Great Managers · Influence · Leadership

What great managers do differently.

Have you ever worked for a manager where you didn’t feel that your strengths were being recognized or used? or that your opinion didn’t matter that much? or maybe you felt that you were placed in a box and judged based on what you had accomplished in the past and not what you have the potential to create in the future?

I’ve worked with some incredible managers so I consider myself lucky. However, I know this is not always the case. Great or not so great I’ve learned from each manager I’ve had the privilege of working both along side and for, and compiled a list of a few things that I think great managers do differently – this is by no means an exhaustive list and you may not agree.

1. Tell your employee why you hired them – Have you ever been told why you were hired? What was it about you that got you the job? As a manager who is hiring, chances are you had at least a few worthy candidates to choose from so take your new hire out for lunch and let them know why they got the job and what made them stand out from the crowd.

 2. Performance Reviews – They can be stressful for alot of people. Why oh why we would ever want to add more stress to an employees plate is beyond me and also, who thought it was a great idea to only talk about an employees performance every 6 months or every year? Performance Reviews or better yet, ‘Feedback’ should be given on an ongoing basis – good, bad, ugly, and surpremely fantastic.  As an employee, if I’m doing something well, I would like to know immediately so I can keep doing more of it (it’s so important to celebrate the small wins along the journey to the big wins). Likewise, if I’m not doing something well, I’d like to know right away so I can change it right away (not find out 6 months later that I’ve been missing the mark for quite some time). As a manager, the better your employees understand your vision, your goals, and your expectations and how what they do aligns with them, the more connected they will feel to something greater then just their day to day tasks and will thus be more motivated.
Further on that, I believe there shouldn’t be any surprises in Performance Reviews. When I am leading a team, I use our performance review time to quickly check-in on performance things that we’ve been discussing along the way and then use the majority of the time to talk about goals and things we can create moving forward. I understand that scheduled performance reviews are necessary when they are tied to compensation decisions – promotions, etc. so I get that, but I still don’t think it should be a huge surprise if someone gets a raise because they are a rock star, they should have a pretty good idea whether this is coming (or not) based on the ongoing feedback about their performance.
3. Developing Others – As a manager, I think one of the worst things you can do is try to make your shoes so big no one can ever fill them. I know everyone wants to rock their job and they should, but as a manager, rocking your job should be measured by how open you are to learning from your team and how well you grow their feet to fill big shoes (a bit counter intuitive to some of the behaviour currently exhibited out there). One of my good friends put it perfectly – when he leaves his job, he doesn’t want to leave a big hole to fill, but instead do such a great job developing his team that they are still a confident kick ass high performing team that can function on their own without him there. Now that’s a great manager!
4. Stretch assignments – So often managers give employees tasks based on past performances (what they have shown competency in in the past). The best managers I have ever had have thrown projects at me that I had no idea how I was going to sort out in the beginng, BUT I have an equation for success: intense drive to learn +  an open mind + lack of ‘second best’ in my vocabulary + resourcefulness = I will find a way. The fact that they let me lead a project that I didn’t necessarily have the ‘qualifications’ for only motivates me to do whatever I need to do to not only figure it out but knock it out of the park. I see this as a golden opportunity to prove that I am capable of way more than my past accomplishments and I thank the managers that challenge and push me as it has taught me to do the same with my team.
5. Trust – You have to give it first before you can expect to receive it and being a ‘manager’ doesn’t mean you’ve gained the trust of your team. It still needs to be earned and the easiest, fastest way to do that, is to give it.
6. We’re on the same team, you are my teammate – Disappearing are the days of hierarchical ladders where you don’t gain respect until you’ve ‘put in the time’.  As a manager, assuming that you’ve hired someone who you feel is a stellar person overall with the potential to do incredible work, today’s employees want to feel equal and feel that, although they are open to learn and be coached, they too offer something to be learned. Set the bar high for people, make them feel they are on par and they will surprise you. I like being surprised.

7. Know yourself and recognize their strengths – Understanding your strengths and weaknesses as a manager and articulating that to your team is important. Ask for their support in the areas that you still need to improve on, give them a chance to step up – someone will. Doing that will also open the space for them to ask for your support in the areas they need to improve on. In addition, being able to recognize the strengths of individuals on your team, even if they don’t recognize themselves yet, is key.
So there you have it, just a few things that great managers do differently.

As always, I welcome your comments.

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