Think back, for a moment, to your best and worst supervisors from the past. Generally, it’s not difficult to reminisce about those polar extremes because of the lasting impression they made on us personally and professionally. I have also challenged myself to attempt to remember my past run-of-the-mill supervisors as well, the men and women who truly didn’t have an effect on me either way. They didn’t make my experience miserable, but they didn’t make it enjoyable either. I believe that lack of impact is far worse, in the long run, than a horrible supervisor. [You’re kidding, right?] Those awful supervisors didn’t leave you with nothing – they helped you discover what NOT to do with your future employees…and I would imagine your currently people would thank you for that. How we supervise is absolutely formed by the examples we’ve been led by in the past, both the good and the bad. But what about the in-between?
When I ask my current clients in management roles how they would rank themselves professionally, most of their responses are exactly the same: “I’m not the worst supervisor in the world, but I’m not the best either. I’m just somewhere in between.” Well, “somewhere in between” isn’t going to cut it. Managers are the most influential piece to an employee’s success. The motivation, the support, the training, the accountability – that all comes from you. So how do you transition from “somewhere in between” to one of the all-time greats?
Make them call their shot. The infamous baseball player Babe Ruth is perhaps most well-known for a gesture he made in the 1932 World Series. With two strikes against him, Ruth pointed his bat towards Center Field, calling his next shot – a staggering 400 ft. home run. He called it. He made his goal known to everyone in the ballpark. As a manager, encourage your employees to call their shots – What’s their next big professional goal? And then, what’s their big goal following that? We don’t know what we’re aiming for if we don’t call the shot. When your employee has honed in on his/her goal, keep record of it. Discuss the goal(s) during your one-on-one meetings so you can motivate them towards achieving their future success. Help them see how bits and pieces of their current role can help better prepare them for the next step.
Manage your space. Have you ever entered the home of a friend or relative and immediately felt uncomfortable? Was there a mountain of clutter, no clear space to sit, and a lack of…fresh air? The atmosphere around us plays a very large role in our ability to effectively communicate. If you are working towards creating an environment of free flowing communication between yourself and your employees, you must provide them with a space to successfully do that. Forcing them to sit through one-on-one meetings in an office that makes them physically uncomfortable will never encourage them to seek your assistance unless absolutely needed. Not to mention, a clean office will do wonders for your psyche as well. Reserve an hour (or two?) on your calendar and get to work. If you have an employee with an exceptionally clean office space, maybe ask for their assistance or suggestions!
Create opportunities for growth. I often hear from Managers that their hands are tied when it comes to providing new opportunities for their employees. They have no ability to create new positions which makes them completely unable to encourage avenues of growth for those they supervise…false. Creating new opportunities isn’t limited to new roles. Perhaps there’s a side project that’s been on the backburner, or a team development initiative that needs leadership? Cross-train your people. Allow them to gain insight into one another’s positions for a stronger, and potentially more respectful, atmosphere amongst your team. And remember – this isn’t about just throwing tasks towards your employees because you don’t think they have enough to do. Be purposeful. Look at their strengths. How could someone with an analytical mind be helpful in reviewing assessments? How could the social butterfly help with onboarding?
Challenge your vulnerability. How much do your employees know about your professional goals? Not where you want to see the team in 5 years, but where YOU want to be in 5 years. In the same position? In a higher level of management? On the beach with a coconut flavored beverage? Be honest with them. Humanize yourself. Break down any “I’ve made it and you haven’t” wall that might be present and show them that you, too, are working towards something great. We need to be able to relate to others, to feel as though those before us are cheering for us to continue moving forward. And who knows…one of your employees just might know someone who knows someone who owns a little hut on that beach. But you won’t know unless you open up.
Only greatness can come from a working environment led by a purposeful manager. Only greatness. Take the time to invest in your people: learn about them, be involved in their goals, and allow them to see you as someone who is also continuing to strive for the next big thing. And then, when they’re asked to speak about their most positively influential supervisor during their next interview, your legacy of great management will continue.