Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
There’s an old saying that employees don’t leave organizations, they leave bad managers. On some level, that still holds true. An employee’s relationship with their manager can make or break their career experience.
But that means managers and leaders in the organization need to be equipped to deliver a good employee experience. Here are seven things that every manager and leader should be able to do.
- Acknowledge your biases
- Teach your employees how to manage up
- Run a good meeting
- Create actionable goals
- Communicate effectively in writing
- Coach an employee’s performance
- Be a good follower
It’s important to know the limits of your skill level in each of these managerial competencies. To do that effectively, we need to examine a little more about each one.
Acknowledge your biases.
First things first. Managers and leaders need to be fair. One of the most challenging aspects in recruiting and performance management is overcoming biases. A bias is defined as “a prejudice in favor of or against someone or something”. While all biases are not negative, biases can have a negative impact on employees and the team.
Candidates expect to be evaluated fairly during the interview process. Employees expect their performance reviews to be fair and free of biases. Many different kinds of bias exist. As managers become more aware of their biases, hopefully they will consciously check their thoughts and decisions to ensure they are equitable. This benefits employees, the organization, and the bottom-line.
Teach your employees how to manage up.
Managers and leaders need to know how to get the best performance out of their staff. But employees need to know how to bring out the best in their manager too. Which is why regardless of your position, being able to manage up is necessary. We’re not talking about manipulating the boss. This is about developing a good working relationship. It’s a win for everyone involved.
A really good boss knows enough about themselves to share information about their working style. I love the idea of managers and employees putting together a personal user manual that helps the other person learn more about working styles. In addition, the activity of putting something like this together could help everyone learn more about their own working style too.
Run a good meeting.
Whether you work in an office or remotely, chances are good that you attend a lot of meetings – many of them are routine like staff meetings or safety meetings, etc. Unfortunately, because we do attend a lot of meetings, sometimes the phrase “let’s meet about this” can sound so casual that it might send the message that meetings are easy.
Truth be told, meetings are hard work. At least when they’re done right. In my personal experience, no one minds a productive meeting. They do get frustrated if a meeting is wasting time. The real key to a successful meeting is planning. If you really take the time to plan and prepare, it has a definite impact on attendee participation and the outcome of the meeting.
Create actionable goals.
Whenever I’m challenged to create a goal or action plan, I try to work it into a SMART format (specific, measurable, actionable, responsible, and time-bound). I’ve mentioned before how much I love SMART plans and find it to be a very flexible way to set goals and hold myself accountable.
Over the years, I’ve found the SMART acronym a great way for creating meeting minutes. I can’t think of a better way to document meeting discussions. Using the SMART format for meeting minutes also helps guide the conversation toward key discussions like “We have a great idea here…now who’s going to take ownership for getting it done?” And “Thanks Jose for leading this task, when can we expect it to be completed?”
Communicate effectively in writing.
The average office worker receives 120 emails each day. Even if that number is inflated, I’d like to think no one will argue that people are subject to reading and writing a lot of email. Obviously, email is not a dying and/or dead method of our business communications. Maybe someday it will be, but we’re not there yet.
Given how much email we generate, it’s amazing to me that we don’t have formal written rules on what’s considered to be acceptable or unacceptable. We have structure around the way we draft resumes, write business letters, and use social media. Email? Not so much. And let’s face it, nothing frustrates people more than when others break what are considered the accepted (but not written) rules of email.
Coach an employee’s performance.
The purpose of performance coaching conversations isn’t to punish the employee. It’s to change their performance behaviors. That’s why you don’t want to delay a performance conversation because the employee will think their behavior is acceptable. The longer you wait, the harder the conversation.
None of us likes to have a negative performance conversation. I always try to remember the purpose – it’s to help an employee change their behavior. If the conversation stays focused on helping the employee be successful, then hopefully it never escalates to disciplinary action. And the employee understands that the manager and the company are having this conversation because they want the employee to be successful.
Be a good follower.
Servant leadership was started in the 1970’s by Robert Greenleaf, director of management research at AT&T. Greenleaf’s job was to study how the best leaders emerged in organizations. During the same time, Greenleaf was personally troubled by the student unrest on college and university campuses. So, Greenleaf decided the best way to understand the youth movement was to read a novel that was very popular with the young adults of that time. The novel was “Journey to the East” by Hermann Hesse.
SPOILER ALERT: “Journey to the East” is about a group of people traveling to a new land. Accompanying the group is their servant, Leo, who sings songs of encouragement and takes care of their stuff. During the trip, Leo disappears. The group struggles to stay together and eventually disbands. Several years later, it’s discovered that Leo – the group’s servant – was really their leader.
Inspired by Leo’s character, Greenleaf realizes the key to leadership lies in “serving” (aka focusing on the people you manage) and writes what’s considered to be his most famous essay, “The Servant as Leader”, which outlines ten basic competencies associated with servant leadership. It’s a reminder that’s there is no silver bullet to being a good leader. But if there was, maybe first serving the people around you is it.
It’s takes regular work to be good managers and leaders
This is by no means a complete list. In addition, there are activities that managers and leaders need to do that are related to getting stuff done around the organization. Examples are schedules, budgets, vendor management, and more. Today’s list is focused more on people interactions that managers and leaders do every day.
No one ever said that being a manager and leader is easy. If it was, we would all have an index card in our pocket or sign on the wall that simply said “Do this. That’s it.” This list serves as a reminder of the things we need to help us start our management and leadership journey. Will there be moments when we let our guard down and fall into bad habits? Yes. This list will help us get back on track again.
Image captured by Sharlyn Lauby while exploring the streets of Las Vegas, NV41