How To: Be A Better Manager

Blog topics come to me sometimes in very odd ways. During my retirement party, a newly promoted manager friend of mine asked, “what are the key things you have learned over the years that has helped you become a better manager?” After thinking for a few seconds, I wanted to answer the question with those items that were on the tip of my tongue. So, I gave him an answer. I said that I believe that you have to build a strong team, set some amazing goals (with their help), monitor the progress (and offer help), listen closely to everything and have fun. A day or so latter, I thought it was a bit too quick to respond like that – there is a bit more to it.

Here is my better answer to, what are the key things I have learned that helped me become a better manager.

  • Hire Well – To me this one usually gets completely forgotten. Building a strong team is the very first thing that I said. I meant it! How you hire for your team is a critical piece of the team puzzle. Don’t under estimate how important this step is.
  • Get Out of Their Way – Once you have a solid team, give them clear goals, make sure everyone is clear about those goals, then get the hell out of their way. Touch base, keep track, but don’t hover. Treat your team like it’s made of grownups and things will be better. I have worked for micro-managers, I bet almost everyone of us have. Nothing sucks the life out of a team then a micro-manager. Don’t be one of them.
  • Remove Roadblocks – One of the keys to staying getting out of their way is making sure that others stay out of the team’s way. Removing roadblocks or keeping people away from the team is a good thing. I had a manager that felt that it was important for her to step in and “help” my team. All it did was cause complete confusion to the team. Make sure that people, excess processes and bureaucracy get in your team’s way. One of the biggest things you can do for them.
  • Hold Them Accountable – Not that you have to fire anyone for not achieving success. They need to understand they are responsible for the outcome – good and bad. Everyone wants to do a good job. A strong team will do a good job if you hold them responsible for their actions.
  • Listen – A skill that is hard to master. Some managers think they “listen,” but they are too busy talking or multi-tasking. Being there – in the moment – is key. True listening will help you understand what is going on. Not your understanding of what is going on – but what your people are telling you is going on. Another area that I want to share is listening from your office. No not spying on your people. Just listening to the office environment (hallways, water cooler, café) – get a pulse on your team is feeling.
  • Ask Stupid Questions – Maybe it is me, but I think I am truly gifted at the stupid question. I have been told many a time that their is no such thing as a stupid question, its true. Especially, when you are problem solving. Having that extra outside set of eyes (and the stupid question) can help the team step back and rethink some. It is amazing to see how sometimes that stupid question triggered a thought that ended up solving some problem. Sometimes it fails – and the team can laugh with you with your stupid question…

After rethinking the question and putting a little bit more structure to my answer.. I think this one is much better. Not that my initial, off the cuff, spur of the moment answer was too far off. This just looks better.

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