- Team management isn't getting any easier or more predictable
- Counter doubt with development; upskill yourself with seven competencies
- Try choosing one people management skill to improve each quarter
It's a new year. And there's a lot of work to be done. But somehow, your team doesn't seem as excited as in years past. Some are struggling with burnout; others are confused about what to prioritize. Some feel directionless -- and are possibly looking for jobs elsewhere.
For managers, this climate presents new projects, goals and expectations. The unknowns, however, are many. The only constant, it seems, is the need to adapt to a changing business environment. Work, life and "work life" have never felt so unsettled.
Your job as a manager has arguably never been this difficult -- and simultaneously, your strong leadership has never been more necessary.
What management skills should you focus on developing this year?
Using data from the world's top performers across three decades, hundreds of job roles and a variety of industries, Gallup discovered the seven necessary skills required for success in any role, in any profession, in any industry -- from front-line to executive leadership.
Although competencies like these are typically used in HR departments, they can also be used as an easy "rule of thumb" for evaluating yourself and becoming more successful in your role.
Let's consider how these seven skills can apply to being a successful manager:
Build relationships. Create partnerships, build trust, share ideas and accomplish work.
Managers are uniquely positioned to facilitate powerful partnerships. They can see the larger network of talent that individual contributors cannot, and they have the authority to assemble innovative teams. In turn, employees have the support they need to perform -- and the bonds they need to feel energized and resilient. When looking at the work to be done, consider new and creative partnerships across your organization that could lead to extraordinary success.
Develop people. Help others become more effective through strengths, expectations and coaching.
When there's so much work to be done, it can feel like there's no time for development. That's why managers need to take a "develop through work" perspective. Ask, "How can I incorporate development into essential tasks -- so that a year from now, we are a better team?"
Lead change. Embrace change and set goals that align with a stated vision.
Although change comes to everyone, every individual experiences change differently. A change in process, timing, goals or resources may inspire some while discouraging others. Managers are responsible for translating the meaning of change to individuals on their teams. And the best managers are able to anticipate concerns.
But, perhaps most importantly, change is an opportunity to dive deeper into relationships and to get to know individuals better. It's an invitation to ask important questions: How are you feeling about your job? What do you need to be successful? What kind of support would be helpful?
Inspire others. Encourage others through positivity, vision, confidence, challenges and recognition.
Many managers enjoy being managers because they enjoy people. They may have found that inspiring others comes naturally -- well, that is, until about 2020. The strain and drain on your team are real. But recognizing others and generating positivity is even more important now, even if it requires new tools and a new commitment.
Remember: Meaningful recognition occurs when you have intimate knowledge of someone's work. Go beyond resourcing. Understand what it takes to accomplish their work and what makes it meaningful for them. That perspective can help you communicate that every individual is seen and valued -- and in turn, create a work environment where employees recognize one another's efforts too.
Think critically. Gather and evaluate information that leads to smart decisions.
One of the rewarding parts of being a manager is getting to be "in the know" about what's going on in your organization, through friendships and partnerships at the leadership level. You get to be an information hub, passing knowledge from the greater organization to the individuals you lead.
But it's also important to remember your responsibility to bring your team's potential questions and concerns up to leaders. That's important information for leaders -- and your people need their opinions to be heard. Great managers ask their superiors tough questions, knowing that they are going to have to answer those questions from their teams in the future.
Communicate clearly. Share information regularly and concisely.
Gallup research consistently finds that frequent manager-employee conversations are key to employee engagement. This is doubly important when it comes to remote and hybrid workers, who depend on frequent feedback to feel engaged and prepared to do their job. Of course, the quality of those conversations matters too. Sometimes managers may think they are communicating well, but employees do not know what's expected of them.
Getting communication right is perhaps one of the hardest parts of managing -- simply because, in the real world, asking someone, "How do you want to receive communication?" doesn't resolve the issue. Communicating, really communicating, is an art. It takes practice.
Create accountability. Hold yourself and your team responsible for performance.
When we hear the word "accountability," we often think of metrics or performance reviews. A much better way to think of accountability is as engagement and ownership. When people are engaged with their work, they feel accountable to others and to themselves. When they own their work, they take responsibility for the outcome. For managers, creating team accountability is about instilling a heartfelt sense of ownership in each contributor.
The fastest way to generate personal ownership in someone is to give them work they love to do and naturally do well. When there's work to be done, ask, "Who's gifted in this? Who would jump at this opportunity?"
Don't try to improve all of your team management skills at once.
If thinking about seven things to do -- on top of a hundred other things -- feels like a lot, here are some tips to get started:
Choose one of the seven competencies to focus on each quarter. When you read through this list and evaluate yourself, which item challenges you the most? Or which one would you consider most important for success in your particular role? Focus on tackling one competency at a time.
Apply your talents to develop strength in each area. If there's an area where you're struggling, you may think, "I'm just not good at that one … and I probably never will be!" That's a sign that you're approaching your development by focusing on your weaknesses, rather than on your strengths. If you know your top five CliftonStrengths already, consider how you can use them to address each competency. If you don't know your top five, take the CliftonStrengths assessment.
Recognize that the eternal rules of management still apply but that the field of play has changed. Recent years have shaken up the traditional workplace, and that includes management styles. Every single one of these competencies means something different in practice than it did in 2019. Think about what "success" for each one means now in a disrupted (and regularly interrupted) workplace.