Managers tend to get caught up in the big, structured, scheduled acts of management. The weekly sales meeting. The monthly one-to-one conversations with your direct reports. The performance reviews. We think that if we plan and execute these well enough, we will have managed…and that the stuff that happens in between will take care of itself.
There are also parents who focus only on the big vacation or attending the school play or coaching the soccer team on Saturday. Sure, all that stuff is important, and you should get it right. But you’ve still got to be there for your kid and for your employee in the moment. Most of the great opportunities to manage aren’t scheduled; they come and go in the blink of an eye. The problem that’s just arisen. The firefight that’s just broken out between two of your team members. The out of control email discussion. The moment of self-doubt that your seller is experiencing. You can’t plan for all of them, but here are a few of the great moments broken down.
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Slow it down. What your employees bring you is often important, always urgent. You’ll always deal with the situation better if you buy a little time. “I know this is important. I need a little time to work through it with you. Let’s meet at 2:30 today for a few minutes.” The lack of instant gratification is a good lesson all by itself.
Give homework. While you’re slowing things down, force your team member to do some of the critical thinking. “When we get back together, please bring me two possible solutions to the problem.” Not one, two. Making them consider a backup plan is forcing them to engage in critical thinking.
Break it down. The big, hairy problem that’s plaguing your team member is actually a bunch of little problems and dependencies stuck together. A great manager doesn’t just cough up a solution: she takes the time to break it down and force a conversation on how we’ll get to a solution.
Ask how they’re doing. Then ask again. Whether it’s during an issue-based exchange or just on the spur of the moment, hit the pause button and ask your employee how he’s doing. And then, after he give you “fine,” ask again. Ask what he’s excited about. Ask where he’s challenged and where you can help.
Be fully there. In these or any exchanges with team members, remember that attention is relationship currency. You buy their engagement, belief and performance with your full attention. If you’re perpetually distracted, multitasking or checking your phone, then your currency becomes virtually worthless. Your managerial superpower goes unused.
Your moment to be a great manager is here. Don’t blink: you’ll miss it.