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Laura Drury Laughology blog posts

How to lead when you’re managing


Why is effective management important, and what are good management skills?

There are few other roles as complex as the ones in which people manage other people. Partly this is because there are so many external influences on managers, such as organisational brand, culture and the expectations from teams and superiors. Where to begin?

Those searching for the secrets of good people management could do worse than looking at Simon Sinek’s book ‘Start with Why (if you’ve read my other blogs you’ll see I’m a bit of a Sinek fan)...

Why do you want to be a good manager?

Is it because you’ve been promoted? Or do you want to contribute to your organisation’s success and realise that developing people is a great way of doing this? Maybe you are passionate about enabling others to grow and develop?

As Sinek says: ‘people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it’.

In short what is your vision? Why should your people listen to you?

Most decisions we make are based on how we feel in situations. Even the most logical thinkers are swayed by feelings. This is due to the way our brains work. So if you can get your team’s to ‘buy-in’ on an emotional level then you’re half way there.

If we carry on with Sinek’s approach, next let’s think about how to become an effective manager. This can be achieved through trust; demonstrating that you are both trusting and trustworthy. The former will help you to give your teams autonomy in areas of their work and give them the opportunity to not only try but to make and learn from mistakes as well as from successes. The latter will enable them to be open and flourish, knowing that they are supported in their efforts.

How then do you create that trust? Brene Brown has a great acronym for trust – B.R.A.V.I.N.G.– Boundaries, Reliability, Integrity, Vault (or ‘The Vault’ to describe confidentiality; not sharing my confidences with others and not sharing others’ confidences with me), Accountability, Integrity, Non-judgement and Generosity.

In theory it looks easy, but we are all human and so we are not perfect. What does this mean in terms of tangible actions? What happens if you don’t know what to do next? What happens if your manager doesn’t agree with your approach?

Here’s the final stage; the ‘what to do to help you along the way’ stage.

Get to know your team. Spend some time with each of them to determine how they work best.

  • What vision do they have of their role?
  • What do they aspire to?
  • What motivates them?
  • Would days working from home help them?
  • When in the day do they work most effectively? Are they early birds or night owls?*

* In his book,Why We Sleep, neuroscientist Matthew Walker describes how only half of us work more effectively earlier in the day and how disrupting sleep to be in work on time can negatively impact productivity and wellbeing for people who work better in the afternoon or evening.

Manage expectations with your team:

  • When will you be in the office or working from home?
  • When do you work most effectively?
  • How will you work with them? When will you need to be directive? When will you give them autonomy?
  • How often would you like to check in with them?
  • How do you hope to develop them?
  • How do you hope to develop yourself?

Manage expectations – with your manager:

  • Share your vision with them.
  • Describe what you find effective and why.
  • Ask when you need support or advice.

Demonstrate your human side through vulnerability

  • Say when you are wrong
  • Tell your team you don’t understand something when they do. Your job is to manage them, not be the expert on everything*.
  • Find humour wherever you can when you work. This will not only ease tensions, but also help people learn. We are more likely to remember something when we are in a positive emotional state.
  • Surround yourself with people who are as good, if not better, than you

* In his book Turn The Ship Around, David L Marquet finds himself made captain of a submarine, Sante Fe, without much submariner experience. He explains how to run a successful ship when you are not the expert and how the secret is to ‘create a workplace where everyone takes responsibility for their actions’.

Build your network:

  • In her leadership TED Talk, Rosalinde Torres advises that you surround yourself with a diverse team of stakeholders, some who you are comfortable with and some who you are not, to ensure you have a breadth of knowledge, opinions and solutions
  • Make sure you have a support network from which to seek advice and emotional stability
  • Connect with other managers you admire. Learn from them and share experiences

Take risks and don’t fear mistakes

  • In a fast-changing world you won’t always be able to make informed decisions. Sometimes you will have to make quick decisions and more often than not you will make mistakes. Therefore, it’s important as a manager to have a growth mindset.  You won’t always get it right, but we learn from mistakes, so they are a necessary part of progress.
  • Take risks with your people. Let them make mistakes. Teach them growth mindset and enable them to learn in the same way.

The common theme running through all of these points is open, two-way communication where listening is as important as sharing your thoughts and instructions. Ask non-directive questions to gauge understanding and be open minded and non-judgmental when your team come to you asking for help.

Clear and open communication is also crucial when it comes to your peoples’ well-being. Enabling your team to push back on work-load when necessary, or share concerns and troubles will help you both to put strategies in place to facilitate progress. It also means that if you’re in a situation where you are unsure of the best way to handle their situation you can be honest and say you may need to seek support in order to help them move forward.

This is all well and good when people are working with you, but what about when they are working against you? Unfortunately, conflict is an inevitable part of being a manager. The best way to handle it is head-on and as soon as possible. Be explicit and comment on behaviours, rather than your interpretation of a situation. Call upon your vulnerability and realise that you can’t always be in control. Try as much as possible to see situations from the other person’s perspective.

Whatever your field of work, the way you choose to treat your staff will have a powerful effect. This is known as the Pygmalion effect. If you demonstrate confidence or belief in someone’s abilities, they will invariably improve their performance. This is beautifully demonstrated in Victor E Frankl’s quote “If we seem to be idealist and are over-estimating man, you know what happens? We promote him to what he really can be.”

It comes back to good old-fashioned qualities such as kindness, empathy, humility and understanding. And also humour, because where there is laughter, happiness will grow. In short it is about being human.

Good luck!


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