One of my coachees recently asked a very valid question. How to be a good manager? Moreover, he’s been wondering how to know if he’s a good leader. Despite all the leadership books and research papers, there’s no magic formula. In reality, being the best leader depends on many unique and situational variants. Nevertheless, there are some techniques to help you validate your leadership approach.
Sphere of Influence
Everyone knows that a good way to discover your blind spots and test reality is to get feedback from others. Unfortunately, this isn’t an exact science. Not only do many people struggle to give their true opinions but also, those opinions come with their own set of biases.
The trick for how to be a good manager and leader is to watch people’s behaviors to get insight into their preferences and motivations. So, if you’re being a good team leader, you might expect people to come to you regularly for advice. Then again, perhaps you’re not seeking to be the go-to leader. Instead, you could be the guiding leader who leaves behind teams of people constantly growing and achieving their ambitions.
Regardless of your values and leadership identity, how to be a good manager involves having some form of following. After all, you can’t lead without followers. Interestingly, this isn’t about standing out as being particularly different. Instead, it’s about connecting with people and creating a common identity such that you’re “one of them”. Through that, you can engender trust and that emotional bind so critical to being a good team leader.
How can you further expand your sphere of influence for greater impact?
- Support your colleagues – it sounds obvious but when was the last time you asked your colleagues what their major needs were and how you could support those? Most of us follow our agenda forgetting everyone else’s. Instead, look for opportunities common to both your and your colleagues’ agendas.
- Special projects – a great way to grow your influence is to take on projects outside your normal day-to-day that might also take you out of your comfort zone. The key when asking how to be a good leader at work is to volunteer for projects that impact several areas and benefit the business as a whole.
- Listen first – we all need to feel heard and understood but most leaders are promoted because of their ability to problem-solve. How to be a good manager and leader means letting that go and enabling people to find their own solutions. An important part of that is to just listen rather than jump in.
Motivate for a Cause
There’s a critical difference between leading for your own goals versus for something bigger than yourself. Many leaders fall into the trap of assuming they’ve got everything under control because they’re meeting their targets. Instead, how to be a great team leader tapping into people’s inner motivation to go above and beyond.
If everyone around you is solely looking out for their interests then you’re be missing a fundamental piece of what motivates people. We all have a basic need to belong and to find some form of purpose. By aligning everyone to a common purpose and values, along with an aspiration they can visualize, you’ve tapped into that secret emotional bind. That’s how to be a good leader at work such that you take people beyond simply turning up to work.
As this McKinsey paper explains, their research shows that 70% of people look to their organization for purpose. By getting this right, top leaders not only improve overall performance but also increase mental wellbeing for all.
How can you boost motivation around you?
- Align the team with values – look around you for how to be a great team leader and watch the team’s behaviors to tell you if they’re aligned with the company values you want to emulate. For example, are your team members collaborating or working in isolation? Do you see people proposing innovative ideas or do they not speak up? Whatever your values, make sure you’ve defined the expected behaviors you want to see.
- Question assumptions – humans are creatures of habit because they enable us to go about our daily lives more effectively. How to be a good manager means always checking in and asking yourself if what you’re doing is really adding value.
- Know your people – yes, we all have the pressures of driving for results. Regardless, if you don’t know how people around you like to work and how you can serve them, you’ll never optimize your teams. Servant leadership isn’t about sacrificing your results but, on the contrary, how to be a good manager at work means co-creating for even greater results.
Compassion and Growth
How to be a good manager and leader doesn’t mean knowing everything or having all the answers. It’s actually about serving the greater good and supporting others to get there. The more you can step back from the day to day and enable your team to operate independently, the more you can also keep moving on in your own career.
Furthermore, neuroscientists can now show that when we receive criticism or negative feedback, our brains flip into fight-or-flight mode. In that state, the rest of our abilities shut down as the mind shifts into survival mode. As this article on the feedback fallacy describes, leaders should focus on strengths to encourage growth and learning. The more you can put yourself in someone else’s shoes and show compassion, the easier that will be.
Compassion further promotes growth because it helps us create that emotional bond that motivates us to do more. Essentially, when shown compassion and encouragement, we find ourselves wanting to strive for the sake of both ourselves and the team. That motivation is part of our need to belong and to be seen as valuable team members.
How can you foster compassion and growth?
- Coaching style – by asking questions, you allow people to take responsibility for their careers, choices and actions. Of course it’s easier telling people what to do. With practice though, you can develop the instinct to ask questions before offering advice or solutions. Review this article if you want examples of questions that can help you when wondering how to be a good manager at work.
- Be kind to your inner critic – as you can probably guess, all of this involves self-awareness and emotional intelligence. One of the first things you can do is to start observing your inner critic and how you react to that inner voice. Then, you can work to reduce your inner critic’s impact by befriending it. The idea is to compassionately remind your inner voice that you’ve learnt from your mistakes of the past.
- Promote co-learning – how to be a good manager involves creating a cohesive team where everyone learns and bounces off each other. Protecting one’s own interests only creates tension and rift. On the flip side, compassion engenders trust and psychological safety such that people can confidently evolve and achieve more.
The Never-Ending Journey of How to Be a Good Manager
Validating your leadership traits consists of checking in with those around you and observing how they respond to you. For instance, do they seek you out as an influencer and motivator? Do they go on to achieve great things through your guidance?
Although, the journey for being the best leader is a lifelong one that impacts us both at work and at home. The secret is to befriend your inner critic with compassion so you can do the same with others. Then, define a greater purpose whilst serving and supporting those around you. At the same time, prioritize growth and learning over mistakes and weaknesses. People will then naturally want to follow you and the question of whether you’re a good leader will become obsolete.