In today’s flat, lean organizations, many individual contributors assume that they don’t need to be led or managed. We sometimes think that people can work alone, motivate themselves, and figure out every problem without input from others. So why is management still relevant?
Because individual contributors are working so hard on their own tasks, they might not be able to see the big picture like a manager would. They may also occasionally become discouraged and need someone to give them an outside perspective. Plus, they might need additional training that a manager can provide. In short, everyone needs a mentor or a leader. Great managers can give us vital outside leadership and perspective that we can’t get anywhere else.
Frontline and mid-level managers may also need more professional development and encouragement to be successful in their roles. They could benefit from learning more about the responsibilities of management, the influence of managers, and the specific skills they could improve upon to be more effective.
Here are seven ways managers can positively influence their team members and play a vital role in their work lives.
1. Build Loyalty
When employees reflect on the importance of management in their career development, they often remember the managers who really cared about them. Showing that you care is the top way that managers can build loyalty in their team members. This can come across in a number of ways:
- Having regular one-on-one meetings: Schedule a private conversation with your team members at least once per month, if not more often. Help them with problems, find out how they want to develop in their careers, and learn more about them personally.
- Supporting them during failures: All people need some level of unconditional support. If you only praise great successes, your team members may think you won’t support them if they make mistakes. Praise them for trying and failing as well, and focus on what can be learned from the setback.
- Helping to establish work-life balance: People need time to take care of themselves physically (such as going to the doctor), but they also need to take care of themselves in other ways. Support a healthy work-life balance by ensuring that the workload is spread evenly across the team, even taking on extra work yourself if necessary. Just remember that your work-life balance also matters and the example you set goes a long way.
2. Motivate Team Members When They Struggle
When team members struggle to motivate themselves to perform well, what do you do? Do you try to fix their behaviors and attitudes? Do you argue with them about why they should shape up? A better approach is to help unlock the motivation that already exists inside the person, removing obstacles to their productivity through these steps:
- Get more data: Get to know a demotivated employee personally. Is there a personal issue sapping their energy? What does he or she like and dislike, both in general and on the job? How do they describe themselves? How do they see their manager (you)? How are their relationships with other members of the team? Are you or other team members doing something that drains their energy?
- Search for multiple resolutions: Rather than just trying to change the person, brainstorm alternative solutions. Would different tasks fit their personality better? Do they have a skill that isn’t being utilized? Would a different management approach make them happier and more productive at work?
- Have a meeting: Schedule a meeting focused on asking questions, testing your assumptions, and searching for resolutions together. Be clear that the situation can’t continue as it has been but that you are open to exploring various positive, win-win outcomes.
3. Understand Team Members’ Strengths & Delegate Accordingly
Many beginning leaders have trouble delegating but it’s something all leaders must learn to do. Frontline team members can’t see the entire picture of all the work to be done along with all the different strengths and skills of their team members. A good manager has these insights and understands that to be most effective, the workload must be distributed across the team.
Leaders have the information required to make an inventory of all the abilities that their team has to offer—and then split the team’s current duties between them, based on individual skills and organizational goals.
This can make the entire team more efficient, saving everyone’s time. It can also make team members more confident and build their competencies, allowing them to contribute to the team in more and better ways.
4. Empower Team Members to Innovate
Innovation is vital to every organization. Part of your workforce’s time should be spent generating new ideas and approaches to keep up with the pace of change today. Management can make an impact on the business’ success by encouraging innovation. Try these methods to support a culture of innovation at work:
- Make innovation a habit: Let team members schedule a percentage of their time each week to be used for experimentation (or even daydreaming).
- Stretch their minds: Stimulate their creativity by periodically engaging them in projects they wouldn’t normally do.
- Create a way to submit ideas: Give your colleagues a simple channel to share ideas and projects they want to pursue. Make sure they know how to use it and feel safe doing so.
5. Train Teams for Professional Growth
Employees are often focused on their work and don’t spend much time thinking about how to improve their skills and knowledge, especially if they already feel overloaded. It can take the influence of a manager to get them to look up from their work and pursue training that can advance their careers.
You can provide managers with training to help them delegate, increase profit, solve problems, motivate others, and be more confident as a manager. For individual contributors, you can meet with them to find out more about their career goals and then provide training that will support those goals.
6. Coach for Performance and Growth
Coaching team members for results is one of the most rewarding yet challenging parts of being a manager, and it shows why management is important to an organization. Effective coaching requires empathy, emotional awareness, negotiation skills, and other leadership abilities. Managers can coach better by keeping certain principles and practices in mind:
- Show support: Always start by showing you want the best for others, you like them as people, and you genuinely support them.
- Be candid: Explain how you truly see things, being kind and non-judgmental while also giving all the facts and observations needed to help form an opinion of the opportunity for improvement or growth.
- Explain the impact: Paint a big-picture perspective for a team member, such as how their behavior positively and negatively affects the team, other departments, and the organization.
- Create next steps: Build a plan together, get the coachee’s feedback and ideas, and schedule a follow-up conversation.
7. Lead Workplace Communication
A manager can model and encourage the type of communication that is healthiest for each individual and the whole team. You can certainly schedule weekly and monthly meetings with each team member. But daily communication—and quickly returning their calls, texts, and emails—can keep them even more engaged. You should consistently be aware of what they are working on, know them personally, and encourage them to communicate any needs they have.
Develop Your Strengths
At CMOE, we know the importance of management and leadership and have dedicated our careers to developing and delivering high-quality learning experiences. If you want to improve your management and team-building abilities—such as communication skills, conflict management, or coaching, just to name a few—browse our catalog of training opportunities, both for yourself and your team members.