By Mattson Newell (@MattsonNewell), director for partners in leadership, and an expert and author on breakthrough communications, global human resources, and talent development

If you're like many leaders in the startup environment, you might be managing people for the first time--possibly without the training and development that leaders in mature companies receive on a regular basis. Develop your leadership style with these five essential management skills we've distilled while consulting with some of the most successful leaders in the world.

1. Clarify Expectations

Many organizations are running at 90 mph, but they are not sure where they are headed or what the finish line is. Our Workplace Accountability Study revealed that 85 percent of employees weren't clear about what their organizations were trying to achieve. Without identifying a clear finish line, imagine the confusion and disengagement that can quickly permeate an organization.

This might seem like common sense, but unfortunately, we have found that it's not common practice: Get clear on your results, and then communicate them over and over until you achieve them.

2. Lead Culture

Don't let culture just happen. Lead it.

As a manager, you set the intention for your team. If you want to see your team exhibit a new behavior, more collaboration or accountability for example, you should ask yourself, "What am I doing to foster this culture?"

A senior manager at one of the fastest-growing startups in the country wanted to encourage a collaborative work culture. Telling people to think or behave a certain way doesn't mean they will. Instead, managers need to create the opportunity for new thinking and behavior to take root. The manager understood this when he encouraged the team to host weekly potlucks.  

On Friday afternoons, his 40-person team now disconnects from their everyday responsibilities to share lunch and review client interactions. "The learning they get from each other during this time is invaluable," says the senior manager. Would they have experienced the same level of learning from the seclusion of their desks? Probably not.

Beyond the immediate benefit of staying aligned on projects, processes, and client interactions, encouraging this weekly interaction also prevents silos from forming throughout the week. Everyone on the team knows that sharing ideas and information is critical to the company culture and its success--all because the manager made collaboration a priority, not an afterthought.

3. Give Recognition

An overlooked and underappreciated aspect of management is your role in giving recognition. We are not just talking about monetary recognition and incentive trips but also simply saying thank you!

The American Psychological Association surveyed 1,700 employees and found that more than half were intending to search for new jobs because they felt underappreciated. When we fail to express our appreciation, we fail to acknowledge and uplift those around us. This is a surprising trend, but the antidote is simple. As a leader, no matter how busy you are, stop long enough to say thank you to your employees.

What's magical about this is that showing appreciation is an invitation for people to show up with their best selves. As Charles Schwab said, "The way to develop the best that is in a person is by appreciation and encouragement."

4. Ask for Feedback

A recent Gallup poll showed that managers who received regular feedback were 10 percent more profitable than those who did not. Note that it said received, not gave. Managers are quick to give feedback when anyone on the team is missing the mark. The real power of leadership comes in asking for feedback.

In How Did That Happen?, our authors write: "Dialogue requires that you seek input from people about all their concerns, especially their worries about both real and perceived obstacles, so that you can address them head-on." You will always benefit from hearing what people think and believe. Accurate or not, people operate on the basis of their beliefs. Understanding those beliefs will go a long way toward helping you become an effective leader.

When was the last time you received feedback from a member of your team? If this is not happening daily, it's not happening enough.

5. Manage Your Time

Where you spend your time matters. It sends a clear message to your team about where they should focus their time and resources. In speaking with the founder of a booming tech startup, he mentioned that the first two years after they started the business they spent all their time and resources building the quality of their product. In fact, they didn't even hire a salesperson until year three. That sends a clear message to the team that quality comes before anything else! Rethink the way you and your team spend time to ensure you are spending it on the things that matter.

Creating results and shaping change

In the startup environment, there's not always time to formally train and develop leaders. To get up to speed quickly, focus on honing these fundamentals for an instant boost to your impact and effectiveness as a leader: clarify expectations, lead culture, give recognition, ask for feedback, and manage your time.

Published on: Mar 23, 2018
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