So would you say that you are a good manager or a bad manager? If, somewhat oddly, you answered that you are a bad manager, I may have some good news for you. As we are all very much aware, the past year has been completely upside down. However, despite creating a great deal of uncertainty about what everyone should be doing and making the job of being a manager that much harder, it may have also created some opportunities for us. What this means is that if you went into the pandemic looking like a bad manager, you just might be able to come out of it looking like a good manager.
Mistakes That Managers Make
The job of a manager is simple and clear: create an environment in which team members can do their best work. Sadly, too few managers can pull this off. Managers are prone to making the mistake of “managing” for “control.” However, here’s the good news: the pandemic made it much easier to become a good manager. To understand why, it’s important to first recognize why there are so many bad managers. For too many managers, there is just one truth, just one way of doing things—their way.
But think about it for a moment. It turns out that we’re all different, with our own skills and abilities and imperfections. We all have different ways of achieving the results our company needs. But most managers fail to recognize that. Instead, they try to impose their way of doing things on their team members. In other words, the most important relationship in any organization – between a manager and a team member – is too often a farce. It too often isn’t, “How can we work together to get results?” Instead, it’s “How can I, the manager, force you to become more like me, even if we all have to suffer because of it?”
The cost to doing this is incalculable. It will include unhappy team members who feel their skills are wasted and voices unheard, managers who never understand why others are failing to live up to their expectations, and companies whose results aren’t nearly what they could be. Now enter the pandemic, and specifically remote work, and everything has the potential, the imperative, to change.
The Pandemic Changes Everything
Suddenly, the way that we used to manage – by controlling how team members work – has become impossible. That’s because managers now have no way of knowing the individual workplace and environment in which each of their team members operates. As they are confronted with more variables than they can possibly control, the fallacy of the old way of managing will be inevitably exposed. Even the most stuck-in-their-ways managers in these difficult times have to admit they don’t know anything about where any team member is coming from or what that individual faces at home. All they know is that they better find out about any obstacles that are preventing each team member from working at his or her best.
What this means is that managing can no longer be about whether the team member is doing the job the way the managers thinks it should be done. Instead, the focus shifts to results, however they are going to be reached. The focus switches to providing the team member with what they need to get the end results the company requires so everyone can keep their job – the manager as well as the team member. For managers at a loss as to how to proceed, the key is to begin with one basic question for their team members: “What do you need from me, and how can I be of help?”
Such active inquiry and active listening, which managers have been able to resist for so long, changes the dynamic between employer and team member. Asking focused questions and shutting up long enough to hear the answers is the only way for managers to get the information they need to manage effectively for results. It allows managers to determine which team members need their presence and who works best on a “don’t call me, I’ll call you when I need your help” basis. It allows managers to focus on results and not so much on the path individual team members take to get those results. This is why the pandemic could be the best managerial-improvement training program ever imagined. It has thrown a lot of departments into managerial turmoil. It may turn out that that turmoil is just what a lot of managers needed.
What All Of This Means For You
Not all managers are perfect. In fact, some of us are probably really not all that good at managing our team members. The result of this is that our teams are not able to accomplish as much as they should be able to. I’m pretty sure that all of us would like to find ways to become better. Perhaps the arrival of the global pandemic is going to be exactly what we need.
Many managers try to “manage for control”. Too many managers don’t realize that their workers may have their own unique ways to accomplish the work that needs to get done. When this happens, workers are left unhappy and managers are confused as to why people are unable to do things “their way”. The arrival of the pandemic sent all workers home and all of sudden managers had no idea the type of environment in which their team members were operating in. Now managers need to start to reach out to their team members and find out what they can do to help them to be more successful. This will help managers to start to focus on results.
Making the shift from spending our time worrying about how our team members are getting their work done to what results they are producing is not going to be easy. However, by making this change managers now have a way to boost the productivity of their teams. It seems like making the effort is going to be well worth what it is going to cost us. Take the time to find out what your team members now need from you and perhaps you can become the good manager that you have always wanted to be.
– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time
When someone on your team does good work, what do you do? I’m hoping that the answer is that you take time out of your day and use your manager skills to praise them. If you can figure out how to do this the right way, then your praise can get them to work harder, work smarter, encourage them to try new things, and to take risks. However, you’ll only be able to achieve this if you know how to praise them in the right way.