Manager development strategy: 6 ways to lead happier, higher-performing teams

Being a good manager isn’t easy. And it’s arguably never been tougher with increasing demands and responsibilities passed down the line. The thing is bad or even mediocre managers tend to lead less engaged and lower performing teams. And, when that is replicated across your business, it will hit your bottom line. Hard.

For one powerful example of this, Engage for Success research shows that organisations where there is high vs low employee engagement enjoy an average of +19% annual growth in operating income. Managers are pivotal, and they need help through the right manager development strategy to lead more effectively.

Where to start?

What’s needed first is a revaluation of the things – skills, behaviours and practices – that are most important for managers to lead happy, engaged and high-performing teams. Now, there will likely be nuances and differences for some organisations but there are, undoubtedly, also some universal and foundational areas. Through our work with organisations, we’ve pinpointed six such things for managers to focus on to up their game in 2022 and beyond…

1. Enable high-performance

It is interesting to explore the science behind effective teambuilding. There’s no one-size-fits-all model but we like using Lencioni’s 5 dysfunctions of teams and the ‘trust pyramid’ as a basis here, focusing on five key components:

Trust – being vulnerable as a leader, being prepared to go first and revealing something to create open culture

Conflict – creating a place that is safe for healthy conflict; remember, it is ok to not always agree in teams!

Commitment – being absolutely clear on purpose and direction; what are we signing up for an why are we here?

Accountability – hold each accountable, raise and resolve difficult issues without fear of fallout.

Results – being prepared to be brutally honest about our performance, about results within the team.

Watch this video for further guidance on creating high-performance teams.

 

2. Host better meetings

One critical everyday thing all managers can try to do is to lead better meetings. Purposeless, over-long or so-called ‘floppy meetings’ can sap employee engagement and team performance. We suggest using the POP method to run more purposeful, structured and action-oriented meetings:

  • Purpose – let people know beforehand and reconfirm at start of meeting
  • Outline – again communicate up front and stick to it religiously
  • Plan – be sure to end with a clear plan of action and next steps to take forward.

Watch this video for tips on hosting better meetings.

 

3. Establish a team charter

Team charters can play an important role in building high performance teams – particularly with hybrid and geographically dispersed teams now the norm in so many organisations. These agreements or contracts could entail things like:

  • Where are we heading – what are our milestones, ultimate goals, and what will success look like?
  • Who are our key stakeholders, who depends on us and who are we dependent on to deliver our goals?
  • What ways or working, rules and processes do we want to establish?
  • How can we encourage accountability and what are our non-negotiable behaviours?

Watch this video to learn more about team charters.

 

4. Learn to coach your team

Today’s managers and leaders all need to be able to be able to coach to some degree. But it doesn’t always come naturally and, moreover, often the skills needed to be a good coach are counterintuitive to the skills a manager may have leaned on to get promoted in the first place.

At its simplest, coaching is about managers being able to look at team members and provide support to get the best out of them – by asking questions and listening. It is a style often best used in one-to-ones and is characterised by asking short questions and then being quiet. Resist the urge to problem-solve yourself; your job here is to coax the answers from your colleague.

Watch this video on how managers can improve their coaching style.

 

5. Master the art of delegation

Another key skill for managers is recognising how and when to delegate and ‘let go of the reins’. This is pivotal to empowerment – a key aspect of employee experience – and helping to develop others.

We refer to the SIMON model as a useful framework to become a better delegator:

Select the person carefully – it’s important that, when delegating anything, there is scope for development for that person and that it offers a time-saving for you.

Instruct them fully – providing a clear brief to set up the person for success

Monitor, as agreed – find the right balance here to empower the person but be on hand to help

Ongoing feedback – look for opportunities to reinforce behaviours and offer support

Not my job now – doesn’t mean let go completely but rather than you have passed over the operational responsibility for that thing.

Watch this video for more pointers on becoming a better delegator.

 

6. Become more emotionally intelligent

Emotional intelligence is a much discussed topic for managers and leaders – and with good reason. Being a more emotionally intelligent leader can have a demonstrable and significant impact on those around us. Some of the key things to think about are as follows:

Self-awareness – how self-aware are you of your emotions, frustrations, and triggers?

Emotional regulation – are you able to use that knowledge of your emotions constructively in terms of how it impacts on your behaviour?

Empathy – how aware are you of others and what might be going on in their world? To learn more about empathy, check out Brené Brown’s Ted Talks.

Social skills – to some extent, this is the ability to pull all the other things together and to put it into practice. So, for example, using it to improve your assertiveness, to build trust and to improve influencing skills.

Watch this video where we talk more about emotional intelligence in leaders.

 

Last word on manager development

It’s clear that many of today’s line managers need more help than they are currently getting. As their role continues to evolve – and as workplaces themselves transform – so too must managers’ skillsets and behaviours. The job of HR, OD and L&D functions is to pinpoint exactly where their manager populations most need help and to help enable that development – this is a crucial next step. Moreover, the effectiveness of teams and organisations everywhere depends on it.

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