I’ve been asked before: What does it take to become a successful manager? Is leadership an art – where the leader is inspired by their company or team to create a culture of belonging? Or is it a science – where the leader has studiously learned processes to develop an effective team? And to those last two questions – I say both! Great leadership is a good blend of art AND science. The science parts of leadership are the process and procedure aspects, such as implementing company policies, establishing goals, and allocating resources for various projects. The art of leadership comes into play with the interpersonal (and perhaps most important) aspects of managing – communicating with team members, managing daily behaviors/activities, and leading them as individuals to their best performance. So, how can you cultivate more of the “artful” side of management?
MODEL THE BEHAVIORS YOU DESIRE
Leaders significantly influence their team members’ attitudes about the company, its policies and practices, and its products and services. Are you projecting a positive and supportive attitude when relating the company goals and initiatives (even if you don’t necessarily agree with them)? Are you communicating effectively by providing the level of detail and direction needed for your team to carry out their assigned tasks? Are you organized and focused on carrying out your own job responsibilities? It’s unrealistic to expect your team to have more concern about achieving company goals than you do or performing at a greater level of efficiency. You set the bar – so, set it high.
MANAGE YOUR TEAM – INDIVIDUALLY
Every team member has a unique personality defined in part by communication style; how they best give and receive information – and by decision-making style; how they organize and analyze data, then draw conclusions. In addition, each person will have different strengths and weaknesses related to their job functions and responsibilities. In an attempt to collectively manage a team, some leaders adopt an “It will be easier if everyone just does it my way!” approach to managing. Unfortunately, that rarely works and typically leads to frustration for both the leader and the individuals. To effectively lead a group of unique personalities, you must recognize and appreciate their differences and adapt YOUR style of interaction for each team member. No single style will work for all, and the best results will come from acknowledging and accommodating that.
THE DEVIL IS IN THE DETAILS
When assigning tasks and delegating responsibilities, give team members clear, concise, and complete instructions regarding what you expect from them and how their efforts will be evaluated. This should include where or who to go to when there are questions so that the accountability is on them for finding the right resources, outside of just you!
When requesting reports, action plans, or territory reviews, provide specific information about what is to be included, when it is to be completed, and what format information should be presented in – if necessary. Prior to scheduled meetings, distribute agendas describing the topics to be discussed, and inform participants about their roles during the sessions and any pre-meeting preparation required to fulfill those roles.
Remember that any guidelines you DON’T provide allows for interpretation on their side. If you are comfortable with that and want your team to feel empowered to make decisions in the absence of guidelines – let them know.
FEEDBACK IS KEY
Frequent and consistent feedback is critical. Let team members know how they are doing, both formally and informally. Whether it’s meeting sales goals, fulfilling responsibilities, or completing tasks and projects, keep team members informed about their progress and performance on a routine basis. Providing real-time feedback helps projects and tasks to keep moving in the right direction and lessens the likelihood of confusion and misunderstandings. And, perhaps more importantly, it allows course corrections as needed so that they can be implemented before things go too far off the rails.
DO AS I SAY AND DO
The expectations that you have for your team should be no different than what they can expect from YOU. Not following up or following through on commitments and assignments sends a message to your team members that the projects involved are, perhaps, not as important to you as they are to them. If you give someone a task or project with a deadline, ask for the results on that date – otherwise, you create an environment where rules and accountability are fluid and flexible. And, when you commit to providing team members with information or assistance, follow through by scheduling a timeline with them. Please don’t keep a team member hanging and cause them to chase you.
POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT FOR THE WIN
Pointing out mistakes and inefficiencies is sometimes necessary as a leader. But only telling people what they must do better doesn’t make for an inspiring leader. A better management approach is to strive to bring out the best in your people by habitually recognizing how they contribute to the success of the team and business. Celebrate the small wins as well as the big ones. Praise the things that are done well or when someone goes above and beyond expectations. When you acknowledge the times that people perform at their best, they are inspired to continue to perform at those levels. That is how an artful manager leads people towards a vision of success!
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