Lessons I’ve learnt as a manager
Via LinkedIn : Having recently conducted a range of management training at Hays, I can’t help but reflect on the many conversations I’ve had with both new and experienced managers on the different challenges they face with managing people. Being a manager is without a doubt the toughest job I’ve had to date, one that is constantly filled with surprises (the good, the bad, and the ugly), but still incredibly rewarding at the end of the day.
I am by no means a perfect manager, but fortunately I’ve worked for a number of very good bosses who have taught me different things about what it means to be a good manager. I’d like to share some of the lessons I’ve learnt:
You’re not perfect
Yes, you’ve worked hard to get to where you are, and you’ve certainly proved your worth in the company, but don’t for a moment think that you’ve made it! Part of your development into a management or leadership role means that you’ve still got a lot to learn. Over the years, the leaders I have met whom I respect have always been the most humble of all. They are the ones who constantly seek out new opportunities to learn, to acquire new knowledge, and question the status-quo. Title alone doesn’t mean much, especially in this ever-evolving world we live in. Learning isn’t just about attending classes or getting some “leadership training”; learning is an attitude, and for the very few brilliant leaders, it’s a lifelong mission. So take a moment and ask yourself, what can I improve on? How do I get better?
Little things count
When you become a manager, you tend to forget what life is like for others who don’t necessarily have the same tenure as you. Junior staff, and in fact many seasoned professionals, require acknowledgment, praise and reassurance to be motivated and inspired. Little things like a complimentary email when your team has done a good job, or a personalised birthday message, or simply a “thank you” when someone has gone out of their way to do something can all go a long way. Just because you don’t personally need others’ validation, doesn’t mean everyone else doesn’t either.
Ralph Nichols once said, “the most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.” It’s easy to underestimate the power of listening, especially since as a manager, you probably find yourself talking more than you listen. Certainly for myself this has been a great challenge. What I always remind myself nowadays is that sometimes you don’t need to have all the answers, and that there is nothing “un-leader-like” to actually take a moment and step back to listen to what others think and what solutions they have. There have been many instances where I’ve found clarity and answers from the ideas and conversations by my people. Just like taking an overdue holiday, some listening might do you a world of good.
Elevate, don’t just delegate
We’ve all had managers who are great delegators. These managers are never shy when it comes to telling people to do things, allocating “tasks” and “responsibilities” so they don’t have to do much themselves. Whilst there’s certainly a place for delegation in our job as a manager, good managers think more about how they can use “tasks” to develop people, thus elevating their skills and ability. A simple example is this: when you’re managing a project, it’s natural for you to give the administrative tasks to your most junior team member. But a good manager will actually think about “what will this person learn from this task”, and “how can I grow this person so they can become capable of doing more in the next project”. Don’t be tempted to give away responsibilities you personally don’t want to do, instead, give away responsibilities that have a purpose, the purpose being it’ll develop your people and they become better off after completing the task.
You’re not a manager, you’re a role-model
Sometimes it’s easy to deduce the role of a manger to simply “managing things”, when in fact the reality is quite another story. In my role I get to meet so many different people, leaders and teams, and one of the things that never seizes to amaze me is how closely related the team’s culture is to its manager’s beliefs and values. For example, if I ever see a team who is really engaged and bought in, ten times out of ten it’s because the manager is really engaged and bought in. So why is this? Are managers cloning themselves in their teams? Well, maybe not “cloning” per se, but certainly they’re influencing and shaping how their people think and act on a daily basis through their own behaviours. Regardless of the level of staff you’re managing, don’t forget that you’re not just managing a “title”, you’re shaping future leaders in every possible way – their mindset, values, beliefs, and habits.
I am constantly humbled by the great responsibility and impact of being a manager. What I have outlined above are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the audacious task of managing people. It’s always going to be hard, but every now and then, you should step back and recognise what an enormous privilege it is to be able to change peoples’ lives, and have ever-lasting impact on their professional and personal development. At Hays, we live by the motto of “the moment you stop learning is the moment your career stops”. Our newly-revamped (and rather intensive) Management and Leadership Development Programmes are designed to be as practical as training can get, giving our leaders the tools and knowledge required for them to succeed.
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