“O wad some Power the giftie gie us, to see oursels as ithers see us!"
For those of you unfamiliar with 18th-century Scottish, this is the poet Robbie Burns wishing the heavens to provide the gift of seeing ourselves as others see us.
In fact, one of the strongest line management and people management skills you can deploy in your organisation is to bring in 360° reporting. It’s a strong manager who can take on board how others see them and even stronger to act upon that feedback.
In fact, it’s an essential weapon in your battery of people development skills, says Liz Ryan. A regular contributor to Forbes.com, Ryan began her career as an opera singer before spending “ten million years” as a human resources vice-president for Fortune 500 companies. She began writing about workplace issues for the Chicago Sun in 1997, and her aim now is to reinvent work for people.
Ryan says that leadership skills and management skills traditionally focus on teaching people to manage – but not to lead, to build trust or to be human with employees.
She outlines the ten essential management skills she believes every manager needs, and it’s a checklist worth reading to ask yourself whether your organisation encourages this approach. Be honest – Ryan says that a whopping 90% of managers lack some or all of these skills!
Honest feedback: Good managers can seek and accept feedback from employees without becoming defensive. It’s a fundamental management skill that many – or most – leaders lack: “They are used to calling the shots, not asking their employees how they could get better at their jobs,” says Ryan.
Get some perspective! You need to try a little reverse psychology and be able to take the employee’s perspective, to see things from an employee’s point of view, she says.
Know your place: This means managers working to gain an understanding of how their function fits into the overall organisation, and how your organisation fits into the marketplace. Knowing your department inside out is not enough; where does it fit in the structure? How does their department benefit the organisation?
Always be mindful: Self-reflection is crucial. Understanding your fear reaction when a superior is upset with a manager is equally important to understanding why that manager is unhappy with an employee. Is it genuinely work-related? Your managers need to learn to analyse if they want to become leaders, says Ryan.
Acknowledge and reinforce: It’s a crucial part of team motivation. Equally, avoid bashing and criticising, says Ryan. “True leaders accept their employees’ mistakes as their own learning opportunities — after all, being a leader means taking responsibility for everything that happens in the department.”
Stand up for your team: If orders come down from on high that are not achievable, the best managers are not afraid to say “That can’t be done”, says Ryan. “If you can't stand up for your employees when there's pressure on you to conform, you might be a supervisor — but you are not a leader.
Let your managers develop their own careers: Leadership training incorporates the idea of career self-determination, says Ryan, and the best management skills strategy should help managers develop their own long-term career plans – “whether those plans keep them in the company that provided the training or take them far away from it!”
Be open to diversity: Good leadership derives from good communication, and you should ensure that your organisation encourages diversity and the ability for people to interact and add value, regardless of background, religion, race, creed or political persuasion. What is important is teamwork, and teams are made up of varied elements, says Ryan.
Build a team based on trust: True community requires shared vision and appreciation. Getting results through fear — through threats, veiled or overt – is the opposite of leadership.
Always remember to be human: Humanity is what connects us, and remember to have the humility to show it. Watch out for stressful conditions that can lead your managers to resort to fear-based management tactics, a complete no-no for all the reasons above. “When we lose our humanity at work, we are no longer leaders — we are functionaries and lackeys, doing what we're told out of fear of doing anything else.”
Now, be honest. When you read though the list, are these key values that your organisation espouses when it comes to imparting management skills? If they are, then great. And if they are not, it’s time to think about change.
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