Let’s be honest, managing people is no simple job. In fact it’s one of the most difficult roles to excel in, and there is no single recipe for success – no book, no program, no “silver bullet” that can prepare someone to master the skill-set quickly. Why? Because we are talking about leading human beings and the wonderful inherent complexity that they bring to the workplace. In addition, managers rarely have the luxury of just managing people – they often have their own functional responsibilities to take care of as well as leading a team. They have to hit deadlines, achieve goals and targets, write reports, fight fires, deal with customers, and these days often lead change in an ambiguous and uncertain marketplace. It’s no wonder they feel under pressure!
Well-intentioned organizations often fight complexity with complexity in the form of an infinite menu of disparate training programs that promise solutions:
- Accelerated Decision Making
- Thriving in Chaos
- Resolving Workplace Conflict
- Maximizing Team Performance
- Building a Service Culture
In our experience this can create more pressure for managers – more programs to attend, more stuff to learn, more frameworks or processes to follow, more surveys to complete. More!
So what is the key to being a great manager and how can we prepare our managers for success? The answer is to focus on the fundamentals, the core elements or levers (tasks and behaviors) that will create the most impact on your team and the business.
To boil it down to the fundamentals, the most successful managers are able to do two things well:
- Inspire and motivate their people and
- Focus them on the things that are most important.
This requires an understanding of your business and how your team contributes, and a mastery of some core skills: engaging your people to bring their best ideas, efforts, and passion into their jobs; building great working relationships; being clear; coaching and developing; and following up to ensure execution.
Mastery of the basics is not that elusive silver bullet either – it requires an openness and willingness to learn and a commitment to deliberate practice, but it does provide a solid foundation on which to layer new skills, and is an often-overlooked prerequisite for success as a leader.
The message here to managers and those responsible for training or developing great managers is that mastery and consistent application of the basics is the best way to build a leadership capability that can deliver for your business. Ensure that your managers can walk, on all terrains with ease and confidence, before asking them to run…. and signing them up for a marathon!