Management and Leadership Series Posted by Nicola Maxwell

High Performing

I had a conversation with a former colleague the other day.  She was telling me about a new initiative being launched at the company she works for.  “You’ll love it, it’s right up your street”, she said.  “As part of a new initiative, we’re doing away with all our people managers.”

“What are you doing?” I asked.  ”Handing them all P45s, or something a little less controversial?”

“Be serious”, she said.  “We’re changing their titles.  Every manager will now be called a leader.”

It seems that being a ‘manager’ is no longer good enough. Managers are seen as an obstruction to the speed, flexibility and agility required to succeed.

In truth, great managers are more necessary than ever. As a manager, here are five key things you can do that will truly add value:

1. Get to know your people really well

If your immediate manager sets clear expectations, knows you, trusts and invests in you, then you can forgive the company for its lack of profit sharing programme. If your manager is ineffective, no amount of in-chair head massaging will persuade you to stay and perform.

The first job of any manager is ‘get to know your team’. Speak to them individually, find out their likes, dislikes, dreams, aspirations, how they like to be managed, receive feedback and what development they need.

2. Capitalise on individuality

In today’s fast-paced world we are told that anyone can be anything they want to be if they just try hard enough.

In reality, performance excellence is only achievable when we work to people’s strengths and talents. Great managers know this. They know that each individual is motivated differently, has a different way of thinking, a different style and a set of talents that’s as unique as their fingerprint.

Great managers capitalise on this individuality and help each person to be more of who they are already rather than try to make them something they are not. They go out of their way to find a match between an individual’s talents, their role and the needs of the business. In short, great managers focus on what’s strong, not what’s wrong. What’s more, they set challenging goals that play to these strengths.

3. Define the right outcomes and then get out of the way

Great managers know there’s always more than one way to do anything. If they’ve selected a team based on strength and talent, their team members will no doubt be better at certain things than they are.

Great managers trust their team’s expertise. They define the right outcomes and promote a collaborative environment where the team find their own route toward those outcomes based on their individual talents.

This encourages people to take responsibility and creates the motivation to achieve.

4. Spend the bulk of your time with your best people

Many managers I know spend the bulk of their time with their underperformers. And yet, the more energy you invest in honing the talents of your best people, the higher the dividend.

You could presume that talented employees are self-motivated, self-managing, ambitious individuals, who don’t need any support. In truth, talented employees are like prize-winning racehorses. They need to be trained, harnessed, rewarded and pointed to run in the right direction!

High performers want something different from the time they spend with you. They want to be coached to help them identify ways forward, encouraged to develop via feedback and supported in their continued development.

This does not mean you should ignore underperformance, but investing time in your best is the fairest thing to do.

5. Build excellence into every level

If a person excels in one role, then surely with a little training they will excel in the next. Yes? This is how most organisations work, but sadly it’s not true.

Miscasting is possibly the most destructive influence on any business. Put the wrong person in the wrong role and performance will plummet. Unfortunately this is something most of us have experience of. For instance, someone who excels at selling is suddenly promoted to sales management where they struggle to get results. If a role is too much for them they may get overwhelmed, stressed and become ill. If the role doesn’t stretch them enough they will get bored and leave.

Some people crave a meteoric rise to the top. Others are happy to excel in the role they’re in. A balance of super stars and rock stars is essential to team growth.

Great managers look inside the company. They reach inside each individual employee and turn each person’s talent into performance excellence.

Companies need great managers AND great leaders, for quite different reasons. The role of the manager is alive and well and more important than ever.

In memory of our colleague, Alison Douglas, who was a passionate advocate of great people management.

< Back to edoBuzz