As a former HR Consultant who has moved into leadership coaching, I’ve observed many awkward situations between managers and their employees, and have distinctly noticed a few recurring trends that can either make or break any manager in any industry.
Obviously, we’re all human and we all have our own personality traits that we take into our roles in the workplace. But sometimes, we forget that these are unique to us and that not everyone views the world in the way we do. We make too many assumptions about people’s powers of perception and assume they have interpreted our inferred meaning. So many work meetings occur where various topics and action items are discussed, and yet the participants each leave the room with a different view on who was going to do what and when.
Sound familiar? Here are three sure-fire ways to become the best manager and leader that you can be.
Must-Know Leadership Coaching Secrets For All Managers
Don’t ever assume that people know what you mean, or that they will be able to read your voice or body language to take cues from you. At the end of every instruction or meeting, ask the employee to confirm they understand and then test that understanding by asking them to repeat what they need to go away and do. A strong leader will TRUST their employees to take the requested action, but they will also VERIFY their understanding.
Right from the beginning of the working relationship, clarify the expected cultural traits to be exhibited. How will these and productivity be measured? What does this company value and how do people in this organisation act? Make sure every one of your employees can answer these questions from day 1. A solid set of workplace policies will address this, especially when presented in a workplace induction format.
This is, in my opinion, the easiest of the traits to apply, yet it’s the most undervalued and least used. Whilst not everything is black and white where people and employees are concerned, managers should ensure the same rules apply to all as much as possible. In my experience, people will accept any change or policy, so long as whatever it may be is applied consistently and fairly across the board. It is once an exception is made for one individual that disharmony creeps in and before you know it, spreads like wildfire through teams. Seemingly overnight, morale goes through the floor.
This may seem like a bizarre trait for a manager but bear with me here. Admired leaders need the courage to be honest and open. They can’t delay having difficult conversations with their employees because they feel bad or awkward about it. They also need to exhibit the CLARITY mentioned above by not downplaying or sugar-coating an issue in these discussions, particularly if they’ve felt strongly enough about it to have the conversation in the first place. I have witnessed many poor performance discussions go something like this:
‘Phil I just wanted to speak to you about the argument you had in the office with Tom the other day. Now you know that I really value your work and think you’re a top bloke, but I’ve had some complaints. Some people think your language went too far. I mean, I know you wouldn’t have meant anything by it but it was in the middle of the office. Anyway, keep up the good work.’
Now put yourself in the employee’s shoes. What is the key message you would take away from this conversation? Truthfully, you could ask 10 different people and get 10 different responses but as an employee in an awkward conversation, you will generally remember the last thing that was said to you, which in this case, was downplaying the issue and a positive comment. Confused much?
I always encourage managers to prepare for any difficult conversation. Rehearse what you are going to say and review it so you can put yourself in the employee’s shoes. Be brave. Be brave enough to tell them what they’ve done wrong, how they can rectify it, and what the consequences are and don’t attempt to water it down to protect their feelings.
Clarity and courage together are kinder to any employee in the long run than trying to soften the blow. Be clear, be consistent and be courageous in all your interactions!
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