New managers, or those aspiring to manage a team, often are looking for a playbook to help them get started.
- How do I build an effective team?
- How do I coach and mentor my former teammates?
- How do I deal with poor performance?
These and many other questions can overwhelm someone just starting to lead a team. And, let’s face it, seasoned managers often need a refresher on some of the basics.
Peter Economy’s book, Wait, I’m the Boss?!?, is exactly that: a roadmap and guidebook for new leaders. If you don’t know him, Peter is a bestselling business book author and ghostwriter with more than 100 books to his credit. He’s also known as Inc.’s “Leadership Guy” because of his many articles on that platform. I spoke to him about his work. How I wish we had an entire day to talk about management and leadership.
4 Things Great Managers Do
What are some of the things that great managers do that distinguishes them from mediocre ones?
Gallup research reveals that bad bosses are the #1 reason why employees quit their jobs. The point is that people know the difference between great managers and mediocre ones. Great managers attract and retain great employees, while the best employees quickly look for new opportunities when they are forced to work with a bad one.
Great managers do four things better than mediocre ones:
Today’s best managers empower their employees directly while establishing systems and processes (creating teams, skills training, and more) and a culture that supports empowerment. In my experience, every employee wants to make a difference—they want their voice to be heard. Give them the opportunity to do just that.
The very best managers inspire and excite employees and colleagues—unleashing the natural energy within them. A great manager knows how to successfully transmit the excitement they personally feel about their company and its goals to employees, and employees get excited and energized themselves—leading to higher levels of engagement and goal attainment.
Great managers are great communicators—they are masters at getting information to employees and other stakeholders in a wide variety of different ways, including e-mail, text messages, tweets, video conferences, messaging platforms such as Slack, and more. And, in times of crisis and uncertainty, communication is more important than ever.
The most successful managers understand that one of their key jobs is to support their people—to provide them with the training, coaching, and other things they need to gain the experience and responsibility they need to do the best job possible and to progress in their careers.
What advice do you have to the new manager who wants just one thing to focus on to start off right?
The biggest problem for new managers is successfully making the transition from being an individual contributor to someone whose job it is to manage a team of individual contributors. The best advice I can give to a new manager is to do everything they can to learn how to be a good—even a great manager. Unfortunately, few organizations—especially small and medium-sized businesses—have any sort of management training. So, the best way to learn is often to seek out a skilled manager in your organization and ask that person to mentor you—to teach you what it takes to be good manager.
What do most managers get wrong during performance reviews?
I believe the #1 thing managers get wrong with performance reviews is that they don’t do them often enough. So, instead of waiting for the formal, annual performance review to give your employees the feedback they need to do a good job, schedule weekly one-on-one meetings with each of your people.
The meeting should last no more than 15 or 30 minutes. During this one-on-one meeting, ask your employee to report his or her progress against quantified goals—measuring performance in terms of quantity is important. This eliminates employee confusion about the quality of their performance or if they need to improve. Then provide your own feedback to the employee—what’s gone well and what hasn’t. Work through ways the employee can improve. Wrap the meeting by asking your employee what their focus will be for the coming week and ask if there’s any support needed from you to help them attain their goals.
That said, if your employee does something that requires immediate feedback—praise for accomplishing a difficult goal, or a correction when a mistake is made—then don’t hesitate to give it right then and there, then bring up during the weekly one-one-one meeting.
When we think of great leaders, what is it that defines the truly great?
The truly great leaders have a number of qualities in common.
First, they are optimistic. In my experience, the very best managers are limitless sources of positive energy. They are intrinsically helpful and genuinely concerned for the welfare of their people, their customers, and the communities in which they do business. They avoid personal criticism and pessimistic thinking—they are supportive of their people and find opportunities to build them up instead of tearing them down.
Second, they are honest and transparent. Great managers treat people the way they want to be treated. They are extremely ethical and believe that honesty, effort, and reliability form the foundation of success. They personally embrace and model these values and provide an example to everyone around them to adopt and emulate themselves.
Finally, they are inspiring. The best managers paint an inspiring vision of the future for their organization and they invite and encourage their people to help them achieve it. They set high but attainable standards and expectations, and they provide them with the support, coaching, tools, training, and latitude to pursue those goals and become the best employees they can possibly be.
What’s just one “Peter Economy” interview tip?
My #1 tip for interviewing a prospective new employee is to do your homework. Far too many managers think they can just “wing it” when it comes to interviewing job candidates and this just isn’t the case at all. The best managers hire the best people by taking time to review the prospect’s resume before the interview, then writing up any questions triggered by this review that you want to get more information on—for example, a long gap between jobs. By following this simple, but powerful interview prescription, managers will be better able to find and hire the very best people for their team.
Why do many managers fail to address an employee who is clearly failing? What advice do you give to that manager?
I believe many managers avoid addressing a failing employee because they aren’t comfortable giving bad news to the people who work for them. Instead of providing a failing employee with the feedback he or she needs to understand there’s a problem that needs to be resolved—and explore how to resolve it—these managers would much rather put off giving negative feedback, or hope the problem will just go away all by itself.
The best managers understand that it’s in the employee’s interest—not just the organization’s—to provide them with candid, honest feedback on their performance.
My advice is to change your attitude—to understand that you are helping your employee and not hurting them by providing them with feedback that is direct and not sugarcoated. Point out to your employee where they are failing, then work closely with them to correct the problem. Do they need more training? Provide it. Do they need more time? Work with them to extend a deadline if possible. Do they need a bigger budget or the help of team members to accomplish a goal? Figure out how to make it happen.
Of course, even given your best efforts, some employees are going to fail—they just aren’t suited to the job. If that’s the case, then find them a different position in the organization. Failing that, then you may have no choice but to terminate them.
How does a leader best encourage a diverse workforce?
Increasing diversity and workplace equality requires effort—at minimum, this means creating and executing a plan that calls for a more diverse and inclusive hiring process. However, the effort is worth it. According to a Boston Consulting Group (BCG) study, companies that have above-average diversity on their management teams have 19 percent higher revenue than those that have below-average diversity leadership diversity. Why? Because they are more innovative than companies with management teams that are not diverse.
Here are some specific things leaders can encourage a diverse workforce:
- Resolve gender inequality. According to recent research conducted by PayScale, in 2020 women make only $0.81 for every dollar a man makes. Over the course of a 40-year career, this amounts to average of $900,000 in lost earnings. As a manager, you have the power to prevent gender discrimination by ensuring equality when hiring new employees or giving promotions and opportunities to existing ones.
- Accommodate physical and mental disabilities. People with physical and mental disabilities can contribute just as much—and sometimes more—than people who don’t have these challenges. Make a point of hiring differently abled people, then provide them with the training and support they need to excel at their jobs.
- Bridge generational gaps. Organizations comprised of people of a wide range of age groups can naturally stratify into cliques and social circles that isolate workers. Be alert to this tendency and make a point of fostering an open communication culture that builds and maintains teamwork across all age groups.
- Address cultural differences. Employees with different cultural, ethnic, or religious backgrounds often face prejudice in the workplace—they need your support, and the support of your management team. Prejudice should of course never be tolerated, so be sure to immediately counsel any employee who engages in it. Also, as a manager, you should implement policies that prevent prejudice, while offering employees training in diversity awareness and cultural sensitivity.
- Accommodate all beliefs. It’s true: a diverse workplace brings along with it diverse cultural, political, and spiritual beliefs—many of which may be unfamiliar or even a bit scary to those who aren’t familiar with them. Remind employees that they shouldn’t judge others whose beliefs are different than their own, and they should be respectful and accepting of their coworkers—no matter what their beliefs may be.
For more information, see Wait, I’m the Boss?!?.
Image Credit: June O