If your team management skills require you to hit the refresh button, following are some areas that you can focus on:
1. Seek out a mentor
Whoever said “it’s tough at the top” was very likely a manager. One of the downsides of management can be the lack of constructive feedback around your ideas: Increasingly, people tend to fall into one of two camps – either praising even your bad ideas now because you’re the boss; or being hyper-critical as a way to further their own agenda. Neither is truly helpful to the manager, who like any time in their career, needs a sounding board for their ideas, and some constructive inputs as to how they might be improved.
A mentor should ideally be ego-free: And willing to say “yes that’s perfect, go for it” when the idea doesn’t need much discussion – yet also be enabled to call a dog a dog when the idea really falls flat. Note that ideally, this person should not be your husband, wife or partner: As this might compromise their “duty of support”, and invite conflict.
If you’re looking to approach someone you know, keep the following tips in mind:
- Choose the right mentor – Be sure that the person you are seeking out is in a position to help you and isn’t too busy with their own commitments.
- There’s a correct way to approach them and it isn’t via email. Find a way to meet with them face-to-face or, at the very least, over the phone. First impressions matter.
- As the scouts say, ‘Be Prepared’ – Know what you want out of the relationship, why you’re choosing that particular person and how you feel they would be able to help you.
- Be prepared for a ‘No’ – just because you’ve chosen a mentor, doesn’t mean they have to choose to accept the role. A mentor needs to be 100% committed to the task and should you sense any hesitation on their part, move on.
2. How do you make money?
The so-called “key driver” approach to business priorities is a smart and progressive one. It strips away all the noise and asks, at its core, what three factors have the biggest single input on your bottom line? The answers might be strikingly diverse: And could include an exchange rate; a season or time of the week; a specific product; an exchange rate; or a specific salesperson or relationship. Understanding what drives the 80% will, in turn, make you aware of things you’re doing for reasons other than profit – surely a great place to start when making changes.
3. Set goals and targets realistically
How exciting is it to reach a target as a team? And how dispiriting, to constantly miss that target? Then think, why would a manager ever set targets that demoralises their team? Why indeed: But it happens all the time. A manager should look at what a team needs to achieve and then what is realistic and find the balance, however, hitting a target should never feel extremely easy.
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4. Incentivise problem-solving
Listening is great: And of course, there is a place for letting people let off steam. But the gold-dust for a manager is the person who comes to you not only with the problem but with their solution to it, which you can then rubber-stamp. Don’t take this for granted: Rewarding and incentivising ownership and problem-solving will earn you leadership across the floor, and equip you to give enough time to the big issues on your plate.
Avoiding the pitfalls of management, including hypocrisy, complacency and inconsistency are also important. Importantly, don’t frame the idea as your own: Giving credit where it’s due will earn you more points where it’s due, and earn you allies when you need them. Remember teaching people how to solve their own problems teaches them how to think critically, rather than just resolving a specific issue.
5. Seek data and stories
Data is a valuable tool to every manager, and where possible, is the lifeblood of an effective business. But data can not only tell a story, it can also hide a lot of stories. Spending time on the production floor or on the front line, talking about the product being produced and being genuinely interested in and open to the answer, will help you become smokescreen-proof as a manager.
And also, help you to…
6. Be customer-obsessed
The hardest for a manager and yet possibly the most important factor, is to have an accurate and up-to-date understanding of your customer, and their relationship to your product. If your customers are falling out of love with your product, divorce may not be immediate. Maybe your competitor’s product is not yet widely available, or perhaps your pricing is protecting your inferior product.
Staying close to the customer, however, will help you to not only fix the problem for the right reasons but also identify other customer-problems that your innovators can work to solve – voila, your next product.
Managing a team is both a challenge and a reward and rising up to the occasion requires you to think outside the box. Taking these steps will ensure you and your team succeeds.