If you are like most managers today, you get in a 9am and are lucky to be done by 7pm, and you’ve only crossed one or two things off your To Do list. You don’t want to micro-manage your team, but it can feel like herding cats.
You are not alone. Most companies today don’t have the time or resources to train junior employees to work autonomously, or give managers on their way up the education that can help them truly manage and motivate their teams. The good news is that it’s figureoutable.
There are several secrets I use to help clients regain the freedom to focus on their own work, while they support their teams to own and reach their goals.
Secret #1 – Know the Strengths and Weaknesses of Each Person on Your Team (including you!) and stop trying to make everyone good at everything.
In school we’re trained to get good grades in everything. Work’s not like that. Your job as a manager is to figure out which role you, then each team member, will do best.
- What are you good at and how do you contribute to your team and your company? Take the Gallup Strengths Finder 2.0. Then spend some time connecting what you’re good at to the good work you’ve done in the past. This small awareness is a huge confidence booster.
- Think about what each of your team members is good at.
- Some people like to figure out what to do, then get it done. Give this person projects you are doing for the first time, where the roadmap is not totally clear. Like a product launch for a new category, or a presentation to a new client.
- Others love to come up with ideas and talk about all the good stuff that’s possible. Let these people brainstorm — they may imagine something no one else thought of.
- Some people will roll up their sleeves and do anything, as long as they feel connected. Let these people work together and with other departments to get things done, and to pause at the water cooler now and then; they are like glue that can keep your team connected.
- And don’t forget the people who are amazing at detail. Sometimes it feels like all they know how to say is ‘no,’ but they’re great at seeing the mistakes you want to avoid. Let them “kick the tires” at the start and end of your project to make sure it has the quality and detail you want.
Check out Belbin Team Role Inventories, to help your team “divide and conquer.”
Secret #2 – Know what motivates each of your team members
Managers often make the mistake of thinking that they should be the same with everyone. Avoid playing favorites, but do realize that different people want different things. I suggest sitting down with each of them and answering these questions:
What do they want to achieve in career?
What do they want in their personal life?
What motivates them?
What gives them a sense of purpose?
What are they good at?
What would make them better at their job?
Do they want public recognition, or a quiet lunch with you or your boss?
Secret #3 – Know how to give feedback that is welcome and effective
- Be generous and specific with positive feedback. Research shows that we learn best when we use the neural pathways connected to our strengths. If you want your team members to do something differently, first point out the specific things that come naturally to them. Not, “Great job!” but “Thank you for bringing that extra research to the meeting. It was so helpful to be able to give the client a thorough answer.”
- For difficult feedback, focus on what their behavior does to you. Instead of, “Why don’t you ever proofread your work!” try, “When I find mistakes in a presentation and we are close to the deadline, it makes me very anxious. There are so many moving parts to what we do and I don’t have time to proofread and get it all done.” If the person becomes defensive, denies or blames someone else, just stay calm, listen without judgment, and when you can, repeat your feedback. It can feel tense. You may go back and forth a few times, but hopefully you will both get to a place where you can have a productive discussion about some solutions.
- And finally, be good at receiving feedback. If someone pays you a compliment, let them know you appreciate it. If you brush it off, they won’t do it again. And if they give you difficult feedback, also say thank you. If it makes you uncomfortable, let them know you’d like to think it over. Don’t deny or get defensive. Remember that they are watching you — so model good behavior. Come back to them in a day or two with your thoughts.
Secret #4– Be real with your team members
A client named Heather was experiencing high turnover in her team and knew she was too harsh and demanding. What I discovered interviewing her team is that when she was relaxed, they loved her! They said things like, “When we are at off-sites and Heather is relaxed, she is so much fun! If she could only be like that more of the time.” Heather was so anxious about getting her work done that she spent most of her time focused on what her team still hadn’t gotten done. She’d lost them.
We focused on letting “Off-site Heather” show up more consistently. She shared with her team that she was working on changing her intense behavior. She practiced smiling more and using her sense of humor, saying things like, “Uh oh, here comes the General. Better take a moment and step back.” In those step back moments, she and the team said one or two things that were going well, then moved on to discussing the work at hand.
We also worked on having Heather feel more confident and less defensive. She spent time each week writing down her wins. She also spent some time writing down what she feared might go wrong. Just to get it out of her system.
So. Much. Better. Remember, her team wanted her to be fun more of the time, not all of the time. Her efforts meant so much to them. They learned not to take her intense moments personally, and those moments shifted to how much she cared about their collective success. With that, they were much more willing to roll up their sleeves and collaborate with her.
Being real doesn’t have to be weird or end in a pile of public tears. It’s different for everyone, but here are a few things to get started:
- Smile more
- Share about your tough weekend
- Apologize! If you overreacted or were unprofessional, say you’re sorry
- If you need alone time or a break, say so. It tells the team you are real and lets them stop wondering why you look unhappy or dissatisfied
- Write down the stuff that you are afraid of/worried about, so it stops derailing you
Those are my four secrets to motivate your team and get them doing an amazing job!