I just read an extraordinary article by Sharlyn Lauby about the enormous responsibility managers have to create an engaging work environment. Lauby points out that the most effective managers possess a few habits when it comes to working with employees that make them stand out:
1. They know when to help employees and when to let them figure it out. One of the hardest things managers have to learn is not to swoop in and fix everything. Employees need to learn and sometimes learning involves making mistakes. Great managers walk that fine line between teaching employees and letting them learn for themselves.
2. They are self-aware, knowing their strengths and weaknesses. Great managers know the things they do well and the things they need to improve. They surround themselves with people who complement them…and they’re not afraid to tell people, “I’m looking for someone who can balance my XXX skill.”
3. They are happy and positive. Great managers don’t have to be sugary sweet. But let’s face it, negativity isn’t going to breed employee engagement. They know how to focus on the positive and turn adversity into an opportunity.
4. They seek employee feedback (including about their performance). One of the best ways to engage employees is by making them a part of the work. Asking their opinions and soliciting feedback. Great managers regularly ask for feedback. And their employees know they can freely offer comments and criticism.
5. They recognize employees the way that the employee wants to be recognized. This is equally true of communication. Great managers know sincere and authentic communication and recognition is personalized for the recipient. They understand that fair and equal are two different things.
6. They know how to make decisions. This aligns with Habit #4. Great managers get employees involved in decision making. Not only the simple decisions but the messy, complex ones too. They know what decisions employees should make on their own, what decisions they should make for the team, and what decisions should be a collaborative effort.
7. They are a team player (with their staff and with their peers). Great managers realize they not only have a team, but they are part of one too. Employees are very aware of managers who do not get along with their peer group. It sends up a red flag about their leadership and ability to stick up for their employees.
8. They know how to manage up. Great managers understand that the key to getting things done is effectively managing up – not sucking up. Managing up is the ability to keep senior management informed and educated about work, so organizational efforts and resources continue to flow in the right direction.
9. They provide value by delegating well. This goes with Habit #1. Great managers know the work they should do themselves and the work they should delegate to others. They embrace the idea of employee learning and are comfortable with employees gaining new skills.
10. They are comfortable with the words “I don’t know.” Managers don’t need to know everything. Great managers realize this and are fine with researching the answers. They are fine with saying, “I don’t know. Let’s find out.”
Be Awesome! Rate yourself on the 10 traits above. Then zero in on your two lowest-scoring traits and commit to doing things differently in these areas. As the front line to employees, you play a critical role in driving trust, inspiration, direction, motivation and engagement. Ace this list and you’ll not only stand out from the crowd, but be a manager who is sought after by department leads and employees alike. Now that’s what I call success.