“If I were in charge, I’d do things differently.”
Many of us have had that thought at work. And while it’s easy to daydream, it’s harder to take that idea from abstraction to reality. When you actually become a manager, how do you ensure those working under you don’t have the same thought?
In the past, leaders often operated in an autocratic style i.e. “Here’s what you’re going to do. Go do it.” Today’s great leaders are employing a more transformational style.
“In managerial roles, your soft skills become more and more important to your ability to execute in your role,” Dan Schawbel, author of the forthcoming book Back to Human: How Great Leaders Create Connection in the Age of Isolation, says. “The new leadership style is about encouraging the best in others, collaboration, teamwork, and focusing on a single mission that everyone can get behind.”
As part of his research, Schawbel surveyed over 6,000 people in 10 countries about what they’re looking for in their leaders. He found that most people want to work for leaders who are honest and good communicators. “Let people know if you make a mistake. Let your employees know what you need help with,” Schawbel says.
Sounds simple enough in theory, but how do great leaders execute in practice?
“Typically in organizations, the managers give feedback to their employees in the form of a review,” Schawbel says. “I think the manager should accept feedback in the same regard.”
Schawbel suggests asking your direct reports to share not only the ways they think you could improve as a manager, but any data concerning their learning styles, habits, desires, and dreams so that you can help them succeed.
Many first-time managers assume their roles with little-to-no training. One day you’ve got a boss and the next you are the boss. To make this transition, Schawbel suggests hiring a business coach or asking someone at your company to help mentor you. The coaching you receive will help you to coach your reports as well.
“Leaders create leaders who create leaders who create leaders,” Schawbel says. “When you help someone, you enable them to help other people. It’s the idea of passing down knowledge from one level of your organization to the next.”
One of the best parts of today’s work environment is the shift toward allowing employees to have more say in the products and ideas their companies produce. A great manager actively seeks out their reports’ opinions.
Being a manager can be stressful, but it’s important to remember that those you’re managing are also dealing with stress (while making less money). Empathy is critical here.
“People have to endure a lot of big challenges—from a family perspective, personally, organizationally—and the more you can relate to their situations the better,” says Schawbel. The ability to understand your employees will go a long way in keeping them happy.
You may be the manager, but that doesn’t mean you know everything. It doesn’t even mean you know more than those working under you.
“Put your ego aside. If you’re a new manager, there might be a lot you know about a specific topic, but one of your direct reports might be an expert,” Schawbel says. “If you don’t accept their opinion or seek their counsel, then you lose an opportunity to connect, form a relationship, and become better at your job.”
In order to be a great manager in today’s world, one needs to be sure to manage today’s workforce. And much of today’s workforce is working remotely. Schawbel says when it comes to “managing and inspiring people you never see,” over-communication is key.
“The frequency of communication is really important because you want make sure that you’re engaging them,” he says. “Otherwise, they’re going to be looking for something else; there’s going to be a trust issue.” And while video conferencing, phone calls, and email are crucial tools, there’s no replacing the human element.
“Depending on where this person works, once every quarter, or at least once a year, having them come to the office or doing an offsite is really critical, because if you never see them or hear from them the chances that they’re going to be on your team for a long time are minimum,” he says.
Lastly, it’s important to remember that everyone makes mistakes and you’re going to make mistakes as a manager. That’s part of being human. But if you set up an open, honest channel of communication with those working under you, they’ll have your back.
Whether you’ve made it to the C-suite or are about to step into your fist management role, leadership skills are something we can always brush up on and improve upon. Join us in Leadership Hall at the Girlboss Rally for actionable workshops and IRL advice that will help you step into your next leadership role. Register now at girlbossrally.com.