Want to be a better manager? Here are four things to do differently this year to make yourself a stronger boss – and get better results from your team.
1. Get on the same page as your staff members about what a successful year will look like. Managers tend to assume that their teams know what success will look like, even if they haven’t taken the time to explicitly spell it out. That approach can lead to staff member prioritizing the wrong things and putting energy into projects you don’t care much about while neglecting the things you do. Sit down with your staff while it’s still early in the year and talk through this question: If it’s December 2017 and we’re looking back on the year, what will we need to have accomplished for the year to have been a success? Then build your goals and work plans around that.
Once you’ve gotten aligned about those plans, doing two things will dramatically increase your chances of making sure those plans come to fruition: First, schedule monthly or quarterly meetings right now to ensure that you touch base on progress throughout the year. (Getting the meetings on the calendar now makes them much more likely to happen.) Second, now that you’ve agreed on what you most want to focus on, talk about what you need to de-prioritize – or even not do at all – to make room for those key priorities. If you just try to cram everything in, your key goals may end up getting short shrift.
2. Change the way you do one-on-ones (or just start doing them in the first place). If your one-on-ones with staff members typically consist of running through a list of project updates, resolve to change how you’re using that time. Ask your staff members to send you short bulleted updates ahead of time, so that you can read the updates before the meeting and spend your face-to-face time on topics that truly require conversation – like debriefing recent work, giving feedback, or digging into a particularly challenging project where you can give advice or act as a resource. (And if you traditionally haven’t held regular one-on-ones, make this the year that you fix that! They’re the easiest place for you to do the core work of managing, work that often gets neglected if you don’t have a structure in place to make it happen.)
3. Revamp how you give feedback. Feedback is probably the biggest area where managers mess up, whether it’s by not giving enough praise, not speaking up when you’d like someone to do something differently, or both. But giving regular feedback is one of the most important tools you have as manager to shape the performance of your team, develop people’s skills, and get the results you want. This year, put in place a system that prompts you to give feedback on a regular basis, such as making it a regular item on your agendas for one-on-ones and/or putting regular project debriefs on your calendar. And speaking of feedback…
4. Ask for more input. If you’re not already in the habit of regularly seeking out input and advice from people on your team, make this the year you change that. Ask staff members for input on decisions you’re grappling with, on what they’d change to make your team run better, on what policies or practices are getting in their way, on the best way to move forward on a project… on pretty much everything. People will be more invested in their work when they feel they have a voice and that voice is heard, and you’re more likely to make better decisions when you get a wider range of perspectives in the mix. (Of course, don’t just go through the motions; you want to truly consider the input you’re getting, ask questions, and engage with people in a real way.)
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