Throughout my years as a people manager, and as a leadership trainer and executive coach, I have observed a number of key best practices that are fundamental to getting the very best from the people on the team.
I’ve outlined below the five key areas of focus that I believe are critically important for people managers if they are to experience success both for their staff and for themselves. I hope that you’ll find these “signposts” useful – you’ll learn more about each one and indeed other best practices by attending my course at Public Affairs Ireland on 12 and 13 June.
1. Provide regular high quality feedback
Studies reveal that 80% of employees feel that they do not get enough feedback; meanwhile, 80% of managers claim they are giving enough feedback to those on their team. Clearly there is a misalignment people managers need to pay attention to.
Regular formal (through one-to-ones and reviews) and informal (spontaneous and in-the-moment) feedback is one of the strongest drivers of a high-performing workplace culture, especially where employee performance is aligned with business goals and their own personal aspirations. Delivering constructive feedback that encourages and motivates, rather than discourages and demotivates, is a critically important skill. On the course, you will learn key feedback behaviours to ensure that the message is received by the staff member in the way it was intended, with the intention to help them sustain or improve their performance. You will also be introduced to a robust feedback model that provides a framework for these important conversations.
2. Communicate, communicate, communicate
As a people manager, you cannot over-communicate.
It is the key to fostering strong relationships built on openness, trust and honesty with your team. Communication needs to flow in all directions, from managers to their staff, from staff to managers, and between team members. Be explicitly clear about what you expect of the individuals on your team: their goals; roles and responsibilities. You can’t motivate people if they don’t know what you want. Focus on absolute clarity, accuracy and thoroughness in your communication. This is important regardless of the medium, whether face-to-face, email or a phone call … and don’t rely too heavily on email!
Don’t forget the importance of communicating a sense of purpose for your team, providing reason and context for their work. Keep people aligned with the bigger picture by communicating what other parts of the organisation are doing, only then will they feel a connection to the organisation. On the programme, you will have a chance to practice your communication skills when setting goals, giving feedback and coaching.
3. Listen more than you talk
Often as leaders we believe we are better listeners than we actually are. Strong active listening encourages employee suggestions and increases your understanding of each employee’s particular skills and motivation. Great managers are open to input from their staff, actively seeking their opinions and asking them to elaborate on their perspectives. Display empathy by listening to people and relate to their emotional experience. Listen to their concerns and challenges and let them know that they have been heard, even if you are unable to attend to everything they ask of you (as it may not be within your control). When you care about your employees, they tend to work harder and aim to exceed your expectations. Stay in the moment with your conversations and avoid being distracted, particularly by your internal biases and assumptions. Stay focused on what is being said and how it is being communicated.
4. Lead by example
Leaders need to take responsibility for the atmosphere they create and shape through their own behaviour. This can simply be your posture and demeanor when you arrive at the office each day, or how you live your own values in the interactions you have with your team. For example, if you regularly arrive late to your meetings then you can’t expect your team to display punctuality. If you lose your cool, your team may take the lead from you and react emotionally too. Walk the talk. Strive to be your own ideal of the perfect worker, especially in front of the team.
On the course, we will explore what type of leader you want to be and how to develop consistency in displaying the key characteristics which are aligned to your vision.
One of the most common failings I see amongst managers is holding onto the tasks that they could, and should, delegate.
There are a number of reasons people managers don’t delegate: they may like the task element of their role, or they may believe that they can do the job better themselves. Also, they may feel that it’s quicker to get things done themselves – while this may be the case in the short-term, in the longer term you will save a lot of time by delegating meaningful tasks and projects to your team members. This will greatly support your team in building key skills, help them realise their full potential, and is one of the most effective ways to maintain motivation, particularly during times of change.
The course will provide you with the forum to discuss your difficulties when it comes to delegating and methods for overcoming these challenges. You will also be introduced to critical best practices to help you delegate effectively.