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LESSON 1 - HOW TO BE A GREAT MANAGER THROUGH STRONG LEADERSHIP
Part 2 - Professional Advice - Tips 28 through 53
Make sure your employees are 100% clear on the objectives. If you are not absolutely clear and provide the clarity needed for all to understand, you will have a confused team. They will not truly understand the mission, vision, and goals. Confusion turns into anxiety, which then turns into fear. Your team clearly needs to know what is expected of them, the value of their strengths, and the actions you will take to achieve the objective. With the information you will learn throughout this course, you will be able to confidently implement the necessary actions for the team to achieve the objectives and goals.
Analyze the problem; map out all possible answers, and then implement. In most cases when faced with a problem, there is not just one clear-cut answer. Making the right decisions when solving problems is one of the most important aspects of management and leadership. When you start to see the cracks, you need to fix them as soon as possible, just don’t use a Band-Aid fix on a major fracture. Truly identify the problem, look at all of the possible reasons and needed resolutions, and implement the best idea to fix the problem. Utilize your team to help look at all of the possible scenarios and ideas, even the illogical and unpractical ideas might turn out to be a solid solution to short-term or long-term problems. One very important thing to keep in mind; focus on fixing the problem rather than on finding the blame. Finger pointing will get you nowhere. We will discuss more about problem solving and decision making in lesson 6.
If possible, take your time on making the right decision. Unless you need to make an on the spot decision, you should always take your time and reflect on all of the possible ramifications. Just let your boss, upper management, or whomever is waiting on the decision know that you will think about it and get back to them as soon as possible, or at least by the deadline. You are most likely to make the best major decisions outside of work. It can be before you go to bed, in the shower, on the train, on the plane, etc. When you’re away from the hustle and bustle of the office, you can calmly think everything through. This also pertains to ideas and improvements. Jot down your notes and bring them into work. You can even e-mail yourself so you have them ready to read when you are back in the office.
You need to be able to delegate. It might seem hard to let go of certain tasks because you feel it might not get done right, but as a leader, it is one of the best things you can do for your employees. Besides, if you do not give up most of the daily tasks, you will feel bogged down and stressed. It will also free up some time for you to take on more pressing issues. Do not feel embarrassed, shy, or like you are passing the buck when it comes to delegating. It is expected of you as manager. It is vital that you let your staff take on most of the tasks and projects. This also gives them a chance to show what they can do. It breaks up the monotony of the day and gives some excitement. You also want them to get the credit on the delegated task to build their self-esteem. It is a compliment to you when they are complimented, and besides, your self-esteem should already be high since you are the manager. The most important thing is to know whom to delegate to and when. Make sure you know exactly what needs to be accomplished before you give the task to someone else. You need to confidently tell your employee on what needs to be done, and show you have the confidence in them to do it. Some tasks will need more monitoring than others, and some are more important. Set up a timeframe on when you expect the job to be completed, and have them report back to you with the progress. It is up to you to determine who can get the job done quickly. However, don’t always pick the same person. Spread the tasks around to those who show interest. Make sure you have a commitment from the employee, and give them the authority needed to get the job done. If you have your eye on someone to promote, delegating to that person is a win/win solution. Just be careful that you do not show favoritism as you could run into Human Resource issues. We will discuss more about delegating in lesson 6.
Know how to multitask and prioritize. A good leadership skill is being able to handle more than one project at a time, and knowing which is the most important. You will find yourself creating a procedure, checking e-mail, answering your phone, a person will come into your office, and on top of all that, getting ready for a meeting. This is inevitable, and is a part of being a manager and leader. Don’t stress, make the decision on what is the most important and put the most energy into that task. For example, if the employee who walked into your office looks or is acting distressed, that should take priority. You can ask the person to sit down, quickly reply to the e-mails and phone calls stating you will get back to them as soon as possible, and put your process document to the side. If you are running late for a meeting, you need to make the decision on whether you should continue to talk to your employee, or schedule a time to further discuss the matter. If you cannot make the meeting, make sure to inform the meeting leader that you are taking care of a personal issue. It should be noted that your employees should always come first. We will discuss more about multitasking and prioritizing in lesson 6.
Always be ready to react, embrace, and manage change. Always show that you are ready for any challenge that comes your way. The saying, “The only constant is change,” particularly holds true to business management. One of the key strengths of a great leader and manager is the ability to accept change and orders that come down from above with enthusiasm and confidence. You would then translate the directive with the same enthusiasm to your team. This is how you impress your boss, and your bosses’ boss, and build confidence within the team that you have everything under control. The leader is the rock, and gives stability to the group. You will most likely get some worrisome and sarcastic remarks from a few of the team members, but that’s natural and you should not worry about it. Don’t get angry about complaints, even though you may be angry about the change yourself. They might just need to blow off some steam, and the best thing you can do is show that you do care and understand their frustrations. You might want to share some of your own frustrations as well; as long as the main take away point is optimism for the future. Your main concern is to make sure the change or transition goes smoothly, and that everyone knows the new objective. Don’t wait for someone else to tell you what you should do. Take the steps to prevent unwanted surprises, continually meet with your boss and staff to keep them updated, and don’t make or implement major changes until you have consulted with your staff. If you show you are embracing the changes with optimism and leading by example, your staff will most likely follow. We will discuss more about communicating change in lesson 7.
Strong teams do not need to be micromanaged. If you manage people too closely, you are subjecting them to constant scrutiny. If a team works well together and has a sense of unity, purpose, and pride, including being knowledgeable, you should not have to closely monitor them and continually be on their back. This in turn gives them more freedom knowing the boss is not breathing down their neck all of the time. This sense of independence can also be a great motivator. If you have a team where you feel like you have to make all of the decisions, and expect them to follow your orders like a robot, then you will most likely have a high rate of attrition as it creates an uncomfortable atmosphere. If you have a brand new team of somewhat inexperienced employees, then you do need to manage with more direction, all the while taking full responsibility. However, once everyone understands the goals and functions expected of them, you need to back off and let them act as a true team. Basically, provide more direction and develop the inexperienced group to become a strong team, and let the experienced well functioning group act as the strong team that is already created. It is up to you to determine the skill set and what you have to work with regarding experience and knowledge. Just make sure you make the right decisions on your approach, and do not feel like just because you are the manager, you are expected to re-invent the wheel. Pride sometimes gets in the way because of the management title. You will be more respected if you do not try to fix something that is not broke. Be there in time of need, instead of micromanaging when it is unnecessary. It’s a win/win situation when you have a strong independent team working closely together that does not need to be closely supervised. This frees up time for you to work on other projects that can enhance your department. Don’t feel like you have to hold all of the cards for job security. Sometimes managers feel they are no longer needed if the team is working like a well-oiled machine. That is not the case at all. In fact, you will be recognized for the team you created and most likely given more responsibilities, thus strengthening your position. It may even lead to promotion. Just remember, micromanagement won’t work when teamwork is, and should be, a priority.
Know as much as possible of what your staff does daily.. For example, know how to take a customer call and document it in the ticketing system, or know how to do the basic troubleshooting for repairs. It is human nature for leaders to devote most of their time and energy on the functions they know and perform best. This can be a trap, and it is just a matter of time before you find yourself in a situation where you should have been able to perform the simple task. Keep a list of all of your weaknesses pertaining to what you need to know, and address each issue one-by-one. You should always seek and strive for constant improvement.
Have a clear cut organizational chart. Org charts give a clear reporting structure for all employees to follow. For example, supervisor A and B report to you, the manager. Supervisor A is in charge of Tier 1, and supervisor B is in charge of Tier 2. It should also show your direct report. There is an example of an org chart in lesson 2 that you can use as a guideline.
Remember to think in terms of cost and results. You always have to balance the two together. You have to look for ways to reach the goal with minimal cost.
Chart it out. Make sure you have a white board for mapping projects, prioritizing tasks, sharing ideas, modifying schedules, making seating arrangements, etc. This will be a constant visual reminder for you and applicable staff to see.
Hire, then lead, then monitor, then reward, and finally retain the right people. You will need to get the right people, know their strengths and weaknesses, know what motivates them, know how to set clear expectations, evaluate the persons performance, and when applicable, reward for a job well done. If you understand how to apply this information, your department will succeed and you will have a better chance at keeping the good people. All of these topics will be discussed in greater detail throughout this course.
Brainstorm with key members of your departmentor fellow managers. There is no reason you should feel you need to come up with all of the answers, on the contrary, the more help you can get the better. By brainstorming with key staff members or fellow managers, new and positive ideas that benefit all are usually the outcome. Hear the suggestions, discuss the possible solutions, work on a plan that makes sense, see if you have the necessary resources, think how you will implement the plan, then write it and distribute it to all with clear-cut communication.
Create an effective work environment. Ask your employees what they need to perform to their optimum. It can be a process modification, better tools to get the job done, and even to make their surroundings esthetically pleasing. The goal is to create a positive workplace with as much positive energy as possible.
Follow the same process you expect your team to follow. For example, if you expect detailed documentation to be entered into the company database, then you should not cut any corners if you are the one entering the information.
Keep upper management and financial issues that are considered confidential to yourself. You might think you are showing off by telling some company secrets, but you can get in trouble, not to mention the person you told will always expect future information. This is especially important when it is bad news.
Always be prepared for meetings. Arrive a little early, and have all of the documentation and notes you need for the meeting. Make copies of the pertinent documentation for everyone at the meeting if applicable. You can refer to your notes if you get asked any questions you are not immediately able to answer. Practice and refine your speech if you are expected to present. Practice saying some quips that pertains to certain situations, telling clear and concise short stories, and have a good joke or two to tell when the timing is right. Know when to shorten or stop a speech, and most of all, be clear and precise. A few choice statements will go much further than a lot of mumbo jumbo. Your ability to quickly communicate and have answers to questions from your staff and upper management shows great leadership skills.
Post important information on the wall using large-scale wall charts in clear view for all to see. You and your team should take pride in achieving the goals set. There should be constant reminders around the office on what you are aiming for as far as goals and objectives are concerned. There can also be large boards for the most important customer issues, work schedules, tips of the day, etc. These charts and boards can also be in an electronic format such as a monitor and reader board.
Fully understand the goals of the company. Especially the financial goals. You will get this information from management meetings or from CEO announcements. You need to know the key short-term and long-term objectives. You should be able to answer questions from your staff that relate to these matters.
Fully understand what upper management wants from you. You need to be 100% clear and fully focused on what is expected from you so you can lead your team to achieve these objectives.
Under promise and over deliver. It is better to be honest and state how long a project might take, or if you’re not sure you can do the project at all. Don’t just tell your boss or upper management what they want to hear. You do not want to say you can have something done by the end of the week, when you know darn well it would be near impossible to complete. You do not want to turn in poor work to meet a deadline. By setting a realistic timeframe upfront, and if possible completed a head of schedule - thus over deliver, not only will it make you look good, but will also reduce some stress. Just be careful not to push the requested project too far out in the future. For example, if you are requested to complete a project in the next week, but you come back saying it will take one month; you will look bad and not a team player. You should be more compromising and suggest two weeks if you feel it can be done in that timeframe. The optimum scenario is to be able to adhere to the requested project deadline, but that is not always the case. The point here is that it is better to give a realistic timeframe and hopefully be ahead of schedule, than to agree on a given timeframe and fail.
Make and meet your deadlines. As previously stated, meeting a deadline makes you look good as a manager who plans to get the work done, and leader who inspires to get the work done. Never miss a deadline. Be known as the person who always gets the job done right and on time. Map out the project if needed by using a program like “Microsoft Project”. You can also just map it out by creating a timeframe for each phase. Make sure you prioritize the most important tasks. You would enter these phases on the calendar by putting the project complete date first, and then work backwards. This will help you determine the true start date to be able to hit the project complete date. Make sure to give yourself some leeway and extra time for possible unseen or unplanned complications. If you feel there is a chance you might miss the deadline, you would have to either modify the phases, or let your boss know you will not be able to make the deadline, which would be the absolute worst case scenario.
Have a good understanding of the basics of a business. You should know the functions of each department and how they interact. You should especially know the basics in finance, marketing and sales. You want to be able to understand just what is being said in management meetings. You do not want to feel like you are blinded with science and have no clue on what is being discussed.
Be able to report the statistics that matter. A good leader understands the value of statistics, and a good manager understands the data that matters. You can be sure your boss or upper management will expect you to give reports on your department’s performance. You should add data you feel is important, and eliminate the data that is redundant or not important. These statistical reports are your report card, and you always want to strive for an “A.” You need to make sure the data is 100% accurate, whether the results are good or bad. If the results are good, you help justify your job as manager and will get a good pat on the back. If the results are bad, you have the data to back up what you need to be able to improve. For example, if you have long hold times in your customer service department, and you have absolutely structured your department to its optimum, you can justify hiring more staff. The stats don’t lie and you absolutely need to master all departmental reports. It is highly suggested you become extremely proficient working with spreadsheets.
Hold a meeting with all of your staff on the first day. If you are new to the company or department, you want to establish yourself from day one. Introduce yourself and give them a brief history of your previous work experience, tell them what upper management expects you to do, go over the vision you have for the department, and what it is you expect from them. Let them ask questions, and take notes with immediate follow up to any questions you could not answer upfront. Give a quick summary on all that was discussed. Thank them and close the meeting in a professional manner. Make sure they leave the meeting with the feeling that the future looks good. This will instill confidence and break the ice so you can get started on making your mark.
The first few months on the job… Make sure you meet with key people within your department, ask a lot of questions, and take notes of their suggestions. Take these suggestions and incorporate into new policies and procedures if applicable. It builds rapport and your staff will start feeling like you are going to make some positive changes. This works great if you are following a manager who has not done such a great job. Be careful with this approach if you are following a manager who was loved and respected. Also, turn on your radar to find the complainers who will try and drag you down, as well as the good people who will work hard. Make sure you tell the good people how much you appreciate all of their hard work. Don’t ignore the complainers, however, at least make some small talk. They just might have some insightful information that can help improve processes. Last of all, make sure you nail your first assignments and meet the deadlines given by your boss, no matter how many hours you have to work. You should always meet your deadlines, but it is imperative you do so in the first few months on the job.