During the last decade, I’ve had the opportunity to take on various roles in companies of all sizes. My experiences have included being the founder of a startup, Product Lead in a high growth tech company, and Product Gal in a multi-billion dollar publicly traded healthcare IT firm. I also acquired management and leadership training at the best institution known for these topics — Harvard Business School — and spent two years analyzing hundreds of cases on the best and worst management and leadership styles.
Through all these experiences I have learned a lot about management and leadership. Here are my top 10 take aways about what every manager/leader should do in order to succeed:
1. Master communication: This is the “golden rule” of leadership and management. Clear and timely communication with your team is the most powerful tool you can have in your leadership toolkit.
2. Share the vision, the pleasure, and the pain: The best way to get your team’s support and buy-in is to share your vision with them and describe the foundation for certain decisions. Understanding the logic behind any decision allows your team to cope with a tough situation much better and support you and your decision. I repeatedly heard from my teams that they appreciated “transparency,” even if the message delivered contained uncertainty or challenges.
3. Don’t just tell your team what to do, also tell them why: Most people tend to be more inclined to do a great job on something when they understand the reasons behind the request. Your team will most likely end up doing a much better job on any project and request if you articulate how their contribution will impact the big picture and the company’s success.
4. Be an outstanding listener: Some may think leadership is about commanding others what to do. But, in fact, the most successful leaders are the ones who listen more than they talk. By giving the floor to others to talk, great leaders stimulate the creativity of their teams and enable them to generate their best ideas. Also, having others drive the discussions will provide a manager/leader with more information, which generally results in better outcomes. As was noted in the timeless best selling book, How to Win Friends & Influence People, “No one likes to take orders; asking questions is the way to lead.”
5. Make decisions and stand by them: If you are in a leadership and management position, your teams and employees look up to you for answers and decisions. You may not have all the answers and all the information at all times, but don’t forget that a big part of your job is to make the best judgement calls in lieu of unknowns. Try to gather as much information as you can to make informed decisions, but don’t be one of those leaders that can never make up his mind. No one likes to work with those people.
6. Remember to appreciate those who have done a good job: Everyone likes being appreciated; everyone likes being recognized. Be aware of this basic human need and make sure to appreciate your team members, your employees, and your colleagues. Every small thank you or recognition counts. And guess what? Employees tend to do a better job for the managers who recognize their work and appreciate them versus for those who don’t.
7. Support the best ideas, no matter who brought them up: In merit-based cultures, best ideas can get traction regardless of who brought them up. In companies with high politics, a lot of times the best ideas get shut down if they didn’t come from the right person – top level executives. Such companies lose the opportunity to consider some of the best ideas because they shut them down too quickly. They also regularly frustrate some of their most talented people, which eventually leads to high attrition or low performance.
8. Be honest about what type of people you want and can hire: Theoretically, everyone wants to hire Type A players and top talents. However, it’s a lot harder to engage and satisfy Type A employees than Type B or C. Is your company ready to hire Type A talent? Do you have the right infrastructure and team setup to empower Type A players? If not, you would be better off hiring Type B players because you won’t be able to maximize on what the Type A players have to offer anyway.
9. Don’t trick your team: There is nothing more bothersome to employees than a dishonest manager. I have heard frustrated employees telling stories of managers who said things like, “This meeting is a safe place and an open platform for you to share your complains or things we can improve in our team or company.” And then that same manager used the employees’ feedback against them and brought them down. This is not cool and not acceptable!
10. Discover each person’s talent and style: Not every employee is the same. Each person has his/her own personality, work style, strengths, and weaknesses. Best managers quickly recognize these differences in each person and work with that employee according to his/her style. Basically, managing other individuals isn’t a one-size-fits-all. You need different tactics for different people on your team. Mastery comes when you apply those tactics smoothly and interchangeably without you or others even noticing.
What do you think about any of these points? Have you experienced the same things as a manager or as a team member? Please share your experiences and insights about management and leadership for all of us to learn from each other.