There is already a laundry list of words in your head describing a good manager: flexible, supportive, transparent, encouraging, engaged, etc, etc.
But truthfully, there is a limit to how helpful each of these adjectives are as you lead your team. It is possible to have too much flexibility and be taken advantage of, you can be too transparent and share more than is appropriate, you can be so engaged that you become a micromanager. There is no one size-fits-all to good management, though there are shared qualities.
So how does one find balance in the all-important self-reflective question, “Am I a good manager?”
It deserves some serious thought, but the fact that you are considering it in the first place is a good sign. Being able to recognize that you have shortcomings sets you above leaders who are blind to their own. If you are seeking to find out whether you are a good manager, here are four exploratory questions you can ask yourself to find your strengths and opportunities for growth.
1. How is your team’s morale?
Team morale might be the number one indicator of good management. If morale is high, productivity and performance improve. There is an increased willingness to roll with organizational changes and work toward successful outcomes. You will know that your team has high morale if individuals on it have positive relationships with each other, they share credit for successes, and there is efficiency and quality in their work.
Conversely, with low morale you’ll see interpersonal conflict, low motivation, and poor outcomes. If your team is experiencing a high turnover rate, burnout, and complaints of poor work-life balance, your team has low morale.
Although team morale is influenced by things which might be outside of your control like company benefits, executive-level decisions, and organizational culture, you can still do your best to make your team a positive environment.
Here are some things to consider:
- How is your team’s stress level? If it is high you may need to reevaluate the workload you take on or ask for additional personnel.
- Do you treat each team member fairly, with equitable standards and no favorites?
- When was the last time you looked at wages? Nothing kills morale in an employee faster than learning their teammate is making more money doing the same job.
- Is peer support built into your processes so that your team has a vested interest in keeping morale high?
- Do you support building positive relationships on your team? Are your team members friends or at least friendly with each other?
Take a moment to consider the additional steps you can take to prioritize the well-being of your team. When employees know their manager cares, morale can’t help but improve.
2. Do your employees feel empowered?
Empowerment occurs when employees are given responsibility and authority to take action in their sphere of work. How much or how little power they have will depend on the roles and personalities of your team, but employees should be able to do their daily work without waiting on instructions and approvals from their manager.
Empowered employees are confident and have the tools that they need to see success in their role. That means that you don’t take a completely hands off approach and give them free reign, but you take an active interest in what they are doing, how comfortable they are doing it, and what their ideas are for process improvement. A good manager listens, and if you want employees to feel empowered you will hear what they have to say.
Here's how you will know whether you have an empowered team:
- Team members come to you when they have a new idea because they know you will listen.
- They feel comfortable sharing honest feedback about how processes are going.
- They do not feel worried about bothering you when they need to ask for direction.
- Your team will feel confident making decisions in their routine duties and when they are unsure.
Here are some indicators that your team is feeling powerless:
- Employees ask you for help and reassurance at every step of their project.
- Your employees complain about not being able to get work done because of burdensome processes in place.
- When your employees ask for help they do not come with ideas for a solution because they are typically left out of the problem-solving process.
If you need to practice empowering your team, ask your employees what their solution would be when they come to you with a problem. Let them respond and either affirm their plan or brainstorm additional ideas with them. Giving them the responsibility of answering their own question and acknowledging their good ideas builds confidence in personal decision making. If you need to set expectations so employees know when to come to you with a problem versus when they should problem solve on their own, do so.
Consider these questions: Are you open to new ideas from your team? How can you offer more flexibility to your team members to show you trust them?
3. How consistently do you provide feedback?
Feedback is essential to growth. It reinforces positive behaviors and promotes change toward improved outcomes. Although it can be difficult to offer criticism and your employees may not enjoy receiving it, your goal as a leader is to guide your team to success. Being overly nice does not promote growth or opportunities to better performance.
It is easy to know whether you are providing feedback, and there are many approaches to doing so. Regardless of your method, it is important to create a culture of consistent feedback so that it becomes a natural part of the job (rather than a once-per-year event). Take time to analyze employee behavior or performance and consider what they are doing well and what can be improved. Then mix feedback into your formal and informal conversations as appropriate. Share what you learn in 1:1s, performance conversations, and annual reviews. There are many software programs that facilitate feedback, and your HRIS might even come with one
Take a moment to consider, do you employees know the strengths that you see in them? Do they have some goals for improvement?
4. What are you doing to actively develop your team?
Simply defined, employee development is when an employee and employer work together to improve competencies and develop new skills to support the organization. As a manager, you are responsible for developing your team because you understand the high-level needs of the organization and the personal goals of your employees. Employees that are offered development have higher job satisfaction and increased productivity (Biro, 2018).
Even if your organization doesn’t offer a formal employee development program, you can provide opportunities for employees to better themselves. Send them links to articles pertaining to their job or work goals. Suggest attending webinars or pay for them to go to seminars. Find them a mentor and continue to be a mentor yourself. Keep your employees’ goals in mind and give them assignments that will stretch their abilities.
Additionally, don’t forget that leading by example is important. Develop your own leadership skills by reading literature, commit to putting best practices into action, and consider attending a Campfire session.
Take a moment to reflect on what type of opportunities would be beneficial to you and your team.
The four questions outlined above are not meant to make you unsure of yourself, but to help you think critically about your leadership and how to improve it. Remember, success in leadership comes as your team grows. Feedback begats development, empowerment increases morale. As you enact change in management, not only will you help your team find success, but you will achieve it as well.