Stephanie Morgan explores why being a good manager can sometimes be a balancing act.
You have just got into work, the IT system is playing up again and the urgent job that needs to be completed is in jeopardy. One of your team members is being moody (again) and you were planning on concentrating on the new strategy to understand how it is going to impact your team and the work they do.
You know you should find out what is upsetting your team member as well as sort out the IT system issue and get on with the strategy, but instead it would be much quicker if you fixed the IT system yourself… sound familiar?
Being a manager is not easy. Every day you have to problem-solve in order to make sure targets are met and your team remain motivated to produce great results.
Here is the dilemma: the role of the manager means different things to different people. For some, being a manager is about getting ‘the job’ done, whatever the cost. For others, it is about achieving harmony, working together to reach the end goal.
Actually, a good manager needs to achieve a blend of both.
It’s a bit like conducting an orchestra. The audience can see the conductor standing there, pointing to the string section, picking out the percussion, bringing the whole concerto to a tumultuous crescendo.
The conductor ties it all together with a swing of his baton and then, at the end when each musician takes a bow, they act as one orchestra, taking the credit together because it was a team effort. The conductor would be pointless without the musicians, and the musicians would make a disjointed racket without the conductor. It is a symbiotic relationship, and this is what a manager needs to be aiming towards.
They need to have a finely tuned ear to notice when the team or the system is not harmonious is part of the balancing act. Being able to spot when something needs attention, or someone needs coaching or support to keep things flowing, is exactly what managers need to aim for.
A broader view
It’s easy to lose sight of the final destination when you’re caught up in the journey. Things can go awry and processes might not go smoothly, but an effective manager will focus on coaching the team to correct the issues while keeping the bigger picture in mind. This might be as simple as asking themselves questions like:
“What is my end goal here?”
“Where is the business going?
“Is my team happy?”
In changing times, this ability to take a long-term view, keeping one eye on the course and the overall objective (the sheet music), while conducting a happy, functioning team (the orchestra), will stand them in good stead.
Often, newly promoted managers don’t get much in the way of training and support and that means they misunderstand their new role. It is easy to think it is just about getting the job done, but a good manager does more than this.
They motivate, inspire and develop their team. People who naturally manage this way might make it look effortless, but there is a lot of hard work, thought and development going on behind the scenes. There is a saying, ‘fortune favours the prepared mind’ and that is certainly true of effective managers. It takes experience, practice, dedication and effort to nurture a high performing team.
Reaching for the stars
Many businesses don’t put enough emphasis on high-performing teams. They focus on achieving targets and meeting standards in many cases actively questioning managers who claim to have too many high-performers.
A standout manager will aspire to create and develop a high-performing team. They cannot truly reach their potential if the organisation’s culture is constantly holding them back. Ask yourself: does your business ask managers to hit their targets or exceed them? Is it a given that your managers will bring out the best in their people?
To excel, you need to have ambition for your team as well as yourself. It might sound altruistic, but if you come from the perspective of wanting your team to enjoy their work, to always strive to do better than yesterday, to learn from errors and grow together, there is a beauty in that. Developing and encouraging shared motivations, a shared vision for where they are going and what they can achieve for the business, is getting somewhere close to hitting that sweet spot.
So how do you strike that balance? It’s hard to define exactly what a good manager looks like. There are so many tried and trusted models to measure the abilities of managers, time-honoured frameworks to apply and tests one can take. While each of these methods has merit, in my experience it comes down to four simple approaches that I have identified time and again in those managers that get the balance right, and mark themselves out from the crowd.
1. They have clarity
Being clear about the role and understanding that management is more than just getting their job done is key. Brilliant managers understand how the business is running and where they fit into it. They have clarity about how their team fits in, about their own role in the process and the type of culture that promotes good management practices. They know how to get the job done, they are clear about the processes and what needs doing, but they also know that it is the team that will actually achieve the end results.
2. They are ready to question
Brilliant managers who have the balance right, ask brilliant questions and they trust and respect their team’s views. They firmly believe that by asking those pertinent questions they can challenge the team and push them to excel. In turn, that means the team develops and achieves above and beyond the expected.
Ask yourself this, how do you feel when someone asks your opinion and truly listens to your answer? It evokes pride and engagement. When you have a team who are proud of what they bring to the party and are engaged in the process you have a whole new level of performance.
3. They take motivation to a whole new level
It might sound trite, but there is no greater motivation than feeling that someone values you and recognises the value you bring to your role. A brilliant manager lets you know that the job wouldn’t have been completed without your input.
They remind you of how integral you are to the organisation, they acknowledge your issues and help you find solutions. Feeling valued is that little kernel inside each employee that can blossom into brilliance and when the good manager motivates their team, the team will want to do a fantastic job for the manager.
The team don’t dread conversations with a motivating manager, they want to give their views because they know they are being heard. This manager knows that listening to their team, demonstrating that they are valued and allowing them the space to develop, will help them reach their full potential.
It comes full circle, the more skilled and developed the individual is, the more they help the team achieve, the better results they get, the more they want to develop and improve further. A win-win for the individual, the team, the organisation and of course the manager.
4. Sincerity and passion
There isn’t enough human kindness in the workplace. Managers that demonstrate sincerity and a passion for their individual team members elicit the most loyal teams. Those who will go the extra mile, support and challenge each other and celebrate their successes and learn and move on from their difficulties.
Their behaviour and attitude is infectious, they promote engagement and embody it. Joy, for a manager is seeing the cause and effect of the way they operate and the results speak for themselves. Ultimately, they go on to become role models and mentors, which helps enrich the company culture.
Being a manager is harder than most people think, but it can be much more rewarding than it is given credit for. Being a brilliant manager takes passion, skill and commitment, but brings even greater rewards. Brilliant managers don’t just get the job done, they balance that with a passion to ensure that each and every member of their team reaches their full potential.
About the author
Stephanie Morgan is the Director of Learning Solutions at Bray Leino Learning.