The role of management has changed quite a bit over the past few years. Few people realize it, but the role of management was originally created to maintain the status quo and enforce rules and protocols. Managers were supposed to push employees and extract everything they could from them. Management never cared about engagement, empowerment, or anything related to employee experience. Health and wellness? Dogs in the office? Flexible work? Give me a break! These are all relatively novel concepts. Thankfully we live in a new world and the workplace has dramatically changed. The role of the manager is not what it used to be. I’m fortunate to be able to speak with hundreds of truly great managers every year and I’ve noticed some common trends emerge. So how can you tell if you are working for this new breed of truly great manager? Well, a truly great managers does five things:
Acts Like A Coach
Coaches and mentors are powerful instruments of change. Coaches help us all the time in our personal lives whether it be on the soccer field, in the gym, or in a therapy session. Why shouldn’t we have a coach in the workplace? And who better to be that coach than your manager? Truly great managers (and I’m not necessarily talking about senior executives) encourage and empower their employees to accomplish their goals the same way a trainer would. These managers see beyond their official job description to have a genuine and vested interest in the success of their people. These coaches believe in lifting up employees, removing obstacles from their paths, and helping them become more successful than they are.
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Understands Your Weaknesses But Focuses On Your Strengths
It’s easy for us to get hung up on the shortcomings of others. If something doesn’t go as planned, just blame the weaknesses for failure. It’s much harder to look past the weaknesses to instead focus on the strengths that individuals possess. This doesn’t mean simply turning a blind eye to weaknesses, it means understanding that they exist but looking beyond them to focus on what someone is truly good at. Truly great managers understand the strengths of their employees and they do what they can to make those strengths shine. We see this all the time in sports teams. Whether you’re looking at basketball or soccer, every athlete is placed in a position where they can be most successful. We need to see more of this in the workplace and managers need to lead the way.
Wants To Know Your Story
Everyone has a story of where they came from, how they got to where they are today, what they care about and value, and what they want their life to look and be like. Your story is what makes you… you. Truly great managers want to know your story, they want to get to know you as a person not as simply someone who is filling a role on a team. This can be as simple as periodically checking in and saying, “How are you?” to taking employees out for coffee and talking about anything non-work related. Building this relationship is crucial for truly great managers. Does your manager really know you and your story?
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Similar to the above, truly great managers embrace their own weaknesses. They don’t put on the facade of being the all-knowing and all-powerful “manager.” Truly great managers want to know your story but embracing vulnerability is about them sharing their story and who they are. All too often we hear stories and witness our managers act one way outside of work and then transform into a completely different type of person in the workplace, almost a robot. Well, people don’t want to work for a robot, they want to work for a human being and there is nothing more human than being able to embrace vulnerability.
Most concepts, ideas, and approaches in our organizations have been around for many decades. Our world has changed so much in the past few years yet our organizations are still stuck in a time warp. I like to say that we live in 2016 but work in 1975. Truly great managers understand that sometimes starting fires is more valuable and important than trying to put them out. These are the managers who not only ask, “Why are things done this way?” but they also embrace experimentation and challenging the status quo to come up with something better. Whether it be getting rid of the annual review, implementing a new workplace practice, introducing a new technology, or redesigning a workplace, truly great managers believe in going against the grain!