Mirror, mirror, on the wall: who is the best manager of them all?

I don’t think a week goes by without some manager or supervisor admitting dissatisfaction with his or her team to me. And as I remember all too well, I’m equally guilty of having expressed such negative opinions in the past.

After focusing on my personal development (still a work in progress), the fact remains that we managers are actually responsible for those situations.

So dear readers, if you hold a formal leadership position and you don’t like what’s going on in your team, department or organization, the first thing to do is take a good look at yourself in the mirror and accept the harsh reality: it’s partly your fault.

But what can you do about it? There’s a solution, but it won’t necessarily be easy as it will require three things from you: humility, clarity and constant communication.

Here’s some advice: if you think your team’s performance is less than ideal, I’d venture to say that, in all likelihood, you’ve been expressing your dissatisfaction in the things you do and say. Bear in mind that we all have strengths and weaknesses. Your role is to discover those characteristics among your colleagues.

Here’s my second piece of advice: be sure to distinguish between people and how they behave. Never talk about “bad” employees or a “bad” team; instead, refer to “undesirable” behaviour within your team. The good news is that behaviour can be changed.

As the saying goes, “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

Which brings us to humility. Yikes! It’s a difficult concept to accept, particularly since for most of us, our sense of pride only ends up complicating things. So take the time to understand, listen and reflect on the situation at hand. If you have a confidant you can talk to, go right ahead. But whatever you do, don’t talk to someone who’s going to be nice; niceness is the last thing you need! What you need is empathy, not sympathy (two very different things). One thing I do that works well for me is to go over the situation with my wife, who shows me no sympathy whatsoever! After giving me her opinion I thank her for her time and then reach for my favourite tool: my diary. In it, I write down all my thoughts as they come tumbling out.

Once that process is finished, I invariably realize that I’m part of the problem, as well as the solution. And that’s when I get down to work. As we all know, when you’re aware that a problem exists, 50% of it is already solved!

As for clarity, it applies to all your messages, whatever form they may take. In this case, however, I’m referring mainly to verbal communication. But don’t make the same mistake that I do: just because you repeat a message frequently doesn’t mean it will be properly understood. So ask your colleagues to explain the message back to you. Ask various questions. If their answers reflect the gist of your message, then you can say you’re beginning to be understood. But….

This brings us to the third part: constant communication. It’s necessary, so be sure to repeat your message multiple times. That’s because we all tend to be forgetful. Drive your point home: repeat your message and questions to keep your team on track. It’s like a GPS system: after take-off, the captain puts everything on autopilot and the GPS constantly checks the aircraft’s position and makes the necessary corrections to stay on course. If no corrections were made, the passengers would never reach their final destination! So be sure to avoid any such unpleasant surprises. There’s nothing more frustrating than realizing that after working for months, we’ve strayed away from our goal without even realizing it.

All the best to you and your team!