Surely an organisation can only have so many leaders before they start falling over one another and confusing the direction? Effective managers are a key bedrock on which any organisation relies. So how do you become one?
How to be a better manager in 5 steps
- Know your policies and procedures
- Be consistent
- Be brave enough to question your own management style
- Actively use reflective learning
- Earn the trust of your team
Know your policies and procedures
Become thoroughly familiar with your organisation’s HR policies. What are the rules on time off for Doctors appointments? How much notice of annual leave do people have to give? how frequently are you expected to meet individually with your team members. If you don’t know the rules, how can you respond quickly and with authority to your team?
Consistency builds credibility. It’s so important there was even a management theory devoted to it in the 1950’s. Consistency Theory tells us that people become uncomfortable when things are out of synch. People are happier if they can predict what to expect, so one of the easiest answers to how to be a better manager is be predictable (consistent). Be consistent in how you respond to things, be consistent in the decisions you give about the same thing to different people. No favouritism. Be consistent in your mood and your behaviour.
Be brave enough to question your own management style
Just because you have the title of manager doesn’t mean that the style you adopt is right. You’re managing people. People are all different and act differently in any situation depending on what’s going on for them. Life would be much easier as a manager if this wasn’t the case! It can take years to develop a management style that you’re comfortable with, and which works for you.
There used to be three management styles. In 2018 there appear to be six. Who knows how many there’ll be in another 10 years. One thing I know, there is no one management style that suits all people and all situations. Watch other managers that you admire, see how they react to situations. Most importantly, know what your priorities are as a manager in your organisation. Use them to guide your style. If it’s imperative that you get orders out on time, then having a long drawn out meeting with your team about a problem and trying to make decisions by consensus, is not going to work. In the organisation’s eyes you will not be effective.
Actively use reflective learning
Put simply, when you’ve done something, sit down and think about what you did. Did it deliver what you expected it to? If not, why not? What could you do differently next time to improve your chances of achieving what you intended?
To give you an actual example, let me take you back thirty years. As a young manager I needed to tell a male employee with very bad personal hygiene that he smelled dreadfully and he needed to sort it out. In that meeting I was vague, I was embarrassed, I was long-winded. I am, to this day, convinced that that man left my office not knowing what I’d called him in about! The second time I had to tell someone they smelled (a woman this time), I was so blunt the woman visibly recoiled. On reflection, yes, she knew what we’d met about but our relationship from then on was strained and she left the organisation in the next six months. I’m glad to say that over the years I have now developed an effective method to tell someone they smell, but it took a lot of reflection!
Earn the trust of your team
Your position as a manager gives you authority. It comes with your job title. But just because you have the title “manager” doesn’t mean that you can expect people to automatically trust you. There’s no quick and easy answer to how you get a team to trust you. There are two things that your team need to experience on more than one occasion for them to begin to trust you.
- get to know your team, they need to feel that you genuinely care about them. STOP NOW if you don’t care about the people who work for you, you will never gain the trust of your team. People know if your being insincere. Show a genuine interest in them as people. As a new manager your team will be watching you, trying to work out what your agenda is. If they decide that your main agenda is progressing your own image, prestige or status, they will never trust you.
- develop true expertise in your work (and the work of your team). This doesn’t mean you have to be able to do the jobs of the people in your team better than they can. It means that you’ve to understand what they’re doing, what they need to do so that they do it well and be able to understand how what one person does affects another person’s job. If you can do some of their jobs as well as or better than your team that’s great, just don’t rub it in!
Want to know more?
I hope that you find these musings on how to be a better manager interesting. I hope that you will be able to take something practical from them, applying them to your daily management responsibilities. If you have any questions about how to be a better manager please contact me via the contact us form
Alison Driver is Managing Director of Metis HR. At the age of 24 she was managing 105 cleaning staff. To read more about her experiences click here.