If this was a conversation with your most trusted advisor or confidant, maybe your spouse or a friend, maybe a priest or a therapist, what would you answer? If you knew there was no possible wrong answer and the question itself was only meant to help YOU as a manager, what would you say?
Would it be a surprise if I told you most managers say “I don’t know”? Remember, there is no wrong answer here so you can just say “yes” or “no” if you want, nobody will never know…but still, what was your answer?
It’s no wonder, really, that sometimes we just don’t know if we are helping our employees or not: there’s so much to do every single day ranging from answering emails, running reports to endless meetings and calls. We do it all as part of our day-to-day, but how does it translates into help for those that work for us?
I’ve found that sometimes even when I’m 100% certain I am doing something for my team…I’m not necessarily doing it. It’s not really related to a judgment call but to the actual fact that sometimes when you’re battling everyday stuff it gets harder to remember and act upon my personal Maxim: “Always for the Team”
So here’s a quick guide, just notes that might help you figure out if you are indeed helping your team out as much as you think you are. They are based on my experience of course so please feel free to comment based on your experience as either a manager or an employee:
Respect them, always. The key aspect, the milestone of it all: show them respect, never chastise them in front of others (unless absolutely needed) and learn to motivate them instead of just penalizing them when they make mistakes. I’ve seen employees so upset because their managers never showed respect to them that they never achieved their potential working for that manager or just went out and looked for another job.
Just think of this point right here as a binary one in a multiplication operation: you either respect them or you don’t. If you do, then that’s a “1” so if you respect them you’ll be working for them. If you don’t respect them, then it’s a “0” so you basically won’t be working for them, just for your own good.
Don’t be an “Excel manager”. That is unless your sole management purpose is to administer spreadsheets, there’s no way you can know what’s going on with your team, what they need or want, what’s working and what’s not for them unless you start talking and listening to them. You are supposed to be their first “go to” person and holding an open door policy does not help if you don’t step out through it first.
There’s an easy way to know if you’re an Excel manager: just ask your team if they know what color of pants or shoes you’re wearing. If they can’t answer that it’s because you’re basically spending too much time behind a desk instead of with them.
Earn their trust and share with them. I don’t mean personal stuff but rather organizational topics, business trends or anything that will encourage them to talk to you. It is important that you are the first to share so they canshare back. Why is that important? Well, basically because if you are going to make good things happen to them you need to earn their trust first and that’s not happening if they see you as this tough wall that never gives back anything.
The more you share about business and your experience with them, the more you are working for them. Don’t give them a lecture, rather share a specific story or experience you had and ask them to share one back.
Plan with them, not for them. Might be a little radical, I know but hear me. We are used to plan, you know what I mean: create big complex strategies that consider people as “resources” as if they were chairs or printers. We are used to moving them around as much as we need and usually never make them a part of that. There is a reason for it and there’s a reason why managers do that of course: you are meant to Lead and sometimes Leading means setting a direction and to do that a Leader needs a plan.
You don’t need to pull them in every time you work on your plan. Truth be told, if you shared all the little details, movements and processes needed to run the team, you might never see the end of it. That’s not what I mean but actually: don’t keep your team on the back of your mind but rather make them a priority in any plan you draw.It doesn’t matter if you’re thinking on growing the team or developing a new product, the best way to make certain whatever you plan will be well received is to be fully aware (as in consciously aware) of them.
I believe that if you keep those 4 points present most things you’ll do will actually help your team one way or the other one.
But it doesn’t end there as you might be wondering about more specific stuff. Well, here’s a quick bullet list for you. If you are doing any or many of these, it’s very likely you are not helping your team at all.
The list can go on and on but I guess you get the picture, no matter if you are a manager or not. Those are common mistakes actually that sometimes we make so I invite to think about this differently: how often do you make them if you do, and when you do them how do you feel about making them? If you never felt doing any of that as a mistake or a bad thing to do…then how can you ever work for them?