While the basic traits of an effective manager have remained the same, today a manager needs to show exceptional leadership skills in various other fields to prove his/her worth. Listening to what employees are saying and taking time to understand them, have added to the demands of the job.
2021 was a tough year for businesses. While 2022 brings new hopes and challenges, it is the year when businesses will need to prove their mettle. And a manager’s success will prove to be a critical component for the business’s overall success this year. According to a Gallup study, an excellent manager can drive a business’s profitability by 48%. Additionally, the same study found that great managers can help increase employee engagement by 30% and can lead employees to become 22% more productive. That says a lot about the essential and irreplaceable role of a manager. Simply put, a business has a lot to gain from an effective manager.
Characteristics of an effective manager
Managers can help unleash the best in their employees. But what makes an exceptional manager so exceptional compared to an average manager? Here is the what.
1. Accepts individuality of every employee
In Marcus Buckingham's book, The One Thing You Need to Know: About Great Managing, Great Leading, and Sustained Individual Success, he speaks about employee individuality and how recognizing employees’ unique capabilities can help even failing establishments soar.
Average managers try to make all employees walk on the same path by setting clear expectations so they achieve the goal they are trying to achieve. This has its ramifications. Every employee doesn’t enjoy or hate the same things and so while this can bring in short-term success in some cases, it is not a long-term plan that will always work. Each employee has his strengths and weaknesses. An effective manager knows every employee is different and he will take the time to understand how each employee is different from another. If the manager doesn’t do so, then he might be assigning tasks to a certain employee that he doesn’t just detest but it is driving down his performance.
A smart manager will take time to understand his own employees before assigning roles. For instance, Xavier loves to interact with customers and is born to become a salesperson. He can instantly make a connection with any customer and he makes them want to buy products regardless of whether the customers showed initial interest or not. Alternatively, Rick’s unique ability is to work where the customers aren’t. He can ensure the place is clean and arrange merchandise so it is appealing to customers. A manager who knows his job well will ensure he accepts his employees as they are and capitalizes on it.
2. Focuses on employee’s strengths
A talented manager knows that strength and weakness are not something an employee is good and bad at respectively. Rather, the strength of an employee is what they look forward to doing and what drains them.
The traditional approach to strengths and weaknesses is not effective, and in some cases has even rendered it impractical. An average manager simply looks at what a person isn’t good at and what they are good at and tries to improve the bad in the hope that an employee will magically transform. While this approach might sound great in theory it isn’t what drives employee performance.
Consider this. A study by Gallup found 15% increase in employee engagement and up to 19% increase in sales when focus was on strengths only. That speaks volumes and a good manager knows that. He understands the strengths and capitalizes on them so every employee can shine. And this starts with observation.
Observation can be of two types. A motivated manager observes employees and mentally makes notes of how they behave in different scenarios. Second, he is willing to ask the right questions that are specific and direct. For example, a manager might ask each employee separately how they felt and what they did on their best day at work. This enables them to understand strengths. An effective manager therefore, knows his employees and what drives them to work harder. Albert Bandura’s research shows that self-assurance is key rather than self-awareness. Managers need to keep this mindset to ensure they are encouraging employees to reach their full potential.
But what if an employee fails to deliver? Managers know simply turning the blind eye to mistakes won’t suffice. Rather than blow the problem out of proportion, exceptional managers try and do something about the problem while communicating clearly with the employees. They either ask the employee to get the appropriate training if they are lacking any skills required for a particular task. In most cases, this helps bridge the gap and enables the employee to feel self-assured. However, if the skills are not the problem to begin with, then the manager can set up the employee with a person who is excelling where the first employee is struggling. This can be a learning and development experience for the employee.
3. Awareness about employee recognition
An extraordinary manager knows that recognition is key to reward an employee for her exemplary performance. But he also is aware that every employee is unique and each employee loves getting recognition in different ways.
An effective manager knows that his latest hire loves getting recognition in front of his colleagues. He also knows that the experienced man who has three decades of experience who diligently works at his desk loves to get recognized in-person. A manager knows the importance and effect of recognition. While the way they get recognized may be completely different from one another, recognition is the same in all cases. Recognition instills a sense of accomplishment and it pushes employees to work smarter and better because they have been recognized as doing well. Managers, who excel at their duty, take the opportunity to learn what triggers each person and how each employee likes to be awarded.
Recognition can enable an employee to shine or to give up. Great managers know the triggers and they take time to learn them because they matter so much to their employees. When managers recognize employees in a way that makes them the happiest, then it can do wonders for the employee and the business. According to a Gallup study, an employee who isn’t recognized at work is two times more likely to quit. Imagine losing out on the best employees just because they weren’t recognized. Effective managers know that and they will take every opportunity to ensure employees understand they are getting the recognition they deserve.
4. Doesn’t just hear but listens carefully
According to a study by Zety, 90% of employees appreciate when their manager listens to them even if they are not on the same page about something. Successful managers listen to what their employees are saying. They are not interested in merely hearing but listening.
There is a difference between the two and Richard Mullender, the founder of Listening Institute, puts it precisely. He says listening isn’t just about hearing what the other person is talking about but trying to uncover the reason behind what they are saying and analyzing the way they are saying it. Listening enables managers to truly understand what is going on in their employees’ mind. And he doesn’t believe that body language is that important because that can be misleading and distracting. What sets a brilliant manager apart from an average manager is the ability to truly listen and be quiet when the employees are talking. They know interruption or correction while the employee speaks is uncalled for.
The manager must not ask too many questions without listening to everything the employee has to say. This can be distracting and might inhibit the employee from speaking freely to the manager. As the past year has been a tough one for every employee, an effective manager must listen closely with sincerity. This enables the manager to communicate effectively knowing why the employee feels a certain way. In 2022, listening is going to be the make or break for businesses. Managers need to know the opinions of their employees to better understand them. This can help build a relationship where both can benefit and in turn cause the business to do well.
A manager’s duty was never a simple one to begin with but being an effective manager in 2022 is going to be an even more difficult one. As more challenges are thrown her way, it is up to her to make use of every opportunity she gets. The manager should be capable of getting the best out of every employee while allowing each employee to learn and grow. The art of managing is not impossible if the manager dedicates time and utilizes it in a way that is beneficial to all the stakeholders involved. Employees will know the difference and they will be more willing to persevere even in these testing times when there is so much uncertainty.
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