Let’s start with a fact that puts the idea of management and being a leader into perspective – according to Gallup, a shocking 75% of people who leave a job do so because they want to get away from their manager.
But when you dig deeper and read into the survey responses, what people are really saying is that they want a better line of communication with their managers. If they don’t get that, they leave.
Communicating with your team openly, honestly and frequently as a manager is critical to retaining your best people and keeping them motivated when the going gets tough. Easy to say, but harder to do, right?
Most definitely, but I’ve found it only takes a few things to transform yourself from a good manager into a great leader.
Don’t believe me? Try a few of these over the next month or so:
Meet to talk about non-work topics
Once a month, take each person on your team out for a coffee, lunch or walk and talk about anything but work. Talk about their family, partner, hobbies, etc and just ask questions.
This is the key strategy that was used by managers at Ev William’s (Twitter founder) Medium in the early days to build and scale an amazing culture, as detailed here.
“Whenever problems popped up, I’d totally ignore them and pay attention to the people who had them. Suddenly all these issues were just dissolving. I swear it was like a Jedi mind trick.” – Jason Stirman, Medium
Ask how you can help
Each week, find a way to ask everyone on your team how you can help them. Servant leadership — where you realize your job is to serve your team, not the other way around — will open up the lines of communication and get them really talking about their challenges.
“Serving others prepares you to lead others.” – Jim George
Become a (legendary) storyteller
People learn more effectively when a lesson is told to them as part of a story. So instead of saying, “You should do X,” use a story in the form of, “When I had that problem, I did X.”
“Humans are not ideally set up to understand logic; they are ideally set up to understand stories.” – Roger C. Schank
Be brutally honest
Cut the boss talk and just be yourself. When things aren’t going well, tell the truth. If you have a plan to fix the issue, walk each person on your team through your plan. If you don’t, tell them you’re still figuring it out. Not knowing where they stand and what’s going to happen is one of the worst feelings your employees can experience.
“Earn trust, earn trust, earn trust. Then you can worry about the rest.” – Seth Godin
Is there a person, process or team that constantly slows your team down? Are you the bottleneck to your team without even realizing it?
Take some time and remove that bottleneck. Is the bottleneck a person? Talk to them and explain how they’re slowing your team down. Is the bottleneck another team? Talk to that team’s manager. A process? Change it. Now. Don’t accept the status quo, especially when it comes to company processes.
Show you care
Genuinely care about the well-being and happiness of each person on your team. Being an authentic leader means doing more than just regular one-on-ones and strategy meetings. If you put in the effort, it will be noticed — and talked about positively by your team.
“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” – John C. Maxwell
Whether you’re a CEO, director, manager or team lead, at the end of the day remember this — treat your team as people and give everyone a safe way to share what’s on their minds. Then act on that feedback, and show them you genuinely care about them.
That’s it. You don’t need to read a management book or take a course. The simple things are the most effective, especially when it comes to being a great leader. At least that’s what I’ve learned over the years.
Changing how you manage people is hard, so I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos:
“If you never want to be criticized, for goodness’ sake don’t do anything new.”