a deadline or advising them on how to get it completed to a certain standard…
Trusting them to deliver on time and on standard. Sometimes we don’t give our team the opportunity to step up and deliver exceptional work.
Address any mismatch of expectation after the task is completed if there is any, and what could improve in the delivery of work in the future.
You can also check in at the start of a task and ask what support or resources they need from you and communicate that they can come to you if they require any support.
Imagine spending a whole month of full time hours on a project that you’ve put your heart and soul into, only for it to be discarded, unused or completely overhauled with none of the work included.
It can be disheartening and highly de-motivating for a team member to feel like their work isn’t valued or isn’t up to a particular standard.
Discarding or dismissing a piece of work
Acknowledging and validating the work and effort that has been put in. Sit down with the team member and communicate clearly about why the work may not quite align with the direction you’re needing to take.
Provide an alternative way the work can be repurposed (without being completely reworked).
Acknowledge the character attributes that sit behind the work and specific examples of why the work can’t be used. For example, a response could look like this —
“I really appreciate and acknowledge the time, work and effort that has gone into this piece of work. I know how hard you work and the pride and care you put into your work (which certainly doesn’t go unnoticed). Thank you for delivering this.
“I know how frustrating it could be, but we have pivoted in direction and although we won’t be able to include X,Y and Z of this proposal, A and B points you’ve highlighted are really critical to moving forward.”
Empathy is a foundational skill every manager needs. Sometimes it can be easy to get bogged down with work, deadlines, demands from higher management and personal stresses.
The first thing that can go when we’re stressed or overloaded is our empathy. Overwhelm can turn inwards, insular and focused on individual survival.
It is important during these times of stress, or when you make assumptions about a team member without actually communicating, to validate and recognise how they might be feeling.
Dismissing how a team member feels or “assuming the worst” using unhelpful judgements or annoyance
Taking a step back, slowing down and truly understanding how a team member might be feeling.
When we can take off our ‘judgement filter’ or approach a conversation without preconceived notions or assumptions, we can really listen clearly to what the other person is saying.
From there, validate in the exact words the team member has expressed. For example, they may use words to describe how they’re feeling as ‘frustrated’ or ‘annoyed’, or ‘angry’.
Mirror this back to them in a way that makes them feel understood. You might say —
“I totally can see why you’re angry and annoyed at this situation. I would be too if that happened to me. What can I do to support you?”
Part of being a manager is to lead your team to success. This may often require making key decisions that not everyone may agree on.
What is important in this process is to ensure everyone on the team feels heard or included in some of the decision-making, or provided an explanation behind ‘why’ a decision is being made.
Making decisions on behalf of the team without any consultation
Giving people plenty of time and notice to process a decision and invite them to be able to contribute, consult, question and provide feedback on that decision. The bigger the impact of a decision on an individual, the more time they will need.
It is also important to communicate how a decision might impact or affect them. You may have a conversation with them that goes something like this —
“I have been recommended a wonderful training program that is a week long and I think it will really benefit the whole team in helping us reach our strategic objectives.
“The training is two months from now and will require a week of your time off-site. The skills we will be learning are X,Y and Z. How does everyone feel about that? Any questions, queries or concerns?”
Manage powerfully through uncertain times
As a manager, the BespokeHR Management Acceleration Program will show you how to step up during challenging times, balance company requirements with team member expectations and achieve greater levels of performance and productivity.
Building your management muscles properly will determine your level of success with your team.
This means being really comfortable with the foundations of management and building not only the core skills but the routines and habits around them to have meaningful and effective communication with your team.
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