Whether you’ve started your own business and need staff to help you run it or have bought a business with employees already on board, you’ll need to be able to lead your team with confidence if you want to turn your venture into a successful and sustainable proposition.
So, what’s the secret to becoming an effective manager?
Be a Resource for Your Team
It sounds like a cliché, but you should aim to lead by example. Not only does that mean treating people with respect, keeping a lid on your temper and being reliable in your daily life, but it also means being open to learning new skills and continuing to grow professionally and personally. While it’s true that some of us possess leadership qualities by nature, rather than by design, it’s also important to acknowledge that you’re never too old or too experienced to learn new skills. If you make the effort to grow, you’ll have the wherewithal to pass on these skills to your workforce and to help them grow, in turn. This might mean getting to grips with new technology or keeping abreast of industry developments and sharing them with your team. If you find yourself standing still, ask yourself why.
It can be hard for a manager to ask for feedback – what do you do with negative comments? It’s crucial to separate your role as a manager from the business decisions you make. Consider recruiting a mentor who could help you to develop your skills as a manager by sharing their own experiences; this will give you a valuable sounding board outside your own company. When it comes to decisions that affect the business – diversifying your products and services, perhaps, or contemplating a marketing push – your team could be a rich source of inspiration, so don’t be afraid to consult with them and canvas their views. If your staff feel they are a valued part of the business and are involved in some of the strategic planning, they’ll work harder to help you achieve your goals.
Set Goals That Are Ambitious but Achievable
Everyone likes to work towards a goal but if it always seems out of reach, it can become disheartening rather than motivational. Setting goals – short, medium and long term – is part of being a good manager, so establish a plan that works for you and your staff. Make sure you set targets for individuals and teams and remember that goals can be qualitative as well as quantitative, so they could be connected to acquiring new skills, for example. It’s also worth setting goals for yourself and sharing them with your team, to give you an added incentive to grow. You might feel exposed, to begin with, but it’s one of the best ways for you to become a better manager.
Schedule Your Time Sensibly
As a manager, you’ll be responsible for delegating work to others as well as organising your own time. Allocate time-limited slots for meetings and general communications with your team and make sure you’re always working to an agenda. It’s easy to leak time around the edges of meetings and to let conversations run over, which may mean you don’t have enough hours left for your other tasks and end up feeling overwhelmed. Budget your time wisely and don’t make the rookie mistake of thinking you need a finger in every operational pie. Set aside slots in the day for answering emails or meeting with staff and suppliers and stick to your schedule as far as is feasible. This might mean only logging on to email at 8 am, noon and 4 pm, for example.
No one appreciates quixotic behaviour in a manager. Employees need to know that they’ll be treated with fairness and consistency every day of the week; if you’re the kind of person who can take a joke one day but is equally likely to roast someone for the same behaviour on the next, you need to recognise how damaging this is for morale. Staff appreciate steadiness in their managers – and holding everyone (including yourself) to the same standards is a good place to start. If you want people to be on time for meetings, make sure you’re punctual yourself. Set the example and you’ll not only have employees who always know where they stand, but you’ll earn their respect, too.