Whether you are working alongside your direct reports or viewing them through a window from your corner office, managing people can be challenging.
After all, people are messy. They don't come in neat little packages tied up with pretty ribbons. They come with perspectives, attitudes, histories, talents and stumbling blocks.
As a manager, you are supposed to be in contact with your direct reports on a regular basis. But what if you find yourself avoiding those connections? A manager that avoids managing? Stranger things have happened.
You may be avoiding a difficult conversation with an employee who is not performing well. Or, you may have someone on your staff who is brilliant and creative but completely abrasive. You love what he does for the company but would rather do a "Starbucks run" for the entire department than rub elbows with his prickly skin.
Perhaps you are a bit of a perfectionist? If this is the case, you may avoid delegating some of the items on your to-do list because who wants to fix the mistakes your employees are bound to make? Nice rationale but it takes you out of your primary role, as manager.
In the short run, avoidance feels like a relaxing hot bath.
Relief and relaxation abound as you sit at your desk NOT talking to your employees. But if you begin to take that relaxing bath every day, you will soon find yourself underwater - drowning in department dis-function, team dissatisfaction and too much work.
Here are 4 Steps to Get You Out of the Tub and Moving in the Right Direction:
1. Ask Questions that evoke new answers.
Practice asking "what" questions instead of "why" questions. Practice asking questions that are open such as "what do you think is the best way to move forward?" as opposed to closed questions like "Do you think we should extend the timeline or rush the project?"
2. Take the pressure off yourself by listening.
Find each of your direct reports and just listen. Ask what they are working on and how they spent their weekend. Find out if they have any new ideas or concerns about the company initiatives. Ask short open questions and then stop talking and start listening. Here's why: when people feel listened to, they feel respected which breeds loyalty. And, you may learn something new that will benefit you.
3. Share your weaknesses.
Each person that you manage has strengths and weaknesses, just like you. Be transparent. If you are not sure what to do or haven't figured out the best solution, be honest about it and show how you are working through the problem. Rather than losing respect, you will gain respect from those you are leading, managing and mentoring.
4. Find something to appreciate about everybody.
Yup, I really mean that. Go through your list of team members and identify something really terrific about each one and then let them know you appreciate them. You may appreciate a great attitude that you notice each day, or a facility for problem solving on the fly.
True appreciation is one of the most powerful tools in your toolbox. Use it often!
And here's the good news; after a long hard day of communicating with your team, you get to go home and take a nice long relaxing bath - for real!