It's the beginning of a brand new year --- New Year's Resolution time! If you want to have much better results on your team this year, make a resolution to become a much better boss. Maybe you've already made that resolution. Maybe you are ready -- eager even -- to start managing in a more hands-on manner.
Maybe you've resolved: You are going to meet with everybody regularly one-on-one starting day one 2015. You have a notebook under your arm, ready to take notes. You are ready to jump right in.
Of course, if you haven't been managing very closely up to this point, your new approach might take your employees a little by surprise. They might start murmuring to each other, "What's going on?" Maybe one savvy employee will chime in, "Haven't you noticed? He read that book, It's Okay to Be the Boss, over the holidays. He's obviously trying some new management fad. Don't worry. This will blow over soon." Maybe your other employees will nod and smile with relief (and a tiny bit of disappointment): "Right. This will blow over. Just ignore it."
Will it blow over or not? That's entirely up to you.
I know you are busy. I know your time is limited. You don't have enough time. That doesn't mean you don't have time to manage. It means you don't have time NOT to manage.
Effective managing is a lot like being in good physical shape: the hard part is getting in the habit of doing it every day no matter what obstacles come up. If you were in poor physical shape, would you go for a 10-mile run? No. First, you might start training by taking a walk every day. After a few weeks, you might walk a little faster and longer and begin gaining some muscle tone. Over time, you start to jog, and eventually you become strong enough to run ten miles.
So stop letting yourself off the hook. Stay in touch with your true priorities. Make yourself do it every day, as if your health depended on it.
Start by setting aside one hour every day as your sacrosanct time for managing. During that hour, do not fight fires. Use that hour for managing up front, before anything goes right, wrong, or average. That one hour every day is just for getting in shape and staying in shape -- just for taking a walk.
Taking those first steps toward effective managing takes discipline and guts. New behaviors, no matter how good they are, often don't feel comfortable until they become habits. It is likely that you will feel the loss of your old comfortable habits, of your former role in the workplace, and of your current relationships with your employees. The transition period will be difficult and painful. But if you do it right, it is good pain. Like exercise pain, it makes you stronger.
What if you don't have much experience? You have to start somewhere.
What if you don't enjoy managing people in a hands-on manner? Do it anyway.
What if you don't think that you are skilled at managing? Practice, practice, practice until you become good at it.
What if it makes you uncomfortable? Live with the discomfort; the more you manage people, the more comfortable you will become.
Yes, it will be difficult, but it works: guts, discipline, and one hour a day. Dedicate the time to manage every day -- at the beginning of the day or at some other time that works for you. Make it a rigorous habit. Put in that hour every day. Take that walk every day. It will start to pay off almost immediately. You'll start getting in shape. Things will go better.
After you've built more effective management habits, you'll still have to deal with unexpected problems, but they won't be the kinds of problems that could have been avoided. And you'll still have to face plenty of difficult challenges when managing your employees--the occasional ten-mile run. But you'll be in such good shape that you'll be able to handle it effectively with confidence and skill.
Yes, you may have weak moments, weak days, weak weeks, even weak months. As hard as you try, you will sometimes drop the ball. Your employees will notice. And it will be really hard to start managing again after being disengaged for some period of time. After all, you are human. So what do you do when you slip back into your old under-management habits? First, try to bounce back sooner rather than later. One mistake managers make is they feel so guilty and sheepish after going through a rough patch that they remain disengaged much longer than they should. If you've been disengaged, have fallen out of your hands-on routine, or are off schedule, the only thing to do is to get back on schedule and into your routine as fast as possible. It's OK to acknowledge your failure in your discussions with your employees. Promise to do better.
Get back to work and do better.