Like many people, I was kind of thrown into a management position. My boss needed someone to fill the position and I was that someone. I took on the role with no preparation, no training, and absolutely no idea of what I was doing. It was pretty much a disaster, at least for a while.
I could have profited from the wisdom of someone who had been there and done that. Here is the advice I wish I had been given at the time:
- Clarify roles and set expectations early on. Explain your role within the team, what your employees can expect from you and what you expect from them. Set the stage for working together collaboratively.
- Work on building your communication skills every day: Express yourself directly yet respectfully. Listen really well. Ask great questions.
- Tackle the difficult issues, otherwise they will fester. Know that conflict doesn’t go away by itself. Learn how to navigate those difficult conversations: Express yourself, listen to their side of the story, and problem-solve together.
- Be consistent in your managing style. If you’re a sweetheart one day and a bear the next, people will not know how to respond to you.
- Don’t focus on people’s weaknesses, focus on their strengths instead. Find out what people are already good at and then let them do more of it.
- Get out of the way. Provide your team with the knowledge and tools to do their jobs and then let them do it.
- Treat everyone as individuals rather than clones of yourself. How you approach work is not how they may approach it. What motivates you may not motivate them. Get to know each person’s work style and preferences and use those differences to maximize individual and team performance.
- Work at being human. Admit that you don’t have all the answers. Admit when you make a mistake.
- Check in with yourself every once in a while. Ask: Is the work getting done? Is the team working well together? Is each team member motivated? Am I getting what I need to do my job well? In other words: Am I meeting the needs of the task, the team, and the individual? Am I meeting my own needs?
- Just because the rest of the organization borders on the dysfunctional, it doesn’t mean your work unit has to be that way. Do everything you can to create an environment in which the people on your team are inspired to do their best.
Until next time.