This article was originally posted on Forbes.
By Erin Hoffman
Think of a great boss or leader you’ve had. What made them great? I’ve asked hundreds of my management trainees this question and the responses are always the same.
“He expected a lot of me.”
“She inspired me.”
‘They pushed me to grow and do more than I thought possible.”
However, when I ask these managers if they are that kind of leader for their team, the answer is usually no.
There are seven key areas that make great managers, and in turn, amazing teams: vision, expectations, communication, accountability, development, innovation and balance. These attributes, when properly utilized, will build trust and confidence within a team.
Nine times out of ten, when someone calls us for management training, they cite a communication issue. Once we dig deeper, we find that communication is rarely the issue. Those managers who are struggling often rate low in accountability, vision and development.
When leaders and managers rate low in accountability, it is due to a combination of the following:
- Discomfort with difficult conversations: Team members feel their managers can’t convey their feelings and instead sweep the issue under the rug, holding no one accountable.
- Unclear communication around expectations or outcomes: When managers don’t spell out what they want and need, it’s impossible to deliver.
- Taking back work: When a manager takes back work, they’re really saying that they don’t trust the employee to complete it properly.
- No measurement in place: Without tracking projects, tasks and team member skills, the manager has nothing to benchmark success or failure.
The paradox is that top performers want to be held accountable. The same people who spoke fondly of the boss who pushed them have difficulty doing that for others.
To improve accountability, leaders and managers must clearly communicate outcomes and timelines. Understand that giving feedback doesn’t have to be difficult; in reality, situations become uncomfortable when the leaders let things go without ever addressing them. Look at it this way: If you, as a manager, were underperforming, you would want your leader to tell you, so do the same for your team.
According to a 2016 survey by Payscale, the No. 1 reason people sought another job was because they did not see a positive future with their company. Managers are often shocked when their employees express that they don’t know the company’s mission or vision or how their role ties into it. The following issues often lead to employee turnover:
- Lack of mission, values or five-year vision/plan: When these areas are missing in a company, employees have no idea what they’re working for.
- Managers don’t embed mission/values into everyday conversations and decision making: Even if a company does have an established mission, values and five-year plan, employees might not understand what they mean. Managers must continually discuss how projects and tasks tie into the company’s overall strategic plan. When leaders neglect to make decisions within the mission or values, the strategy is basically useless to everyone else.
According to the above survey, “Company outlook is the most important driver of employee retention. Appreciation is second most important.” Payscale concludes that employees who believe in the company’s future are half as likely to leave within the next six months. This is compared to employees who do not believe the company is in a good position, who leave at a rate of 2.6 times more often than employees who took a neutral position.
Leaders and managers can resolve these issues by sharing successes and discussing how they relate to the mission or values. Working within these bounds helps managers explain the “why” behind a task: “The reason I’m asking you to do it this way is our value of …” The executive team must take on this task as well. One way is by attending team meetings to share the company’s vision and goals.
Many leaders became managers because they demonstrated superior performance. However, they have a hard time switching from being a doer to being a coach/mentor.
Many employees will stay engaged without a promotion if they feel they are continually developing. A Gallup survey found that “Millennials care deeply about their development when looking for jobs and — naturally — in their current roles.” In fact, Gallup reports that 87% of millennials feel that professional or career growth and development is important to them. Managers who face issues related to development often do the following:
- Say they’re too busy to train or coach: Managers must be properly trained to understand that coaching and training is a large part of their role.
- Neglect to set up one-on-ones or develop growth plans for direct reports: Managers must check in on their direct reports through face-to-face interaction and the development of growth plans.
- Protect their direct reports too much: Experiencing other projects will aid in development. While a manager is protective of their employees’ time, they must realize that these new projects will make them better workers.
- Tactical work instead of delegating/training: It’s easy for managers to fall into the trap of doing the work of their direct reports because it’s faster and easier than delegating and training their people.
Managers can improve development by ensuring their team members have short and long-term goals to work toward. Frequently assess the team on potential and performance — SHRM has a useful matrix to assist. Managers should strive to invest in the professional development of their staff, both formal and informal. An easy way is to include a “quick tip” in each team meeting or delegate a different employee to come up with one at each meeting.
Leaders and managers are cultivated, not born. Take the time to ensure appropriate professional development for leaders and managers so they can gain the skills to properly advise and develop their team.