By Zarman Hooda-Talent Management & Organizational Development Specialist Smart IS International
Being an effective manager in contemporary times, especially amidst localized or generalized crises, carries an impactful weight greater than ever before. In order to lead the modern workforce, a combination of diverse skillsets is no more something that is merely preferred, but something that is an absolute necessity in order to be a successful leader.
Being a manager is not as easy as it generally seems. While an individual’s seasoned technical expertise might land them a managerial role with ease, what’s difficult is proving that they were truly worthy of being in that position. Since management is about people and people only, a good leader needs to rely heavily on developing relationships using soft skills. Avoid making excessive use of technical aptitudes and hard skills while carrying out purely managerial tasks and duties. Luckily, these soft skills are not difficult to learn, but in order to retain them they will have to be practiced on a regular basis.
Considering how the role of a manager revolves around working with people and establishing relationships with them, the role of constant communication cannot be negated. Whether you are involved in a project-specific task or enquiring about your team member’s personal well-being, whether you are notifying them about an upcoming task you plan on entrusting them with or having a heart-to-heart conversation about their professional ambitions; having satisfactory communication skills makes the conversation much easier for both parties.
Staying consistent and remaining transparent in your conversation can do wonders on how your team and your subordinates develop their perceptions about you. Trust forms the basis of relationships, and effective communication forms the basis of trust. It is of utmost importance to check in, time and again, with employees that they have ample clarity and understanding of their role and goals, and the expectations linked to them. At this point, the communication can be made more impactful if the employee knows how his/her work translates from an individual level to the organizational level. Effective communication gives equitable weightage to both verbal and non-verbal parts, i.e. what is said, and how it is said. The way a manager makes people feel while communicating affects the way how employees respond to the manager’s leadership.
Support the Team’s Time Management
When a manager gets involved in a team’s time management, the team see it as an act of micromanagement. While it does get things done, it can be damaging to employees’ motivation and consequent productivity. Some positive approaches towards managing the team’s time may include, enquiring regarding their methods of working, how they tackle contingent situations, and how they prioritize their tasks. Managers may also, using positive means of communication, support their team members by enabling them to identify their blind spots.
It is necessary for a manager to become acquainted to the team’s methods of work, processes, workflows, and collaborative tools. They should dedicate certain amounts of time preferably daily or every other day to ensure that they are making the best use of their knowledge, skills, and abilities. Oftentimes, it is common to see teams using a tool that inhibits their efficiency by using up a great deal of time, or not adequately addressing the germane needs. This is where a manager’s role comes in — the right blend of solid communication along with knowledge of the task’s objectives can significantly help the team optimize their time management skills which, in turn, will increase their output alongside elevated quality of work.
Promoting teamwork and creating a collaborative work culture, at time amongst cross-functional teams along with one’s own team, is one of the most important part of a manager’s job. To stimulate collaboration and teamwork within the organization, a manager should begin to take necessary steps starting from their own team. One of the fundamental steps would be to identify individual goals and work to align them together towards team/departmental goals. The same may be replicated in every team to ensure that all employees possess clarity regarding their individual, as well as, their departmental goals. Once the goals and objectives are defined, it becomes easier to bring all the human capital on the same page, helping them to better collaborate with each other. This more synchronized collaboration will result in better performance, and employees will begin to enjoy their work even more! While on the journey to foster collaboration, a manager may single-handedly even create a new culture for the organization!
Facilitating teamwork means equipping employees with collaborative tools, thus enabling them to represent themselves holistically. Team dynamics refer to team chemistry — this represents the emotional or human component of a team which directly impacts both employee engagement and team performance.
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“Consider the two roles every person plays in a working group: a functional role, based on their formal position and technical skill, and a psychological role, based on the kind of person they are.” — HBR
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Align Tasks & Individual Strengths
A good manager is typically good at delegating tasks. A manager should never do all the work, but rather delegate most of it to the team and guarantee that all of it gets done. However, the delegatory process should not be random. The manager should spend adequate time with each team member and conduct a thorough SWOT Analysis of each team member. This should be followed by a collective analysis of the team and other external factors that might directly or indirectly affect their on-the-job performance. In addition to the SWOT Analysis, it is of utmost significance to recognize every employee’s individual passions and professional development ambitions. Once this data is gathered, the manager may create a Responsibility Assignment Matrix (RAM) and structure tasks in a way that motivates the employees intrinsically and contributes to their learning and development goals. When people do what they love, they love what they do, and it shows in their performance.
Once again, effective communication plays a vital role in understanding the strength of employees and areas that require polishing. Not only will it further strengthen their strong areas, but also help discover their hidden talents that may prove to be mutually fruitful for both the employee’s career and the company’s prospect.
Positive Communication and Feedback
Two-way productive input is among the hardest jobs a leader or a manager has. That being said, it is certainly one of the most significant aptitudes a manager needs to possess. Workers need criticism! The more you straightforwardly examine errors, or areas of progress, the more positive your teams’ experience will be. At the point when teams and individual employees see that they can apply learnings that assist them with developing in their profession, valuable analysis turns out to be generally valued. Providing helpful criticism is tied in with instructing your teams on the best way to improve, and afterward conceding to significant following stages. It is everything about how you convey the criticism, as that will direct how it’s gotten.
Timing becomes a major role-player when it comes to getting the message across. Waiting for an opportunity, or rather for the ‘right time’, might dilute the essence of the message and portray the message in a more negative than positive sense. Timely feedback enables employees to develop performance improvement plans right away if there is something they lack or help them feel recognized and gratified instantly in cases where feedback is positive.
Be a Problem-Solver
Challenges and difficulties are inevitable and can never be ignored. The key is to address and tackle them in a manner that helps teams get over and move past them without them it being much of an obstacle. The manager’s problem-solving abilities for the teams determine whether the problem at hand gets eradicated seamlessly or turns into a full-fledged threat for short-term outputs or long-term outcomes.
It is vital to recognize the problem itself and finding or developing a solution for the problem. However, managers sometimes spend a lot of time figuring out who is at fault instead of spending that same amount of time to learn or find viable and pragmatic solutions. Making the right call at the right time can save lots of man-hours, additional efforts, and monetary resources being spent. Here, a manager’s role may be elevated if the manager chooses to transfer own problem-solving skills into employees, subsequently helping them become autonomous and empowered in terms of making the right decisions at the right time. In one way, this may contribute to the company’s succession planning as well, which is a very rare practice to find in most small to medium-sized business in most underdeveloped and developing countries.
Problem-solving may also come in the form of individual or group-based coaching which, in turn, helps enable resources to make better decisions independently. The key is to not only find the root of the problem by one’s own self, but also asking the right questions that challenge assumptions. This will help employees accurately locate and exterminate the root of the underlying problem.
One cannot possibly become a good manager by simply being clever; being emotionally intelligent is an equally vital human skill that is needed for managerial positions. This form of intelligence involves the ability to control both the feeling and emotions of oneself along with those of others, thus distinguishing between them and use them to develop the right mechanisms to deal with individual and team-based thoughts and actions. This involves connecting with employees on a personal level, developing feelings of mutual understanding, and empathizing with them. This helps determine the areas where employees need extra support both personally and professionally and equipping them with the due resources or support to elevate their performance and productivity. Thus, emotional intelligence also plays a significant role in elevating an employee’s motivation by ensuring that they feel noticed and recognized by their superiors.
In order to be emotionally intelligent, it is important for the manager to know themselves and promise to develop themselves alongside working for their team’s development. The foremost step towards developing emotional intelligence is recognizing and working around one’s own emotional triggers and being a better and more transparent version of oneself.
Leading by Example
The idea of being a better person, or being a better version of yourself, is something that not only has a positive impact on oneself, but also on those who look up to that person. Quite similar is the case of a manager whom the team looks up to for leadership and guidance. Being easily approachable for the team and engaging with them on a personal level helps them feel easy around you and thus enhances their commitment to work — this is because they see you as both a friend and a manager and develop the realization that any lack of performance from their side will have a direct impact on your reputation. A sense of belonging and inclusion also arises, and employees are not afraid to act vulnerable around you.
In order to create an example for teams, it is essential to not let go of the thin line between being professionally friendly and creating a nuisance for other members of the organization — ignoring such signs may do more harm than good. Be sure you holistically understand your team members and understand them well. Give equitable yet adequate weightage to what they say and incorporate valuable feedback from them in your decision-making processes and action plans. No matter how much better you may be as a manager as compared to other managers in the organization, do ensure that your department’s sub-culture does not contradict with the organization’s culture, and immediately take corrective action in case you anticipate any potential conflicts.
What to Do Henceforth
A favorable and effective management style is not inherent and comes with time and experience. It cannot be argued that the concept of management revolves around us the concept of seeing diversity and pluralism alongside empowerment and autonomy as a strengthening force for effective teams, it is equally important to make work on personal growth and development as well. A manager should ensure that one’s own and the team’s learning curve does not become horizontal or even close to it. A manager should not forget that being a part of the team means that their own success and performance directly translates into the team’s success and performance. Treat every day as an opportunity for growth. Commit to strengthening your managerial skills to become the best manager you can be for your team.