What makes one manager more effective than another? A lot of the difference is in the two managers’ communication skills. Better managers are better listeners. They ask more questions, and they pay attention to the answers they hear.
The same way high-performing employees look ahead to anticipate problems that might arise in their work, strong managers think about their employees apart from the question “Is this person getting his or her work done?” They take employee development seriously, and they take their responsibilities toward their teammates as seriously as their obligations to produce a certain quantity and quality of work.
Here are five ways to be a better boss whether you’re new to leadership or an old hand at managing people.
You’ll be a better boss when you can hold a quick check-in conversation with anyone on your team without focusing on the question “What have you gotten done today?”
There are plenty of important topics to talk about aside from daily production. Better bosses have the trust of their teammates, and don’t shy away from sticky human workplace topics like conflict, overwork and frustration with red tape.
They understand that asking the question “How are you doing?” is not the same as asking “Are you getting everything done?” They are in touch with their team members’ stress levels and workloads. Are you?
You’ll become a better boss every time you name an awkward or politically-sensitive issue that desperately needs to be discussed. It might be your team’s unhappiness with the new bonus plan, or their concerns that a co-worker isn’t pulling his or her weight. You might find your voice and tell your boss that your production schedule is unrealistic. Whenever you tell the truth about something that other people are keeping quiet about and pretending to ignore, your leadership muscles grow.
Any blowhard can boss people around and yell at them. Strong leaders are advocates for their employees, because even when employees have great ideas, corporate and institutional bureaucracies don’t always listen to them. You’ll become a better boss every time you push back against nonsense rules on behalf of one employee or your whole team, or push a good idea up the chain of command until someone gives it the attention it deserves.
Strong managers keep their focus on the future, not the past. Weak managers dwell on insignificant issues from six months ago, or hold grudges. You’ll become a better manager every time you resist the urge to bring up something that happened in the past and put your energy toward the next hill you and your teammates want to climb.
Good leaders face forward and because they’ve built up a strong trust level with their teams, their teammates follow them! Poor leaders face backward and micro-manage people who are perfectly capable of doing their jobs on their own.
You’ll become a better boss every time you take away a Mojo Blocker like an unaddressed conflict, confusion between roles or a bad process that needs to be overhauled. Great managers look ahead to proactively remove obstacles that could otherwise keep their teams from racing down the road toward their goals.
A big part of their role is to take away distractions like inter-departmental turf wars that could suck away the Team Mojo that powers their success. What roadblock could you remove for your team today? You’re becoming a better boss just by answering that question!