YESTERDAY, I said that there are five golden rules that can help managers confront challenging issues. The first two rules — “Know yourself” and “Define your role” — is a process that invites new managers to ask important questions that help them focus on building their team and moving on to new priorities.
Today’s article will discuss the final three principles that will help new managers become good leaders.
Rule No. 3: Know your people
Armed with a better understanding of yourself after the inner dialogue inspired by Rules 1 and 2, you can now start focusing on knowing your people.
The key is to start with their fundamental needs and see how you can help them connect “what they want from life” with “what work can potentially offer”.
A colleague told me a story about his former boss. In their first conversation together, the boss said: “Look, we will be working together for two or three years. I don’t want to talk about your work priorities right now. What I would like to know instead is what you want from your life, and in our next two to three years together, how I can help you get closer to your life goals.”
Who could resist such a powerful invitation? It taps into people’s most basic need to find meaning in work, to connect it to something bigger and have that magical alignment between life and work.
If you know that your boss cares about you as an individual with your own dreams and passions, and not just as a functional tool to get results from, it is likely that you will go out of your way to not disappoint him.
Rule No. 4: Communicate, align expectations and hold people accountable
Communication or the lack of it causes much heartache every day. Think of the time one of your staff was surprised at your request to review a document she did not know she was supposed to be working on. Or the time when you were surprised at your manager’s indifferent response to a project that you thought she classified as “top priority”.
As a manager, your first job is to list clear priorities for your team and also specify what items they will not be working on. Once the priorities are defined, they must be run through the well-known SMART test (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely).
After deciding on SMART priorities, institute a system in which you will review progress with your people on an individual basis as well as together as team. There is a saying: “What gets measured and tracked, gets done.”
Rule No. 5: Enjoy the journey
One of the most satisfying feelings a manager can have is to know you have helped your team members discover what they are capable of.
As Lao Tzu said 2,500 years ago: “The wicked leader is one whom the people revile; the good leader is one whom the people revere; the great leader is he of whom the people say: ‘We did it ourselves’.”
Perhaps 20 years down the line, when you look back upon this phase of your career, what will be uppermost in your mind is your influence on the transformation of the people around you rather than the 40 per cent market share swing your department achieved.
Don’t get me wrong. Business results are key. But they are not the starting point. Rather, they are the consequence of getting your strategy, people and organisation right.
Along your management journey, get advice from mentors to help you learn from their hard-won experiences. If possible, mentor a few people yourself. Someone who teaches learns a lot too.
Finally, reflect on your experiences to help you do a better job each time. Everybody makes mistakes but you owe it to yourself and to your people not to commit the same mistake twice. As Aldous Huxley said: “Experience is what you do with whatever happens to you.”
Enjoy the journey of becoming the boss you wish you had.