Last week, a colleague, who was just about to take up her first management role, asked me for advice on management skills.
“What do you think are the five most important things I should know on becoming a manager?”
I was very tempted to respond “don’t ask for too much advice, just be yourself”, but that seemed a bit churlish. The more I thought about the question, the more I realised there was actually a lot I wanted to say and prioritising it to five things was a real challenge.
But anyway, this is the gist of my response, do let me know what you would add or subtract.
- Actually my first thought remained at the top of my list. I think it is really important to ‘be yourself’. There can definitely be a temptation to ‘act’ like a manager, perhaps like your predecessor or a line manager you respected. There’s no reason not to remember people you enjoyed working for and why and use that as guidance, but don’t pretend to be them. The word ‘authentic’ says it all.
- If the first is about you personally, the second has to be about what you do and my single word here is ‘objectives’. This is multi-layered. Firstly, make sure your manager sets you some objectives so you understand what you're aiming for. Then you can set objectives for people who report to you and make it clear what you expect of them. Obviously there is a whole cycle here of setting, reviewing, giving feedback and if you're doing lots of that, you’ll make a good start in management development.
- I hesitate to use the umbrella term of ‘communicate’ but it is a vital management skill. Let’s break it down to some specifics – ask lots of questions every day and listen actively to the responses. Explain what you want people to do and to what standard. Really prepare meetings – plan what you want to say and how. Don’t forget to chat too, have informal discussions – let your staff decide what works best. Be truthful at all times, people always spot obfuscation so communicate in their language!
- I really wasn’t sure whether this merited a top five place for a new manager but in the end I decided it did - 'be obsessive about quality but not a perfectionist'. This is a fine line, but if you cross it you’ll irritate people who report to you, you’ll waste time, you’ll be unproductive and you’ll lose momentum. This can be a classic trap for the new manager; of course, get things right but you do need to keep a balance.
- Linked a little to this perfectionism is the feeling that you need to come up with all the answers – you definitely don’t! Inspire 'creativity' in your team, give them time and space to generate ideas and solve problems, learn to trust them, try out some new things, and give lots of feedback.
I know management is complex and five bits of advice is ridiculously limited, but actually doing these five things right will provide a really solid foundation on which a fantastic management training course can build!
For more tips on management, have a look at one of our previous blogs ‘Take the time or suffer the consequences’, which focusses on the importance of building trust within a team.
Nigel Walpole, MD, Bray Leino Learning
In my series of blogs I’ll talk through my thoughts on some of the key issues facing managers in the workplace - lessons learnt, tips for success and general musings.
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