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Becoming a Successful Manager

By Edited May 13, 2015 0 1
Manager and Employee
Credit: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1184019
As an employee, your manager can really make or break a job.  If you have a bad manager, you will most likely not enjoy your job, regardless of the work you are doing or the pay.  Conversely, a good manager can really make up for other factors of the job that aren't that great.  A good manager can help you learn, set you up for success in your current role, and help you to get future opportunities.  
Hopefully you have had the opportunity to work for a great manager or two prior to moving into a management position yourself.  In that experience you probably picked up a number of tactics that will help you be successful (maybe even some of the ones listed here).  If you have had nothing but bad examples in your career, then at least you know a number of things NOT to do.  
Whether you are just starting in a managerial position, or are already a veteran in management, below are three key things that you should start doing or continue doing to become a successful manager.
Conduct weekly one-on-ones with each team member.  It only needs to be a half-hour a week.  That regularly scheduled half-hour will establish a regular cadence for communication with each person and will eliminate the need for some of the impromptu pop-ins to discuss a question or provide an update.
In addition to talking about projects or tasks that the person is working on, the one-on-one is a great opportunity to provide and receive feedback. As the manager, it gives you a private setting to reinforce the things they are doing well and to coach them up on the areas where they could improve.  It is also a great opportunity to get feedback from employees on how you are doing.  Make sure to ask them directly for feedback on your peformance on a regular basis.  A simple question like, "Is there anything that I can do better to help you or the team?" can get you some valuable information on how to improve.
Below are a few addtional tips on conducting one-on-ones:
  • Don't cancel them.  Make these a priority.  By making the meeting a priority it will show each person that you value them and the time you have set aside to spend with the them.
  • As the manager, don't dominate the half-hour.  Make sure that you give the employee time to talk about what it is on their mind.  Try to maintain a 50/50 balance where 15 minutes is spent on what they want to talk about and 15 minutes is spent on items that you want to talk about. 
  • Use the time to learn about your employees outside of work. The one-on-one doesn't have to focus solely on business.  It is a good opportunity to learn about what they enjoy outside of work and what is important to them.  Conversely, it is a good opportunity for them to learn the same about you.  
Talk about your values
Your values are the things that are most important to you in life.  If you can't clearly articulate your values, then you need to start by taking some time to figure out exactly what they are and get comfortable with talking about them.  As an example, one of my values is learning because I think it is important to learn new things and use them to improve in different areas of my life.
From there you need to make a point of talking about them with your team.  This could be done in one-on-ones or in a larger team meeting.  Talking about your values is important because it will give everyone insight into who you are and what is important to you.  By putting yourself out there it will help with developing relationships with each of your employees and building trust.  Taking that first step will also make people feel more comfortable talking to you about their values and what is important to them.  It may feel cheesy or unnatural at first, but it will become easier and more natural with practice.
Focus on behaviors and how they drive results
Results are what everyone is ultimately measured by, but the behaviors that get you to the desired results are where you should focus. Similarly to the point above on values, here you need to start by taking some time to think.  You need to have a clear understanding of the behaviors that will be most impactful to achieving your team's goals. Ask yourself the following questions to help think it through:
  • Who has been successful?  What are the behaviors that they consistently exhibit that allow them to be successful?
  • What are some specific projects or deliverables that are great examples of the type of work you want your team to produce?  What went into making them examples that stand out above the rest?
After you have identified the key behaviors that you want to focus on, you need to make sure that your employees understand the behaviors and why they are important.  When conveying the importance, it helps to tie them back to the results and how it matters to the customer and the larger organization.  They shouldn't be left to think that they are only important because you said so as their manager.  Also, allow it to be a conversation about the behaviors.  Let your employees provide you additional perspective on what is important, and feel free to adjust your focus based on their feedback.
Now that you have identified the key behaviors for being successful and discussed them with the team, you need to incorporate them into your everyday focus.  Keep them in mind as you are interacting with the team.  As you see someone exhibit one of the behaviors, praise them for it.  If you see someone in a situation where they could have used one of the behaviors to do a better job, pull them aside and give them feedback on how they could have approached the situation differently and how it may have impacted the result.  By making this an everyday focus you will start to build a common framework where everyone on the team knows what is expected of them and what they should focus on to get better.


Jan 12, 2014 7:39am
Good general article. One-on-ones are important and definitely have helped me build a team that trusts each other.
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