If I could give one piece of advice to leaders and managers, it would be this: Simple things can make a huge difference.
If you aren't sure where to start when it comes to improving as a manager, or the things you've read seem quite overwhelming or esoteric, remember that it only takes very small adjustments in behaviour to generate big changes in the engagement and productivity of your team. A great medicine for imposter syndrome is seeing instant improvements too.
Think about the memorable managers you've had, whether good or bad. Rarely is that to do with their technical expertise (or lack of), rather it's how they made you feel. And that's the key to leadership and management - it's about very simple techniques that gain instant, tangible improvements in how interactions go at work. Without fail, in every training session I've ever run or been a part of, the biggest light bulb moments for participants are linked to small changes in behaviour, because a) they create noticeable difference and b) they're easy to remember and apply. It's rarely about their grasp of the more complex frameworks.
That doesn't mean it's easy to do all the time - by no means. In the heat of a difficult conversation it can often be hard to remember, let alone apply the behaviours that make the most difference. But the more you practise, the more likely they are to stick when you need them most.
Now, it also doesn't mean that the more complex frameworks and models aren't useful. Of course they are, they can be the inspiration to improve, they can make concepts clear that were always murky. However, you may find, particularly when you start out as a manager:
You struggle to remember them beyond the training day.
They tell you where you need to end up but are lighter on the specific ways to end up there.
So they may have some use long-term as you absorb their finer details but if you want to go into work today and see a difference in your conversation outcomes as leader, look at the simpler techniques. For instance, here are a few of the most effective, simple behaviours to get instant results in a conversation:
- If you want to explore more but can't think of a question to ask? Say "Tell me more about that."
- Ride the silence for longer than you naturally would. Don't fill it because you're uncomfortable. You'll get more information and they'll feel valued by being listened to.
- For people who are more relationship-focused (as opposed to task-focused), make sure to ask them "What's it like?", ask how they feel doing the things they're doing. You'll build rapport more quickly.
All simple, applicable and crucially, they get instant results in terms of the engagement you'll see in front of you. It's sometimes easy to go down the road of generically highlighting the results you want and expecting that you'll somehow produce those intended results because you're aware of them. It won't happen unless you specify the changes you need to make in your interactions. Remember too that we hemorrhage knowledge unless we apply it (75% in 6 days according to some research), so change is made easiest when we can apply it constantly. The simpler techniques stay with you not just because of their simplicity but because when you see instant impact, you're inspired to keep doing it.
As an example, you can get an uplift of almost 40% in productivity if you give feedback well. That's always been an astonishing statistic to me, and the framework we often use when training in that area? The AID model - Action, Impact, Do. All easy, simple stuff, but what a potential benefit that is.
So it's not always necessary to transform your approach from the ground up (although of course sometimes that's great). Often, the simplest, most basic behavioural adjustments make people feel 100 times more valued and engaged. And it's always the specific actions to take that make the difference. Company values are nothing if they're not translated into a set of specific behaviours that represent them. Rather than telling yourself to "Be a team player" or "Build trust and rapport", try asking more questions. Try to make sure your energy continues to the end of the sentence. Investigate how to put the objectives into practice.
Keep it simple and specific.
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