Successful businesses rely on great managers. Effective management practices enable organizations to identify new opportunities, execute strategies successfully, and complete projects on time and on budget. However, many managers encounter pitfalls such as confusing management with excessive control, focusing on maintenance rather than management, or failing to realign teams as circumstances change. In 10 Steps To Be A Successful Manager, Lisa Haneberg describes methods that managers must adopt to run a business. In each step, she focuses on specific actions that contribute to a healthy management practice.
STEP ONE: CLARIFY, NEGOTIATE, AND COMMIT TO YOUR ROLE
Clarity about job expectations forms the foundation for management success. It is important to recognize that the most important expectations are those related to intangible elements such as behaviors and organizational culture. Managers can clarify expectations by engaging in discussions with superiors and peers. Haneberg recommends having these discussions at least once per year.
Since the clarification process is likely to uncover more expectations than can be realistically met, managers must negotiate with their superiors and develop a shorter list of expectations. These expectations will form the basis of the manager’s daily actions. One way to translate expectations into actions is by using a Management Filter. A Management Filter uses a series of questions to narrow down how a manager uses his or her time each day and week.
Once managers have clarified and negotiated their job expectations, they must commit to the role. Haneberg suggests that managers should make this commitment publicly to superiors, peers, and team members. This act helps people clarify what they want to accomplish, increases their level of commitment, and generates support from others.
STEP TWO: UNDERSTAND YOUR EXPECTED RESULTS
After a manager clarifies expectations, the next step is to identify what work the team must accomplish. This means defining expected results for timeframes as far as one year in advance, to as short as one week in the future. Haneberg likes the metaphor of a grand slam home run to frame the type of results that managers should be seeking. A grand slam home run in the workplace maximizes a team’s efforts and creates a feeling of success throughout the organization. Managers should discuss with their supervisors what key results the team must produce over the next year. For each key result, the manager and supervisor should articulate what a grand slam home run would look like. This information enables managers to then define excellence for their employees.
One approach is to develop a spreadsheet that enumerates the team’s goals and what the grand slam home run results for each would be. This chart of deliverables serves as a useful guide for teams and should be updated each month. When sharing these targets with employees, managers must clarify when employees can influence outcomes and when they cannot.
Once grand slam home runs have been defined, managers must take time to celebrate success. As Haneberg notes, any time a grand slam home run is achieved, it is a cause for celebration. It is very important that managers let employees know why their efforts were extraordinary and which specific behaviors contributed to the team’s success.
STEP THREE: KNOW YOUR PIECE OF THE BUSINESS
When managers look at the right information, it enables them to make better decisions. On the other hand, using metrics that focus on the wrong information can lead to failure. Managers must develop metrics that provide early warning signs that a project is getting off track. Haneberg offers the following questions to help managers identify the best metrics to evaluate their work:
* What is the most important contribution that the team can make to the business? How can the performance of that contribution be measured?
* What indicators point to why a project is going well?
* Does the team’s current set of metrics focus on what matters most?
* How does the team know if it is achieving excellence?
* How do peers and customers measure the team’s success?
Effective managers identify and develop a practice for measuring, updating, and communicating the right metrics for their team. When groups manage using metrics, they allow data to influence decisions and their course of action.
STEP FOUR: BUILD A GREAT TEAM
Great teams are comprised of people who are not afraid to challenge one another or their manager. Through productivity and conflict, teams grow and learn. Haneberg suggests that managers should take three steps in order to cultivate outstanding teams:
1. Create connections. In the business world, relationships are the key to attaining results. Team members who understand one another usually work better together. To develop these connections, people must spend time getting to know each other. Managers need to create opportunities for this to occur. In addition, managers must model productive work relationships with many different types of people. They should also set the expectation that team members will cultivate strong work relationships.
2. Cultivate productive irreverence. Haneberg defines productive irreverence as a lack of respect for processes, practices, and tasks that need to change in order for teams to make progress. Managers can take two approaches to developing productive irreverence in their teams. First, they can model productive irreverence in their behaviors. This can be done by identifying tasks that consume time and energy, but do not support the results that the team must achieve. The second approach is to ask employees to demonstrate productive irreverence. For this technique to work, managers must seek all forms of input from their teams and show gratitude for challenging questions.
3. Reinforce collaboration. Collaboration is most likely to occur when it is easy for team members to communicate or when they experience a sense of accomplishment from working together. It is possible for managers to create the type of environment where collaboration can thrive. To promote collaboration, managers can distribute thought provoking articles to stimulate discussion. Once team members begin exchanging ideas, they will be more likely to collaborate on specific business issues.
STEP FIVE: CHOOSE EMPLOYEES WISELY
Hiring the right people is one action that has the potential to influence a manager’s success more than others. When hiring a new employee, it is important to avoid choosing someone who is not the right fit. To make this determination, it is necessary to first clearly define the job fit criteria for a given job opening. Most job descriptions leave much to be desired. They do not describe the most important aspects of a job and they usually do not address job fit. To identify job fit characteristics, Haneberg recommends answering the following questions:
* Given the team, tasks, and work environment, what type of person would best be able to achieve incredible success in the role?
* Based on experience with prior employees, what beliefs and behaviors were most successful for this role?
* What type of individual would be most likely to adapt to changes, or make them happen?
* What skills and experiences are needed to round out the team?
The next step is to interview effectively. The goal of an interview is to build a relationship with the candidate. As a result, group interviews are not advisable. To find the person who is the best fit for an open position, it is better to use several one-on-one interviews. Another recommendation is to employ behavioral interviewing. This type of questioning can identify how people approach their work and different situations. Conducting thorough reference checks is also a good idea. References are often useful for breaking a tie between two candidates, or for confirming doubts about whether a candidate is suitable for a position.
Once a person has been hired, they should feel special and welcome. This means providing support and having team members engage in orienting the new employee.
STEP SIX: DEFINE AND MODEL EXCELLENCE
Many employees are not excellent performers because they are uncertain what this would entail. Managers must define excellence and describe it in ways that clearly illustrate what it is. One technique is to develop a one page description of excellence for the department as a whole, and then create one to two paragraphs for each individual position. In general, a definition of excellence should be both inspiring and challenging.
When managers communicate their vision of excellence, it must be specific, but also exciting. Haneberg recommends that managers avoid using spreadsheets with checkboxes to fill in, or describing excellence in terms of SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timeframe) goals. A good practice is to take five minutes at the beginning of meetings to review a team’s vision of excellence.
Managers will only be effective at communicating a vision of excellence if they behave in ways that are consistent with that vision. Every action, practice, and habit must support how excellence has been defined.
STEP SEVEN: PLAN THE WORK AND WORK THE PLAN – FLEXIBLY
Although planning is one of the keys to business success, few managers take time for this activity. Haneberg defines planning as two tasks—it requires thinking about the contribution that a team can make, and then making specific choices about what specific actions will support those contributions. Planning incorporates both short and long term goals. Developing both weekly and daily planning habits can help managers improve their planning skills.
* Weekly habits. Managers should allocate 30 minutes on Friday afternoons or Monday mornings to plan for the upcoming week. This is the time to schedule meetings that will move goals forward, to create a list of decisions that must be made, and to enumerate the barriers that must be eliminated.
* Daily habits. At the start of each day, managers should devote 20 minutes to planning. This may include identifying two or three actions that will make the greatest difference to short and long-term goals. It can also be useful to consider each team member’s focus for the day.
When managers share their plans with employees, it enhances both commitment and clarity. An effective approach is a daily meeting called a “huddle.” Huddles are short, focused, standup meetings where managers discuss their plans and team members describe what they plan to accomplish each day.
While plans are essential, managers must also be flexible and willing to change their plans when circumstances change. A good practice for developing this type of flexibility is to review task and project lists on a monthly basis, and to assess whether they still align with the team’s current priorities.
STEP EIGHT: OBLITERATE BARRIERS
Barriers to progress exist in every organization. However, the best managers excel at removing those barriers for their teams. Haneberg uses the term “mucky muck” to describe things that create obstacles in organizations, such as redundant tasks, office politics, ineffective processes, or bad information.
To become better at removing obstacles, managers should assess situations in terms of their processes and what might be slowing those processes down. It is important to ask subordinates and peers about the barriers they are encountering. Strategies for identifying and removing barriers include:
* Over-communicating. Teams must clearly understand that their managers want to know what is inhibiting their ability to do outstanding work.
* Conducting analysis. Through analysis, it is possible to identify the source of a problem and fix it.
* Asking better questions. Workplace obstacles often arise due to poor communication at some point in the organization or work flow process.
* Fixing strained relationships. When people have dysfunctional relationships, it often limits their communication. Fixing broken relationships can help remove barriers.
* Not giving up. Although removing barriers is difficult, managers should not lose faith in people’s ability to change.
STEP NINE: PROACTIVELY MANAGE CHANGE AND TRANSITION
Change is inevitable, but not many managers handle it well. One framework that Haneberg recommends for managing change is the “Bridges Transition Model.” Bridges suggests that change and transition are two different things. Change is a situation in which something transforms. Transition, in contrast, is the inner process that people experience as they come to terms with a change.
The Bridges Transition Model breaks transitions down into three phases: an ending, a neutral zone, and a new beginning. These phases have the following characteristics:
* Phase 1: Ending. Every transition begins with an ending. Before a person can transition to a new beginning, they must first let go of the way things used to be.
* Phase 2: The Neutral Zone. This phase is a confusing state where people are no longer living in the past, but they have not yet reached a new beginning. The neutral zone can be draining, confusing, and distressing. However, it can also be a very creative place.
* Phase 3: New Beginning. In this final phase, people accept the change and begin to identify with the new situation.
Managers must recognize that before they can help team members begin the transition through change, they must first transition themselves. Haneberg outlines several strategies for helping employees transition:
* Planning strategies. Before a change is implemented, managers should discuss the transition with their teams and share the Bridges Transition Model. It is important for managers to be clear about what they believe is ending. This is also a good time to plan and schedule communications.
* Ending strategies. During this phase, managers should not be afraid to over-communicate. The “4Ps” can help to explain the change. They include: (1) what is the Picture, (2) what is the Purpose, (3) what is the Plan, and (4) what is my Part. The ending should be marked in a respectful and clear way that acknowledges losses.
* Neutral Zone strategies. Once employees enter the Neutral Zone, it is important to continue communicating the 4Ps. Temporary systems, policies, and processes can help make this phase seem more normal. Slowdowns in productivity are to be expected, so setting realistic targets is essential. In addition, managers should involve employees in the change plan. By working together, employees will view the change as less isolating.
* New Beginning strategies. As the transition enters its final phase, managers should still communicate the 4Ps. Every success, even small ones, should be celebrated. Managers should replace temporary policies with permanent ones that are consistent with the new situation. This phase is an appropriate time to reflect on the transitions that employees have made.
STEP TEN: LEAVE A LEGACY OF CAPACITY TO PRODUCE
Most people aspire to become managers because they want to make a lasting impact on an organization. To help attain this goal, Haneberg suggests that managers visualize the type of legacy they want to leave, and consider ways in which they wish to be seen as a role model. The results of this exercise should influence the way that managers conduct their weekly and daily planning.
Even if a manager does not plan to leave his or her job for many years, it is possible to start building a legacy today. This means improving the team’s strength, enhancing processes, establishing better management processes for new projects, and giving one’s best to the organization. Managers at all stages of their career must commit to having fun, doing great work, and being likable.
When the time comes for managers to move on to a new position, it is essential that they leave projects and initiatives in better shape than when they started the job. Haneberg recommends that managers take the last two weeks to get things in order, and enjoy leaving on a high note.