Better Managers, Better Employees

by Jill Schaefer on June 18, 2018

What did your best managers do well? What type of manager do you want to be? What gets in the way?

These poignant questions were the icebreakers at a SNP Manager Mojo Training that I recently attended. Our group was full of answers about what it takes to be an effective leader: good communication skills, not micromanaging, caring about our direct reports, being organized, knowing when to push people out of their comfort zones, and so on.

Management Paradoxes
However, we were less clear about how to get from point A to Z. Indeed, we were unsure how to properly navigate the many paradoxes of management.

  • How do we get the best results from ourselves, through our people?
  • How can we be responsible for the work being done without inherently annoying our employees?
  • How can we develop people and evaluate them at the same time?

We all got to our positions because we were strong individual contributors, but the people who report to us may not work the same way we do.

Even those of us who had been managers for 10+ years were about to learn some new tricks thanks to our coaches, Julianne Manske and Cory Caprista.

Top 4 Aha Manager Moments

1) Set and reset expectations with your team.
Ask your employees what they like, dislike, what motivates them, and what they’re looking for in their manager. You don’t have to be a total chameleon, but flexing to their preferences will go further than bulldozing your way through the relationship and expecting conformity to your style. You can define your expectations in the form of 30-, 60-, and 90-day goals working toward annual performance goals.

2) During 1:1s, let your employees run the show.
I meet with some of my employees every other week and another one I meet with every week. I get points for rarely canceling those meetings, giving my full attention, and having my employees set the agenda, take notes, and issue the follow-ups. However, I need to talk less and do more listening during these meetings. To wit, our coaches made us practice active listening, in which we echoed back some of the important things we heard our partner say. Managers should play back what they are hearing to bridge understanding with their employees, “So what I hear you saying is…” “It seems like you’re frustrated…”

3) There are 6 management styles and we should use all of them!
In case you’re wondering, my natural management style is pacesetting — “I’ve got this.” However, that is certainly not what my team always needs, so I need to flex and use the other styles when needed — styles that I may frankly be rusty with.

1. Directive
"Do What I Tell You"
4. Visionary
"This is What I Envision"
2. Affiliative
"People Come First"
5. Participatory
"Let's Hear From Everyone"
3. Pacesetting
"Follow My Lead"
6. Coaching
"Let's Learn"

4) Tough conversations don’t have to turn your stomach in knots. 
Call me crazy, but confrontation isn’t my forte. (Looks like even executives avoid conflict.) SNP gave us a formula to cover difficult topics and not end up with an ulcer.

  • Give 2 examples of the observed performance problem.
  • Share your highest intention with bringing the matter up.
  • Ask the employee why they think the matter is happening.
  • Be an active listener and playback the most important aspects.
  • Work on solutions, but let them go first.
  • Set up the follow-up dates and actions. If possible, have the employee lead this.

Very few of us are natural-born leaders; we have to work at it and that’s OK. Considering that bad bosses are the #1 reason why employees leave, cultivating managers makes a lot of sense. That’s why I welcome all the training and research I can get and am happy to share it with you.

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Jill SchaeferBetter Managers, Better Employees