If you could tell your manager just one thing he or she could improve on to make your workplace better for you and your colleagues, what would it be?
And how would you feel if this manager took your suggestion to heart and actually started improving this aspect of their leadership? You would probably feel very lucky to have this type of manager and this type of relationship with them.
Ok, so most managers could probably improve on more than one aspect of their managing style, but who doesn’t have multiple things about their working style that they could improve on. So starting with the most important thing first is usually the best place to start.
Managers play a big role in whether a company is successful, so if they don’t have the right tools, training and passion, the whole company will suffer. And a suffering company means lost happiness and along with that, lost profits
So, whether you are the CEO of your company trying to improve your employees’ happiness or you are young and new to a company, you all have one thing in common. You want your managers to keep improving.
I once worked for a tyrant of a boss. His bullying ways crushed the enthusiasm I had for my work.
A month into the job, he asked me to research buying minor league hockey jerseys from a nearby team. It wasn’t for work, just a task for him personally. I researched their website and called for some information and then gave him the report. He looked over the information and asked me what size the jerseys came in. I didn’t know. I hadn’t seen it on their website, and I hadn’t known to ask when I called.
He told me a monkey could do a better job than me. Slap! Right in the kisser. The sad part is I stayed there for another 1.5 years before I finally left.
Because of his crushing criticism, I gave up on trying to do anything well there. And it’s especially sad because I hurt myself as much as I hurt the company with my bad attitude. Instead of adding to my superpowers, I regressed.
Many people had tried to talk with him about his bullying, but he didn’t really listen. I guess listening or changing wasn’t in his nature.
Which leads me to my 5 tips that a good manager uses with his or her employees.
1. Develop a Feedback Loop
Asking and listening to employees about what is going well and what isn’t going so well is so important to making them feel heard. If they don’t feel heard, they stop believing they matter.
Creating a simple feedback loop is the perfect place to start. I’ve recently worked with a company where we created an online Google doc where employees could voice their opinion and be anonymous if they wanted. They could just fill in the opinion section and leave the name prompt blank.
The CEO would then put the questions in a Word doc, answer the questions, and post his answers on their intranet and also email everyone a PDF.
We did create rules around submitting feedback. The questions, complaints, ideas, and appreciation had to be constructive, which meant no foul language, name-calling or pointing fingers. If an employee had a complaint, they also had to offer a solution.
The results have been positive and people have been respectful. One of the keys has been being consistent. Even when no one had filled out the form, the CEO sent out a message with an idea of his own, or just wrote that there were no questions that week.
2. Leverage Your Superpowers
You most likely have superpowers that aren’t being fully utilized at work. We all have passions, focus and strengths that aren’t utilized to our full potential. We get caught in treading water instead of striving for excellence.
How might you carve out time to leverage your superpowers for just 30 minutes every day?
Let’s say writing is one of your superpowers, but you are in the accounting department. What project is important to the company that you contribute to with your writing skills?
You need to test out if your potential superpower is a good fit for your company's needs. When you can get a better understanding of what your company needs and how you can help meet that need using your superpowers, then you can create a win-win relationship.
The more win-win scenarios you can create in your career, the more successful you will be and the more leverage you will create, which means being able to pick and choose the projects you want to work on more often.
3. Share Their Vision with You
Managers usually have a good idea of where they want their department to go, but they often don’t communicate it adequately to their staff. A good manager lays out the goals for the year, keeps track of how close the team gets to reaching them or exceeding them, and helps people understand what is expected of them on a frequent basis. We’ll talk about why this matters in #6.
Vision is important because your manager is a leader, not only a project leader, but an emotional leader as well. If they can’t help you and the whole team understand where they want the ship to head and why, no one will want to support their ideas.
If you want to help your team and your manager is open to it, the best place to start is to help your manager understand why they do what they do, help them map out a plan for the next 3, 6, and 12 months, and start to define what it will take to reach tho goals.
If you can assist your manager in clarifying their goals and timelines and how each member of the team can best contribute to the success of the team, when they share that vision with the team, it will help everyone get on board with where the team needs to go and how to best get from the current point A to the future point B.
4. Develop Emotional Connections Through Their Core Values
People like buying from companies that have strong core values, and that can strongly influence their decisions.
Employees also like following managers that have strong core values because the employees understand why the managers make the decisions they do. The employees might not always agree, but at least they know why a decision was made.
I invite you to think about past or present managers with whom you got along well. I guarantee they were able to convey their core values effectively. Here's the ultimate core values list to help you get started.
For example, who wouldn’t want to work hard for a manager whose core value is fairness. When people are evaluated based on the results they generate instead of nepotism or cronyism or prior friendship, it makes working hard much more rewarding.
If you want your manager to help your team explore core values that can help the team gel together, the best place to start is to ask a question about core values in a meeting. If you can come up with core values as a group, it can be quite a driving force for the team.
5. Build Gratitude into the Culture
One of the biggest complaints employees have for their managers is the lack of appreciation. A manager that makes appreciation and explains why they appreciate the employee it's like giving an employee a bonus. We are hardwired to work in communities. When we know we are doing a good job we feel safe. This safety is such an important part of building a strong culture that encourages people to speak up and help the group.
Many employees are afraid to speak up or take on challenging work because they feel like failure could doom them. This is natural, but doesn't help them team grow.
When we guild gratitude into the culture of the team people are more creative and willing to take on difficult tasks. They want a chance to do something that will help them stand out and help the company because they know their manager will appreciate it.
Try starting with adding gratitude before your next team meeting. It doesn't have to be work related. People can share personal things that they appreciate as well. In fact it helps the team get to know each other a little better.
6. Include Employees on Goals
You’ve probably heard stories about managers that allow their employees to provide input on what their goals are for the year. This is a powerful tactic to develop more personal responsibility in team members. i.e. when employees help create their goals for success, they feel more responsible for reaching those goals.
The key is to make this a collaborative relationship. You and your manager should set out the criteria of where you want to be in 12 months, then discuss how you can get there.
If you have a clear goal, you can outline what this plan will look like on a weekly or monthly basis. Having a mutually agreed upon plan between you and your manager is much more empowering for you instead of just being told what is expected of you.
7. Gather the Team Together to Bond
A good manager makes time for the team to bond in order to reach its goals. If there are no emotional connections, then there is less teamwork and communication.
Teamwork is essential for a team to reach its goals, so what activities does your team have to gather and bond, and how can your manager foster even more team interaction?
The best advice is to schedule it.
A manager who wants to foster team cohesion and productivity could schedule a team brainstorming session from time to time (called a retrospective in the software world for people doing what is called “scrum”).
A good manager could also have a team meeting every month and encourage people to discuss what is working and what is not. You could buy lunch and have an informal discussion of the team status. A manager could even invite people out to happy hour then pay the first 2 rounds of drinks per person then take off because they want the team to bond with each other. They are the ones that need to work together to ensure the success of the team goals.
When a manager digs into what struggles the employee is going through they show empathy. This is an important skill to build as you improve your leadership skills. You can do this by digging into what is weighing them down at least once a month. After just a few sessions with an employee they'll get so good at it that can be done in less than fifteen minutes.
Digging into employees struggles can be uncomfortable at first, but also very rewarding. The great part is that when you take time to dig deep with them you are helping them find opportunities where they didn't see any before.
If you can encourage your manager or especially a CEO to pick even one of these ideas and give it a try, please let me know the results.
If you are an employee that wants to improve communication and company culture, but don't know how to get your manager to think about implementing these concepts in your workplace, talk to some other trusted employee who may be able to help you in this endeavor.
It’s all about baby steps. You don’t want to overwhelm your manager. So just start a very casual dialog around the concept of core values and whether they can explain what theirs are, and if they can, how it can help improve the productivity of everyone under them at work. If you need help having this conversation, try the Dig to Fly process to help them find hidden opportunities.
What would you add to the list? What have you seen work well for your managers?