Today’s audio is 9:42 minutes long.
We all have to manage up and down the corporate food chain. Today, I want to talk with you about how you can help your employees manage you. Few things are more important to organizational success. Besides, as a leader you need to serve your people better. What better way to do this than to show them how they can be more effective in helping you soar?
I’m going to give you just seven steps. I encourage you to think more deeply about each one so you can develop a plan to help your people, especially those closest to you – your inner circle.
Step 1 – Let them get to know you.
Your employees can’t possibly serve you well if they don’t know you. That doesn’t mean you cross the professional / personal boundary. It means you have to let them understand how you operate, what matters to you and how to please you.
Much of the focus of my work is to help people figure out what their boss needs and wants. Once we’ve done that, we have to find out how to best deliver it.
Some bosses prefer written over verbal. Which are you? Do your people really know that?
Others are more prone to spreadsheets over PowerPoint. Which do you prefer? Again, do all your people understand your preference?
You’ve got to manage the fine line between sharing information and sharing too much information. You want to let people get to know you professionally so you can help them do better work for you.
Step 2 – Let them know your goals.
You know it’s true – employees can best reach their goals by helping you reach yours. Don’t let your employees get solely focused on their own goals. And I’m not talking merely about their career goals. I’m speaking more about their work goals.
You’ve got numbers to hit, projections to create, presentations to give and other deliverables that your boss is expecting from you. Without poisoning your team to any internal politics that might distract them, or cause them unnecessary strain, you need to let them know what your goals are and how they can help you achieve those.
Most leaders do this in a group communication. They hold a meeting, read the team the riot act or share way too much information about the pressure being put on them from the boss. I’m not fond of that approach because it only serves to make the leader feel good short term. It doesn’t usually help the employees perform better. And over the long run, it usually backfires to create tension, stress and dissatisfaction.
Rather, I’d suggest you think seriously about your individual team members. Think of their strengths and skills. What can each of them do to contribute to your success in achieving the work? Figure that out, then conduct one-on-one meetings privately with each team member to share your thoughts and to ask for their help. Your team will now know what you need to accomplish and how they fit into your plan. It’s the stuff that energizes people, to know they’re part of something bigger! Don’t rob them of that.
Step 3 – Don’t blindside the team. Don’t allow the team to blindside you.
Nobody likes surprises at work because they’re almost never good ones. Work is about leadership, management and control. That’s why we all want to make sure problems don’t escalate, and if they do, we want to make sure the people involved know it’s coming.
Too many teams operate in fire-drill fashion. It’s just how they do things. Always flying by the seat of their pants, chasing their tail. It’s not a fun way to go, but many people do it anyway. Some, because they don’t know any better. Others, because they refuse to stop and carefully examine their behaviors. Chaos is the enemy of productivity. Being blindsided always results in chaos. Avoid it. Prepare your team to work hard to make sure nobody, including you, is ever blindsided.
Step 4 – Don’t babysit your team.
You can be guilty of this in a few ways. One, you can micro-manage the team. Be in all of their business all the time. Show them you don’t trust them. Refuse to let them soar. Be self-centered and make it all about you and how important you are. That’s babysitting your team.
Two, you can refuse to hold people accountable. This most often happens because leaders want to avoid conflict and difficult conversations. Keep it up and performance will consistently go down because you’re coddling (babysitting) your team instead of helping them grow, develop and mature.
Three, you can babysit your people by accepting or providing excuses for them. We’ve all got issues of life that can interfere with our daily performance. Not all problems are created equal. For instance, the death of an immediate family member calls for time away from work. Time to grieve. But we’ve all suffered a flat tire or a fender bender. Some employees can derail an entire work week when the most mundane difficulties hit them. As the leader, you can babysit your people when you sympathize with their every hurdle.
Instead, show that you’re human and that you care, but make it clear that the team has a job to do and the best thing for all team members is to pick up and do the work.
Step 5 – Exceed the expectations.
Encourage your team to meet or beat every expectation. Get the commitment from every team member to do their part so this can happen.
Yes, it means you’ll have to manage some of the expectations and deadlines. Ridiculous and unrealistic targets will demoralize anybody. Avoid those by establishing real world objectives. Then, push them a bit with your team knowing you’ve built in some margins they know nothing about. It’s not deceptive. It’s smart in pushing them to achieve something you know they can, but something they may doubt. It’s leadership.
Stress the value of margin in hitting expectations. It prevents many problems: going over budget, sweating out last minute fixes, holding up a project and a host of other negative outcomes. Make it a point of pride for your team. Everybody wants to be part of something remarkable. Celebrate it.
Step 6 – Demand solutions, not problems.
Anybody can point out a problem. Don’t let your team do that unless they’re coming with a resolution – a solution. The mantra of your team should be, “How are we going to fix this?”
You know what this means, don’t you? You refuse to listen to complaining and whining. Talk about a cancer that will wreck your team – this will do it quicker than most anything I know. And it’ll spread. Like a virus others will begin to chime in.
Implement a standing rule. Any team member can present a problem, but only if they can offer at least one suitable solution. It doesn’t mean that team members can’t point out some serious issue that has come up. It simply means they have to embrace a mindset of problem solving rather than problem hunting.
Step 7 – Lead by example.
Do what you say. Say what you’ll do. Don’t wear your rank on your sleeves. In other words, don’t play the BOSS CARD. If you tell the team you’re going to do something by Tuesday morning, then meet or exceed that deadline. Don’t come in Tuesday morning giving the team some excuse. That’s cowardice, not leadership.
This means you have to be careful about what you commit to knowing that your team is carefully watching your every move. Don’t take that responsibility lightly. Be smart with it. Be wise.
Your success is determined by your team’s performance. They deserve your faithful service so they can help you. You deserve it, too. Work is about what a group of people can do together than none of them could do apart. Band together and do something remarkable.