Truth talk: Being a manager is hard.
You may not be 100% prepared for the demands of a job that requires handling individual personalities, motivations, and work styles. Doing the work becomes the simple part; working through others is far more complex.
Which isn’t to say it’s all bad. Helping your employees grow, tackling projects as a team, and building strong relationships are all very rewarding. And, seasoned leaders will tell you that it gets easier the longer you do it, because you’ll learn as you go.
But there’s a faster (and less stressful) way to put these lessons to work--and that’s to learn from managers who’ve been there before.
For my latest book, The Inspiration Code, I spent five years speaking to leaders and researching what actually inspires others to do their best work. Based on their experience, I learned five key leadership tricks that’ll help a new manager make less mistakes and create the best team:
1. They Prioritize Listening
People in their first management roles often spend a lot time thinking about how they’ll lead conversations with their team (e.g., how they’ll share priorities, provide feedback, and communicate proactively).
However, too many people don’t pay attention to best practices for listening. They figure they already know how to, and therefore overlook developing this critical leadership skill.
Focused, curious listening conveys an emotional and personal investment in those who work for us. When you listen to people, they feel personally valued. It signals commitment. (Here are four ways to improve now.)
2. They Point out Other People’s Potential
Leaders have a great influence on how workers view themselves. In his book Superbosses, Dartmouth Professor Sydney Finkelstein found that the world’s most extraordinary bosses bring out untapped talents in their people. Those workers develop farther and faster, and increase their own performance.
How do they this? By talking to their employees about their potential.
Most managers would say that they know the strengths of their team members, but too often they don’t talk about them. (They save one-on-one meetings for feedback on areas for improvement.)
As the Pygmalion effect has shown for decades, people rise to their leader’s expectations. So, if you tell your employee you believe in their ability to hit more ambitious sales goals, lead an upcoming presentation, or find a more efficient process they’re more likely to do it.
3. They Spread Positivity
Social science research shows that our moods are contagious, and the more authority you have, the more likely your mood is to spread.
Translation: Whatever vibe the boss walks in with, those around him or her will pick it up. So, if you’re positive and energetic, your team will be more likely to feel that way (and if you’re acting cranky and defeated, you can expect that attitude to spread as well).
The best leaders learn to bring the emotion they want to see. So, it’s a great reminder to take a personal day when you’re on the verge of burning out--or, at the very least, going for a walk when you need a breather--so you can keep projecting a positive attitude.
4. They Don’t Ignore Their Team
This may go without saying, but to share your mood people need to see you. Leaders often fall prey to management-by-email syndrome. When things get busy, it may seem most efficient to shut your door (either literally, or if you work in an open office, metaphorically), and get through as much work as possible.
But, that’s a rookie mistake.
A team needs to see and hear what their boss cares about--firsthand. Good managers show conviction by communicating frequently and in person (or videoconference, if remote). So, if you catch yourself communicating solely by email, schedule one-to-one meetings to give your employees some face time.
Bonus: this’ll provide a platform for you to listen, as well.
5. They Stay Connected to What Drives Them
People do their best work when guided by a purpose. And managers play a large role in inspiring it in others and helping workers to see how their efforts fit into a larger picture for the company.
But, in order to inspire purpose in others, leaders first need to make sure they know their own purpose and values. (That’s because your commitment will rub off, just like your mood.) When a team sees its manager guided by personal values, they feel encouraged to do the same.
To stay engaged, carve out a regular time to reflect on your own purpose and surround yourself with people who inspire you.
Everyone has some hard days at work--managers included. However, if you make time to learn the best practices early on, you’ll be giving yourself a leg up, so your good days can outnumber them.