Managers: Practice These 4 Habits

As managers, there is often a lot on our plates and it can be challenging to keep everything in motion. We often find ourselves trying to operate in ambiguity while simultaneously providing clear direction for others. We recognize the importance of accountability and want our team members to be both individually and collectively successful. Through my own management experience and work with managers in training and coaching, I have elevated the importance of these four habits:

CREATE: Educators and creativity gurus (and brothers), Tom and David Kelley, wrote a book on "creative confidence -- the natural ability to come up with new ideas and the courage to try them out." They make a solid business case for managers to work with their teams to reclaim their childhood creativity in an effort to advance greater innovation and differentiation. They outline four fears that often hold people back including the "fear of the messy unknown, fear of being judged, fear of the first step, and fear of losing control." As managers, we need to acknowledge these fears and collaborate with our team members to overcome each one of them. Through simulations, role plays, creativity exercises, and direct one-on-one conversations, we can unleash the imaginations of our team members and push them beyond their self-imposed boundaries.

BALANCE: With to-do lists a mile long and deadlines amplifying our anxiety, it is easy to fall into the practice of treating our team members like widgets instead of people. As managers, we have a responsibility to feed both the mind and the heart. By inspiring our teams with visionary leadership that clearly articulates where we are going (the bigger picture) and why (the bigger purpose), we foster the will of our teams to leverage their skills and strengths. When we acknowledge the multiple dimensions of our human experience, we create a culture that embraces each team member's most authentic self, building loyalty and increasing engagement.

TEACH AND LEARN: I often reference the iceberg theory of human relations as a reminder that we often engage in surface-level relationships, failing to acknowledge and explore the depth of our character and the diverse stories and experiences that we all have to share. If we manage with the mindset that we always have something to learn and something valuable to teach, we will more actively listen to understand each other and more purposefully select opportunities to teach. Further, awareness drives action, so if we are more open to exploring what drives each of us, we will naturally seek opportunities to put our strengths and passions in play in alignment with our goals.

FOCUS: Managers often fall victim to the game of "Whac-a-Mole," reactively responding to each email, IM, phone call, and drive-by-desk discussion as though it were a crisis. At the end of the day, they have a hard time pinpointing what they accomplished despite feeling exhausted. We need to proactively identify our top two to three priorities each day and coach our team members to do the same. When we focus our time, energy and collaborations around those priorities, we build the stamina to resist being distracted and sidetracking our performance. Management should be more like a game of "Operation," where we precisely focus on one task at a time while striving to block out the noise around us and achieve the desired result. Zig Ziglar coaches, "It was character that got us out of bed, commitment that moved us into action, and discipline that enabled us to follow through."