As a manager, you’re on a stage – meaning that your staff members pay a lot of attention to what you say and do. Your words will carry an enormous amount of weight with team members and what you say matters, probably more than you realize.
Here are three things that great managers say to their teams – and which will probably help you get better results from yours.
1. “Let’s test your idea.” Some ideas are so obviously great that it’s a no-brainer to move forward with them. But others are murkier – they might have strong elements, but you might also see some significant challenges with them. Those challenges might make you want to simply say no – but part of the value of having a team is that you have multiple brains and perspectives at work. If you always shut down ideas that don’t 100% resonate with you, you’re probably losing some of the power of having all those different minds at work.
Instead, look for opportunities to say “sure, let’s test it.” Of course, note that this isn’t the same thing as saying “yes, let’s make this a major priority and shift large amounts of money to it.” Rather, this is finding relatively low-stakes ways to test ideas and see how they do. If you’re like most managers, you’ll probably find yourself surprised that at least some ideas that you weren’t enamored of actually turn into successes when people are allowed to experiment. And if they don’t, you’ll have shown your team that you’re willing to give them some space to try things and learn from them, which is exactly the sort of environment that generates fresh thinking and innovation.
2. “What aren’t you getting done?” Managers often spend a lot of time talking about projects that are happening, but often don’t think to check into what’s not happening. But on a busy team where people are pulled in many directions, chances are high that something might be getting pushed to the back burner – and you want to know what those things are. This conversation gives you the chance to say, “Actually, X is more important than Y, so let’s push Y back instead / bring in additional help / delegate X to someone else / think about whether we need to do X at all.”
Of course, in asking this, you need to make it clear that it’s not a “gotcha” – your tone needs to be, “I understand how busy you are and that you probably can’t get to everything,” not “You might be in trouble if you answer this truthfully.”
3. “What do you think?” Managers are often too quick to make decisions or give direction in areas where their staff members are perfectly well-equipped to decide how to proceed. Sometimes this is because managers are so used to giving guidance that it becomes almost an auto-pilot response: someone brings you a problem, you suggest a solution. But if you make yourself pause and instead ask, “What do you think?” before you suggest a path to try, you might find that your staff person comes up with a good solution on her own – and possibly even a better one.