How to Become a Better Manager: 4 Practical Tips

Become a Better Manager: 4 Tips
January 21, 2020
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Whether you’re a Team Leader or a CEO, it’s good to set time apart to self-reflect and plan ahead. Few leaders have accomplished great things without their teams. Chances are that you have already established a healthy rhythm to talk with your employees about how things are going. Perhaps they have already given you open, direct and honest feedback about how you can be a better leader. If you need tips to improve, we listed 4 tips:

1. Put employee morale time on your agenda

Here’s a hands-on tip for how to become a better leader: Open up your calendar right now and block some team-time every week, for the full year. Use this time to connect with your team.

This tip comes from a Manager who has really, really nailed nurse engagement at their hospital. Her best advice? Get to know your team members.

Every week for about 10-15 minutes they take #TeamTime. The goal is for you as a leader to get to know your team members. But an equally important goal is for your team to get to know each other well too!

On a designated day, which in their case is Thursday, they take time out and perform Team building exercises:

“For several weeks we did a Show and Tell, which was well-received. People would bring in their collections, or tell a story about themselves. One lady brought in her knitting of scarves, and hats. We also just do little team building exercises that everyone seems to enjoy.”

“One week we did an exercise that was low/high impact with up-beat music. We played MadLib Mission Statement game, as well as The Barter Puzzle, Truth/Lie. Here is the link to a few of the games they employed over the last 7 months.”

During national ‘Nurse Week’ the team got 100% employee mood each day. One of their activities was Crazy sock day. How did these teambuilding exercises contribute to employee wellbeing? The Nurse Leader says that before their team was somewhat isolated. When they merged with another team, new needs emerged:

“Now we are coming together to perform these activities, and everyone looks forward to this weekly activity. It promotes good attitudes!” the Nurse Manager concludes.

Stuff to reflect on:

– How many hours did you set apart last quarter for your team?
– What events worked well, taking into account your company culture, or your team members? Which activities could be improved?
– What does your team think is “fun”? I.e. what is the equivalent of bringing in your knitting kit to a team-building exercise? Or silly socks day?
– What new things would you like to test this month?

2. Be Transparent

The reason why the Nurse Manager started with the weekly team exercises was that she noticed a slight drop in their weekly employee morale score.

Their Employee Mood KPI would normally be over 90%. They then went through an 8 week time period where they were having to flex people off. Employees had to use their vacation time, or not get paid. Needless to say, her employees did not like that… and the Employee Mood dropped to 85%.

As a leader, there will always be bumps on the road ahead. The question is how you choose to handle it. What actions do you DECIDE to take? Being a better leader is about choices. Not doing anything, is also a decision.

We see many managers who hide behind a closed door when problems approach. Some avoid the burning topic altogether, whereas others blame Top Management to make themselves look better.

How Robyn, the Nurse Manager, handled her situation is what makes her such a great manager. She opened up an open, honest, face-to-face conversation with her team:

“Being transparent about the situation, my team were aware that all other departments were going through the same thing. Having open communication about everything helped them to understand that it is not just them. Nobody was getting ‘picked on’ and it just seemed to help to have the open conversations about what everyone was experiencing, how they were feeling,” Robyn states.

This is how you build trust. And trust is one of the key things that help you become a better leader.

The impact of these conversations was also mirrored in their mood data.

“People were telling me that they are having a good day at work, especially on Thursday’s with team-building exercises”, she finishes. This was also clear in the data.

Stuff to reflect on:

– What can you be more transparent about next month?
– What topics could you have handled differently this quarter?
– Who could you ask for help to improve?
– Which people on your team are already being transparent and honest in your team? How can you “copy” their behavior and spread it to the other team members?
– Did you lose someone’s trust lately? How did that make you feel?

3. How to be a better leader: Don’t fake it

Do you bring your whole self to work? Someone wise once said: “Be yourself, everyone else is already taken”. Who are you at work?

No one says you have to be the exact same person as you are when you’re cooking up a barbecue with your friends. Then again, no one says you have to put on an act to be the stereotypical “boss” either.

If you wanna do better than the average manager, you have to talk with your people about what is going on. But if you’re hiding behind some idea about what a manager “should” be like, chances are you will come across as fake.

Do you hide your own mistakes, or do you hide them? Do you lead by example?

Here’s a quote from Mark C Crowley’s excellent book about how to be a better leader. Lead with your heart, not just with your mind:

“Most of us were taught that the heart acts like Kryptonite in leadership: it inherently undermines a manager’s effectiveness – and lowers productivity and profitability.”

Now is as good a time as any to start improving something that makes your staff think about not coming into today’s night shift, or apply to the manufacturer across the street that are hiring employees.

And according to Josh Bersin, companies that are inclusive are 1.7 times more likely to be innovation leaders in their respective market.

Stuff to reflect on:

– Would you show more of your “true” self with your team? If not, what stops you?
– Are your employees used to seeing top leaders walking around, chatting with people at all levels? If not, it might make some people uneasy. Don’t fake your approach, just be yourself and make the most of it.
9 classes to help you create a diverse, inclusive, and supportive team here
– More about ethical leadership here
– Authentic leadership is the single strongest predictor of an employee’s job satisfaction

4. LISTEN

So this sounds pretty basic, right?

Thing is, one thing we notice in our employee mood data is that many employees don’t feel listened to.

Sometimes it’s not about identifying what needs to be fixed in your work culture (“the new machinery breaks down an average 3 times per shift!”). Sometimes it’s simply about FEELING that you are being listened to. This is also why team building exercises are so effective: People feel like you care about them.

For example. If I’m an employee who’s been complaining to my team for the last two weeks that management isn’t doing anything to fix “the new machinery which I have to restart every hour”, then more things come into play than just getting maintenance to fix the machine.

It’s not just about finding out what the problem is. It’s also about how we got here. How can we avoid similar things happening again? What should we – as a team – stop, start and continue doing?

When you have a leadership style that includes active listening and a hands-on attitude, then people will come to you. Not to get their problems fixed, but to bounce things with you, to see how THEY can solve the situation at hand.

”If you see something, bring it up”, is how a Factory Manager at BASF put it. He simply asks, ”How do you see improvement possible?” “When our employee mood is good, the productivity is better”, he states. And what good leader doesn’t want more profits?

When you talk with your employees, you forge bonds. Good leaders are high on compliments – and low on criticism.

Nothing is better than a face to face conversation when it comes to how to be a better leader. But if an employee prefers to be anonymous, you could have an old-school suggestion box, or give it a twist.

Stuff to reflect on:

– How many hours a week do you set aside to walk around and just listen to what people have to say? Do you listen more than you talk?
– Are you creating future leaders among your team?
– How can you ask better questions?
– If you put a suggestion box, how will you promise people to followup on the messages?
More info on Management by Walking Around by Forbes here.
– Do your people look forward to you coming up to them to talk? Do they like your weekly meetings?

Hope you liked our 4 practical tips become a better manager! How many will you put to action?

About the author:
Rebecca Lundin is the co-founder of Celpax. She spends her days helping employees press green smileys instead of red ones. Celpax manufactures devices to measure employee morale, helping leaders in 60 countries improve their workplaces.

Image: (https://www.pexels.com/photo/women-sitting-beside-white-wooden-table-1181609/)

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