One of the TOP 3 reasons why people leave their jobs is a poor manager. And most other employees are also heavily affected by such managers. So when my boss told me a few years ago that he would like to give me the opportunity to build and lead a team, I knew I didn’t want to be the reason why people left me and my team. During my professional career, I had already seen lots of bad managers and what they did to their team members. I knew that I didn’t want to be like them.
Everyone knows that managing people is not an easy task – it’s far easier to manage complex machines than to manage a bunch of independent-minded humans. Despite this fact, managing your team is as important as managing an entire company, because people make up the company.
The importance of being in sync with the people you manage can never be emphasized enough. When you are effective as a manager, it is easier for you and the people who work for you to achieve the goals you have both set out to achieve. But being a good leader always requires effort and some sacrifice in your life.
On the other hand, being a bad manager is the easiest job and requires hardly any effort at all.
When my boss gave me an opportunity to lead a team, I started reading lots of books about leadership, how to lead people, how to be a good manager and what to do and what not to do. I also read lots of articles with titles like “Top 5 Qualities That Make A Great Leader” or “What Makes an Effective Leader”, etc. And after this reading, I quickly realized that if I followed all the advice in these books and articles, I would probably end up with a split personality or go insane. I’m not saying these were bad books or articles, but one book would say one thing and the next book deny it. But I took some inspiration from these books/articles. I also took inspiration from my boss and then added tips of my own.
I also need to admit one thing: I really don’t like the word “Manager”. I associate this title with “managing people”, and I believe that people should get space to use their knowledge and not be managed or micromanaged. The role of manager should be connected more with the word “leader” because the manager should be leading the team, and not micromanaging it. And, as everybody knows, every company has lots of managers, but not enough leaders who can lead and inspire teams. Giving trust to the team, a sense of ownership and enough responsibilities to use their knowledge and experience should be the main responsibility of the managers. The second thing shoulbe be helping the team members rise and shine, and being there for them if they screw something up. And they will screw things up at the same rate as you screwed them before.
Learn the easy way, or the hard way
They are not you!
Never compare yourself with your team! When you first get people into your team, don’t expect that they will be doing the same things at the same quality, speed, etc. as you. If you set up these expectations, you will feel unsatisfied with their work, because they can’t do things at the same level as you. Every person is unique and also expecting that your team will spend the same long hours at work as you, just because you do it, is foolish. If you don’t realize this, the mood in the team will change and people will leave you because they’ll feel that nothing they do will be good enough for you.
Leave your ego at home
There will be many situations in which you are not going to be right. And if you trust your team, they will tell you. It happens to me, and at the start, it was tough to admit it (you know, men’s ego), so if I wasn’t right I just swallowed the bitter pill and apologized. I could be a manager who says “My opinions may have changed, but not the fact that I’m right.” But this would not help anybody.
You are not working alone
When you are working alone, you try to do the best job so the praise for the work done goes directly to you. When you have team members, you need to stop worrying about who gets the credit or praise for the work done. Continue working to give your best, share the success and hold the shield if problems occur. It’s your team. Don’t forget that as a leader, you succeed only through the efforts of your team. Just because you’re in charge doesn’t mean you deserve all the credit for the work being done. If your team and individual team members made something great, you as a leader should appreciate it and not take credit for it.
Improve on communicating, not talking
It’s important that you understand that the way you express your thoughts to your subordinates and coworkers makes a difference in how you are viewed and to the attainment of your goals. If for example, you are managing a small team, it pays to smile, maintain eye contact and genuinely listen to the opinions of your team members, irrespective of their education, experience or ideas. Doing this will make people more open and create an environment of mutual respect. Bear in mind this saying: “Bad managers tell what you need to do, good managers ask for help and explain why.” So always ask, don’t tell.
Ensure you keep to your word
Trust is one of the most important things in any team! If you don’t trust your team and your team members, how you can work with them? And if you trust them, you also expect the same from them. No one likes a manager who promises a bonus at the end of the month and then gives a story about how it won’t be possible. They aren’t going to like you either if you make the rules and then bend them when you are almost caught in their web. Trust is one of the most important things between manager and their subordinates. It’s important for people to be able to take your words to the bank. If you say you’re going to come through, be sure to keep your promise.
Sometimes circumstances may keep you from fulfilling a promise, and that is why you should only make a commitment when the probability of achieving it is good. Some circumstances you cannot influence, so if you promise a bonus, promotion, etc. and circumstances change, you need to explain what happened and why you cannot fulfill your promise. If you start to sugarcoat bad news, you’re on the way to the point where your team is going to stop trusting you. Bad things happen and good things happen, but a good leader who trusts his team is honest and can explain even bad news.
Sometimes I compare good leadership with a relationship. If you start hiding things and start telling small lies, or you stop sharing anything, you create small ripples in trust and it will end in a breakup. There is saying: “Good communication is key to a successful partnership” – and the same goes in a team. The team will understand if there are some things you can’t share because they are confidential. They will trust your judgment, and they will trust you in the end.
“Don’t talk, just act. Don’t say, just show. Don’t promise, just prove.”
Have a positive outlook
There are lots of angry bosses out there who yell and frown at the slightest thing. It is the belief of many leaders that being rough and tough will make people do their work more efficiently, but this isn’t true. If you’re still using that sugar-and-whip method, don’t waste your time on asking why your team members are leaving you.
You will be a better leader when you have a positive demeanor and a positive outlook on things that affect the organization. Your team is helping you to rise and shine because you are helping them do the same thing. If your team is doing a great job, others will think that it is because of you. If your team is not doing the best job, it’s also your responsibility.
It’s important to compliment your staff when they do the right thing. Appreciate someone who has done something worthy of commendation, and see how this spurs other staff to do good work. Maintaining a positive vibe on your team can help your team members rally around you and your vision since they trust that you believe in them and their ability to achieve the team goals.
Empower your staff to make decisions
In a small business, it is very easy to be the only one who calls the shots. This may give you the impression of having a grip over things, but in fact, it makes your subordinates feel less-empowered, like sitting ducks. In bigger companies, the point of being a leader is to train others to be good at their jobs to the extent that even if you are in a coma for a year, the organization will still be able to function effectively. How can you do this? Allow them to make decisions and act as an overseer. Even if they make a wrong decision or handle a situation in a way you don’t agree with, you shouldn’t chastise them (at least, not in public). You should instead use it as an opportunity to train them. Allow them to state the reasons for their actions before dissecting it. Doing this might help you see that there is a logical basis for their decisions. I believe that if I hired somebody to my team and that person failed, 50% of his/her failure is my fault because I could have done something better to help that person to be more successful.
Always be present
As a leader, you want to be present and available to help out in the achievement of goals. The worst thing you can do is to set up goals, then hide in your office. Or, if you have remote teams, to set the goals and not be reachable.
Being present and reachable is part of being a good leader. If you are not there for your team, if you don’t listen and be there when your team needs you, they will find another team leader somewhere else. Again, it’s the same as in a relationship. If you are not investing your time in it and being present during discussions with your significant other, somebody else will be.
They will leave you one day
When you hire new people into your team, you should also consider how long the person is going to stay with you and consider the possibility that they will leave you one day.
They may stay for years, but one day they will look for some new opportunity or new challenge that you or the company won’t be able to offer. The can have many reasons for wanting to leave.
And I know that I don’t want to be a reason. That’s why I have a secret agenda. (Well, it won’t be secret from now on.) 🙂 There are two things I always try to do, and I am not saying that they are right things. First, I try to be a leader and not a manager. I personally don’t like to micromanage, so I try to “spoil” my team members on that level so if they leave me one day, it will be because of some better opportunity and not because of a better manager. The second part of my agenda is that if they leave me, I want to be sure that what they learned from me will help them be successful in their new role.
One simple leadership rule
As the title of this article suggests, I need to mention “one leadership rule”. My friends sometimes ask me what I think makes a person a good manager and how to be a good manager. I always say this, which is also my leadership rule: “Don’t be a manager, be a leader and never act like an asshole.”
There are lots of things I still need to learn, and there have been and will be lots of times when I will fail. But when you have a team, it works like a relationship: if you’re not communicating with your partner, everything goes south. If you’re not taking care of your team, they will leave. They can still leave you for a higher salary or better opportunity, but if you’re taking care of them, they won’t leave you for a better manager.
You will discover that there are several ways to be a good manager/leader. You will experiment and test different strategies and see that different strokes work for different folks. Managing other people is a great way to manage and develop yourself, as you will find that leading others will help you improve many of your own interpersonal skills.
Note: In this article, I mention a few examples from my career. I did this not to show that I am doing something better or worse than others; it’s because I prefer to share things from real life rather than using generic phrases like “Most managers do ..” or “Only good leaders do…” , “Bad leaders do xyz …” etc. I’m also not saying I’m leader who does everything right because this can be assessed only by the people I lead. So, if you’re planning to comment on this article, bear in mind that I have a few years’ experience as a leader and have many years ahead of me to learn and improve. I’m sure there are many things I’m still not doing correctly – but I’m trying to find my way.