Becoming a More Effective Manager

Management is a leadership function but has accountability for achieving the team goals. So the more effective manager looks both at the goals and helping the team achieve them.

This DIGEST is synthesising themes from Kellogg School professor of entrepreneurship and innovation Carter Cast. He starts by noting that “We talk about inspirational leadership and brave leadership, and I’m all for it .. but the power and strength of good management doesn’t always get enough attention.” 

In large organisations, leaders set the vision and the strategy. Middle management however establish goals, drive performance, build team culture and free the executive from day to day operations.

“the real pulse of a company is its management layer” 

Carter Cast

Communicate Clearly

Effective communication is a critical skill for management. That requires that there is a shared common understanding. A good test might be to ask team members about key objectives and how they are a being measured. If each team member can answer the same way and provide the same criteria then the communication was clear.

Communicating clearly requires active listening. This is especially important in 1:1 sessions where coaching, development and feedback is usually delivered. Make sure that you are prepared for these sessions, it is useful to go in with a shared agenda for the discussion and to capture notes that both parties can be clear on afterwards.

Take Ownership of The Process

Great managers don’t just drive for results. They continually consider how to do it better. That requires taking ownership of the end to end process and considering ways to optimise the execution.

Improvements to speed up delivery, improve customer experience, reduce risk, increase revenue, cut costs are all within the control of the management. As Cast says “Average managers think their job is to stay in their lane and facilitate the execution of initiatives. Great managers do that, but they also scratch their heads and say, ‘Is there a better way to do this?”

“The more you understand your team’s work, the better you’ll be at analyzing and improving it. And the best way to understand it is by diving in and doing it.”

Carter Cast
Image Source: August de Richelieu Pexels

Get Involved and Add Value

Managers are usually promoted because they have both the leadership attributes and the technical knowledge. They are most effective when they are also getting involved and hands on with the tools. “Great managers roll up their sleeves and work alongside the team when necessary”.

When managers get involved in the work they have the best opportunity to understand how to optimise, remove potential roadblocks and improve productivity for the team.

Develop Talent

A key role of leadership is to develop your teams talent. Ongoing coaching and regular active feedback helps build competence. Managers need to understand the individual career goals of team members. Demonstrating they have an interest not just in their wellbeing and performance but also in their future.

“Think of yourself as a coach who’s there to unlock the potential of the person,” Cast says. “You work with the talents and gifts of each person so they can do more of what they do well.” 

Hire Well

Great managers recognise the importance of having high performing direct reports. So recruiting the right talent for the job is one of the core competencies of a great manager.

While there are a number of aspects of how to interview, Cast makes a recommendation to ensure that there is a scorecard. Set a scorecard that assesses candidates consistently against the 4-5 outcomes the manager is looking to achieve.

“When you do the work up front to be crystal clear on what outcomes you’re looking for in the new role, your interviews will be much more focused and you’ll come away with a better fit in the selection process.”

Key Takeaways

  • Management is a leadership function but has accountability for achieving the team goals. So the more effective manager looks both at the goals and helping the team achieve them.
  • The more effective manager is also always looking optimise the process to drive efficiency and make the team successful.
  • Hiring, developing and retaining talent are key capabilities of the effective manager.
DIGEST from KelloggInsight
5 Tips to Become a More Effective Manager
By Fred Schmalz and Carter Cast (Clinical Professor of Innovation and Entrepreneurship)

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