A Better Manager for 2021

A Better Manager for 2021

How are you preparing to be a better manager in 2021?

Employees look to their managers and business leaders to help them make sense of complexities within their own organization, as well as the external world. They seek reassurance that their own experiences and perspective is accurate, and that there exists an adequate framework to create and maintain stability and move forward.

More than ever before, employees need to be able to trust their leaders.

According to a recent article published by Harvard Business Review, trust is comprised of four components:  

  • Competence: the ability to get the job done
  • Motives: our reasons (or reasoning) 
  • Fair means: consistency in applying the same rules to offer rewards or assign punishments
  • Impact: the consequences of all actions

In a chaotic world, business leaders cultivate trust and help their employees when they clarify their values, develop their communication abilities, and connect in meaningful ways.

Clarify Your Values

Your values are the underlying foundation in how you make decisions and take action (or non-action.) They are at the core of your motives, how you prioritize, and the sacrifices you make to reach your goals. Your values have a great impact in how you reconcile conflict.

Consider your attitude in relation to other people. What are your obligations to your family, friends, and community? What will you leave as a legacy to the next generation? As a mentor, what values or core beliefs would you want to pass on?

Below is a sample of values. If you were to rank each from 1 – 10 (with one being the most important to you), what would be your top five? What might you add to the list?

Now, consider these important questions:

  • What percentage of your focus (your time and energy) is actually spent on these values?
  • Is there congruency between your words and actions?
  • Would your family, friends, and employees agree?

When there’s a question of right vs. wrong or between degrees of right vs. right, clearly defined values will help you make wise decisions and build trust.

Develop Your Communication and Story-telling Abilities

Stories have power. It’s how we make meaning of life, explain how things work, make (and justify) decisions, define and teach social values, and persuade others.

Great managers and leaders harness the power of story-telling when they communicate facts— based on relevant scientific data—through truthful stories. They make their stories compelling with five elements.

Elements of Great Story-telling

  • A finely tuned beginning, middle, and end, practiced and told with the right tempo, energy, and conviction.
  • A protagonist: a relatable hero. They draw your audience in from their point of view.
  • A challenge: an obstacle to overcome or problem to be solved. Sometimes, this takes the form of a person, or antagonist.
  • A pivotal moment: a confrontation and solution that results in real change for the hero.
  • An awakening: the hero’s transformation and how it benefits the hero, and hopefully, others.

Great managers and leaders use stories to help their employees find meaning amid chaos. They organize facts and provide context, differentiating between data and opinion, causation and correlation.

We tell our stories constantly, even when we’re unaware of doing so. Not only do our stories have the power to influence and/or inspire others, they also reflect and have the power to influence our own internal narrative. That’s why it’s so important that managers and leaders share constructive stories that have purpose, truth, and hope-filled action.

Connect in Meaningful Ways

According to the January 2021 article in the Harvard Business Review, “41% of workers feel burned out.” They attribute this to factors including longer work hours, adjustment to remote work, pressure to balance this with family demands, feelings of job insecurity, and fear of unsafe work environments. (Note that this survey and article were published prior to the events of January 6, 2021.) That aside, feelings of sadness and anxiety, an inability to concentrate, and a decrease of motivation were reported. Worse, 37% of those surveyed report “having done nothing to cope with these feelings.”

Take Action

Managers can take action in five key areas:

  • Connect with each team member. This may require that managers reach out more frequently to their direct reports, and in some cases, daily. When calling, be clear that it is to keep the lines of communication open and let them know you are there if they need anything.
  • Manage stress (yours and that of your direct reports). While flexibility allows us to adapt in times of uncertainty and stress, routine and predictability provide stability.  Block an hour a day to answer questions from your direct reports. Limit the calls, or video meetings, to 10-minutes each, allowing others to connect with you one-on-one.
  •  Maintain team morale and motivation. Consider a 15-minute team meeting check-in for each morning. Encourage participants to share one word to describe their status, state of being, or intention for the day. Follow-up individually as needed.
  • Track and communicate progress. Provide feedback, and coaching: help your direct reports identify what worked, their contributions, and celebrate their strengths.
  • Identify, redirect and/or eliminate non-essential work. Encourage your direct reports to share challenges, problems, and early indicators of issues. Frame your invitation that the plus one—a solution—is not required.

Sharing feelings or personal challenges with a manager or leader may feel uncomfortable, or too risky, for some. Respect boundaries. Encourage team members to identify someone they can trust with whom they can connect: a colleague, mentor, or qualified coach.

Demonstrate your own vulnerability. As Dr. Brene Brown writes:

“We are open to uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure because that is the path to courage, trust, innovation, and many other daring leadership skills.”