by Jeremiah Shaw, MA, ACC
In a time when talent is as valuable as gold, we need to remember that employees don’t leave organizations; they leave managers. So, it would be assumed that if we are bleeding or striving to attract talent, we have some questions to ask ourselves. How are we resourcing and training managers? As a manager, how am I increasing my competence? Focusing on developing managers might be the lowest-hanging fruit in impacting short-term and long-term profitability. If the C suite is the head, managers are the nerves to the muscles that make things happen, good or bad. “The single biggest decision you make in your job—bigger than all the rest—is who you name manager. When you name the wrong person manager, nothing fixes that bad decision. Not compensation, not benefits—nothing.” (Clifton, 2021)
Below are what I believe to be specific competencies and mindsets that managers can apply immediately to see a quick return in leading and managing their teams.
Be clear: This is a time-tested truth. No one likes unclear or inconsistent directions. When targets are unclear, it increases stress and decreases organizational safety for employees. I.e., when there aren’t clear expectations, we don’t get the most productive employee. Expectations are the rules for the game, and you can’t win the game without rules. Top talent wants to win, so lead them by consistently clarifying the target. Most of us have probably heard that it doesn’t exist if it isn’t measured. So, clarify what you want, measure it, and celebrate it. Managers that provide clear communication around expectations set the individual, team, and ultimately the organization up for success. If the team doesn’t fully understand the expectations, holding accountability is almost impossible, and without accountability, there isn’t ownership for outcomes. Without outcomes, there isn’t an organization.
Be decisive: Dr. Henry Cloud has produced excellent research on what makes a healthy relationship, specifically marriages. While leading teams isn’t marriage, the truth from Dr. Cloud’s research can be utilized in some important ways. “We get what we tolerate.” (Cloud, 2009) Managers that allow the status quo will lose their top talent. Teams want a leader that won’t tolerate mediocracy. If we gauge the quality of the team from 0-10, the members of the team that are seven or above will not tolerate a manager that allows 4’s or below. It can be tough to fill the seats with the right talent but do not let that stop us from holding the quality and bringing accountability. Without it, we will lose our top talent to teams that make tough and decisive decisions.
Be supportive: Asking people to reach high goals without support and resources is maddening and a sure way to lose a key employee. Our job as a manager is to remove red tape and ensure that our teams have the tools they need to jump the hurdles ahead. After each one-one, I ask several questions. What are you committing to and by when? What does accountability look like? And what do you need from me to accomplish these?
Be vulnerable. We see a lot of young managers struggle with the shift from individual contributor to manager. As they gain their footing, they can get hung up on where their value comes from as they learn to work through others. Over 70% of leaders/managers struggle with imposter syndrome. This can make us feel like we need to act like we have it all together, and while teams want a competent leader, they also want a leader that connects. They want a human, not a robot. Brene Brown suggests that those that have the courage to accept first for themselves and then for others that “I’m enough” (Brown, 2011) can be free to create an environment that maximizes and allows deep creativity, innovation and collaboration. This idea of self-focus as we focus on others leads to our next point.
Be worth following. Nothing kills momentum and team morale more than a manager that doesn’t take self-management and self-leadership seriously. If you are unsure if you are worth following, there are two good self-guided starting points. One, are you willing to do anything you ask others to do? I.e., would you clean the toilets? Would you make the hard call? Will you jump in the trenches with anyone on your team to get the job done? The second is the trust equation. Walk yourself through this equation, and it can help highlight where your skillset or mindset might need some alignment as a manager. It is credibility + reliability + intimacy/self-orientation. I.e., Credibility, can you do what you say. Reliability, do you do what you say. Intimacy, are you connected in a safe way with your team. The final is self-orientation. While we must have confidence and a little ego to lead, we must first focus on others’ needs as we lead and manage them. (Baldoni, 2008)
There are a lot of resources out there to help grow in each of these areas. I believe that managers and leaders that wish to keep and engage their teams must first engage themselves. A great first step is self-development. Do you know what development resources your organization offers you internally? Have you considered a coach for an accelerated, customized resource? Or maybe it is just about scheduling the margin in your calendar to connect with those on your team. Our team can help you navigate the best ways for your development as you continue on your journey.
Clifton, J. (2021, May 9). Millions of bad managers are killing America’s growth. Gallup.com. Retrieved June 29, 2022, from https://news.gallup.com/opinion/chairman/169208/millions-bad-managers-killing-america-growth.aspx
Cloud, H. (2009). Integrity: The courage to meet the demands of reality. Harper.
How trustworthy are you? Harvard Business Review. (2020, August 27). Retrieved June 29, 2022, from https://hbr.org/2008/05/how-trustworthy-are-you
Maister, D. H., Green, C. H., & Galford, R. M. (2001). The trusted advisor. Free Press.
TEDtalksDirector. (2011, January 3). The power of vulnerability | Brené Brown. YouTube. Retrieved June 29, 2022, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iCvmsMzlF7o