By Brett Lyons
Accountability is a vital part of management and the best managers are constantly questioning their own performance, not just the performance of their people.
To answer this big, scary question, see our checklist compiled from different studies on best management practice.
- Are you losing top talent?
People don’t leave companies, they leave managers. If you have lost top talent in the past year, this could be a sign that your management practice needs some revision. Talented people won’t stay in a company where their talents are being wasted or if they feel they are stagnating.
- Are you coaching your team?
It’s the manager’s role not just to create the vision, goals and strategy for a team, but to focus on the personal development of each direct report. If you aren’t establishing expectations or giving direction and feedback then you need to create better managerial relationships; the whole reason you are there is to improve team performance, and the only way to do that is through developing strong working relationships with your team and coaching them to success through a performance coaching programme. Coaching creates team buy-in and increases group motivation.
- Do you shout at your team?
No manager should ever have to shout at their team to feel like they’re being heard. Plus, shouting just puts people on edge and makes them feel uncomfortable and uneasy around you. Fear should never be used as a management tactic.
- Have you had management training?
If you haven’t been trained in how to be a good manager, you probably aren’t as great as you think you are. When a manager first enters their role, they are very far away from becoming the finished article; Management requires several critical skill sets that individuals must master to drive profit and success in the workplace. New managers face situations they have to handle in a completely different way to how they would do as a team member; if they fail to resolve problems properly, it will damage the team in the long run. It’s guaranteed that you’ll be a better boss if you’re properly trained.
- Do you give your direct reports enough guidance?
Bad bosses give their direct reports little to no guidance, and then criticise a team member’s outputs for not being “what they had in mind”. Being a good manager involves clearly communicating what you want and how you want it. This way, there is no confusion, the directions are clear and most importantly: no time is wasted having to re-do or refine work that could have been perfect first time round if you had given better instructions.
- Do you take credit for the work of others?
…And pass the blame for all the bad things that happen? Credit should always go where credit is due, and if team members are not credited for their achievements they will swiftly move to another job where they will be. Your team are not there to serve you; you are there to coordinate and get the most out of their individual talents. Taking credit for someone else’s work immediately makes you a bad, lazy manager but also will demotivate your team.
- Do you look over your team’s shoulders?
Do you have to be in control 100% of the time? If so, you might want to consider how your employees feel if they are being constantly watched. Micro-managers have very little trust in their teams; this is both annoying and frustrating, but it also makes it seem as though the manager has nothing better to do. The best managers have trained and coached their direct reports to have all the skills necessary to complete work of the highest standard; there’s consequently no need to look over anyone’s shoulder or micro-manage them.
- Do you postpone or forget to have regular team meetings?
Checking in with your team is vital for facilitating team cohesion and ensuring that everyone is on the right track. It’s also essential for sustaining a consistent team vision and keeping on top of goals. If you don’t make time for your team to come together, you won’t know what problems they are facing, or what successes that deserve praise. Effectively, you’ll lose touch of them and the group will become more fragmented than it needs to be.
- Are you a bad listener?
Do you listen to your employees when they voice concerns with you? Do you value their input on team decision-making issues? Do you forget things that have been said to you earlier on in the week and then berate your employees for not informing you? Bad bosses are often bad listeners; active listening skills are top on the list of ‘vital communications skill that bosses must master’. If your team don’t feel like you’re listening to them, they won’t feel valued and they also won’t feel much sense of responsibility when it comes to taking ownership of their work.
- Do you care about your employees?
One of the ‘soft’ things that nobody tells you about management is that you need to have impeccable emotional intelligence. You need to know how to manage emotions and expectations, know what motivates and demotivates your team, and you need to communicate that you genuinely care about them as human beings, rather than just their work outputs. The best managers display a strong capacity for empathy, but not sympathy: they understand and care about their team members’ issues, but they don’t feel sorry for them or go out of their way to get involved.
- Do you provide rewards for good performance?
…Or do you take success for granted and only pay attention to failures and missed targets? Making sure your team feel a sense of pride and progression in their work is vital. Providing rewards for good performance is a good way to do this; it also helps create a healthy level of competition and drive within the team. When people are working hard to please you, make sure you give them some level of recognition for their efforts and boost their confidence and motivation.
- Do you break promises?
Whether it’s about changing the terms of a contract, a pay rise or a project, make sure you never break a promise to a direct report. In fact, it’s easiest if you don’t make promises in the first place, especially if there is a chain of decision-makers above you who could change their mind on upcoming issues. As in any relationship, not sticking to your word damages the trust that your team have in you and damages your credibility.
- Do you choose favourites?
This is totally unprofessional, transparent and will end up demotivating the rest of the team. Sure, you might have top performers, but you don’t need to laud them in front of the rest of the team or make unfair comparisons in an effort to motivate other team members. Make sure that you assist and support all of your direct reports equally; placing all your eggs in one basket is not only detrimental to people’s confidence, but could significantly damage the team when your favourites move on to new pastures.
Nobody is a bad manager on purpose. However, if your team is not performing in the way that you want them to, you will need to revise your management strategy and techniques. Carefully consider the questions above and recognise that management is not an easy job. It’s a complicated role that takes years of experience and training to get right; all the while you’re getting it wrong, however, you’re damaging both people’s confidence and business profits.
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