Let’s face it when someone loves their job it shows in their demeanor and actions. If that someone happens to be a manager, the positive perspective comes through in everyone’s demeanor and actions.
Given the nature of my coaching work, I end up engaged with a disproportionate number of confident, motivated managers, and I love it. They are individuals who find joy in creating something great with and through others. They’re also individuals who push themselves constantly to learn, grow, and find that next performance gear.
However, my favorite part of working with good managers is their seeming superpower to make their difficult jobs guiding and engaging with team members and stakeholders look easy.
Managing is a Hard Job (Everyone wants a piece of you)
With a nod to every hard-working manager operating somewhere in the middle or lower layer of the pack, your jobs are where the heavy lifting of operations takes place.
Your teams and functions make organizations go.
And your daily job resembles those incredible, over-worked air traffic controllers that keep planes in the air and coming and going safely, regardless of volume or visibility.
If that’s not enough, everyone wants a piece of you. In some of the larger organizations I work with, the analysts, regional leads, managers from corporate, and pencil-pushing bureaucrats outnumber our managers three or four to one.
Yes, when you manage, you’ve got a lot of people sitting around thinking up ways to make you perform better.
And still, their attitudes remain great and their demeanors calm.
Here’s how some of them pull it off.
8 Things Great Managers Do To Make a Hard Job Look Easy:
1. Approach Each Day as an Adventure in Leveling Up
It’s amazing how different things feel when you view the obstacles, road-blocks, and unexpected occurrences as elements of a daily adventure to level-up performance. Instead of aggravations and headaches, these realities of organizational life are opportunities that test your skills, resolve and creative problem-solving.
2. “Decomplexify” Situations
With a nod to Jeff Bezos who recently threw out the term complexify, great managers look for opportunities to get the complexity out of situations for their teams.
These managers know that complexity induces stress and stifles progress, so they constantly strive to translate corporate-speak and topics around strategy and change into, “What this means for us is…” statements. Armed with proper context, these teams can keep moving or adjust course as needed.
3. Operate with Extreme Empathy with Stakeholders
While empathy is well-established as a critical leadership attribute, it transcends team management and is invaluable in engaging with stakeholders, information-seekers, and others of their ilk across the organization.
The best managers work to view requests through the eyes of their counterparts and then strive to understand how it can help them. They know that requests that sound unessential or even ridiculous on the surface are important for a reason to the individual asking for something. By striving to understand the individual’s actual needs, they gain insight into the requests and importantly, they gain some empathy for the added burden in return.
4. Ask for Help
We tend to think of great managers as super-beings armed with all of the answers and ever-ready to point in a particular direction. In reality, great managers focus on creating experts around them, and they are comfortable in asking for help. This simple act conveys respect, gets people involved and improves the odds of finding superior solutions to complex problems.
5. Make Safety and Success of People a Priority
This one is hard to teach, but it’s a behavior of the best managers I’ve observed in action. They work hard to create an environment based on respect and mutual trust. And, part of the respect and trust-building process is showing that they have everyone’s safety and success front and center in their minds and via their actions. Of all behaviors open to the manager this commitment to their team members is the critical ingredient for high-performance.
6. Avoid Creating a Perpetual Fire-Drill
Few styles drain a group’s energy and endanger a manager’s physical, mental, and career health than that of sustaining a constant fire-drill. There’s a reason professional quarterbacks run a two-minute drill at the end of a half or game. The pace of the drill can’t be maintained over the entire contest. Aligning on and sharing priorities and supporting people as they navigate these priorities are hallmarks of effective managers.
7. Lead with “What if?” and “Why not?”
Curious managers are effective managers and leaders. They respond to new issues with an attitude of discovery and not resistance, and they imbue this quality in their team members.
8. Use “No” Where Needed
It’s easy to say “yes” to everything that comes a manager’s way. It’s also disastrous to do so, as a never-ending series of affirmative responses results in constant team overload. Great managers operate with a constant view to the right priorities and when it’s OK (or not) to deviate from them. However, a “No” answer is often coupled with a series of ideas in the spirit of, “We can’t get to that at this point, but have you considered… ?”
The Bottom-Line for Now:
I’m an unabashed cheerleader and fan of great managers. We need more of them, and we need people in our organizations who reduce friction and create a contagion effective of calm under pressure. Creativity, collaboration, and an environment where work is more fun than grind are all great byproducts of these managers who make their hard jobs look easy.