Successful companies scale quickly by hiring strong and influential managers. While some are born destined for the job, others have to work hard to develop the technical and strategic acumen to be a tenacious leader who can command a team and drive ideas forward.
Though there is no prescriptive formula for finding your way in management, there are things you can do to develop applicable leadership skills that are transferable to anywhere in the workforce. Whether you are working with a small team or leading a team of other managers, implementing any combination of managerial qualities can help you bring more productivity to your work and impress your colleagues.
Here is a list of suggested ways you can be a more productive leader, from managers across a wide variety of industries and companies:
1. Ask your team for feedback
As a team manager, it can be hard to judge whether or not your leadership style is actually effective. Rather than make your best guess, as many managers do, ask your direct reports for direct feedback.
“We set up monthly 1:1s where employees are encouraged to provide their managers with both a piece of positive and negative feedback,” says Johnny Carpet, Spokesman of Dallas Flooring Warehouse. “This dramatically decreased the number of miscommunications at the organization and helped our leaders, across all levels, better understand team culture.”
Creating systematic, company/team-wide processes like this is a great way to instill a culture of transparency and support. Managers that are confident enough to take feedback, good and bad, are much more likely to succeed with their direct reports. Above that, they can stop wasting time “guessing,” and start really understanding what works and what does not.
2. Encourage autonomy
Another thing you can do to free up more of your time naturally is to assign more responsibility to the rest of our team. Sitting in a position of power, we tend to underestimate the capabilities of our direct reports. It is our instinct to seek control and try to micromanage every task.
The reality is that you can be far more efficient and productive if you simply start trusting more of your employees with more assignments. You can begin this process bit by bit, slowly offloading duties to new people. Over time, however, people will continue to impress and supersede your expectations.
Ryan Hulland, the President of Netfloor USA, appreciates this, saying “one of the most special parts about being a leader, especially of large teams, is the opportunity you have to accelerate others’ careers fundamentally. If you do lead effectively, you not only help the entire company grow, but you also help everyone on your team be better at their jobs and build more skills.”
3. Admit when you are wrong
While it can sometimes be a hit to your ego, being able to admit when you are wrong is an admirable ability that many junior managers fail to develop. You can waste a ton of time on negative value projects when you are doing them only to prove a point or back your word. The only way to build a culture where asking hard questions is encouraged, and the best answer always wins to you, as the leader and role model, admit when you make mistakes.
“We make sure every manager feels comfortable messing up,” says Peter Zaborszky, Founder of BestVPN. “This is a nuanced, yet an essential component of our culture as it ensures that every team member, including our leaders in upper management, understand that it is okay to fail. This prevents people from fudging with data to improve their own standing, and reinforces the idea that we do not assign ego to our work, but rather look for the raw numbers to guide our choices.”
4. Know your team really well
Understanding the subtle pieces that make your employees unique can help you become a more effective leader. Scratching down notes of small details about each employee will help you stay on top of each connection. Over time, you can leverage these small, but incremental learnings to build stronger bridges between yourself (the manager) and the rest of your team.
The best teams move fast when everyone feels comfortable working with each other. You can save tons of time by investing in and building an environment that feels less like formal work and more like friends working on projects together. A great way to accomplish this is to understand your employees at both a high view and low to the ground level so you can use details to motivate them in the right direction.
“We celebrate our employees’ birthdays, weddings, and personal accomplishments,” says Dr. Jason Young Jang, Master Herbalist at Traditionally Extracted Herbs. “Investing in our team and showing them we really care about them motivates them to come to work excited to get the job done each and every day.”
5. Block off “you” time
As a manager, everyone wants your attention. They want a meeting to discuss their wage. They want to hear your thoughts about a new project. They want your input.
“The biggest productivity hack I have ever implemented was blocking off one day a week for “me time,” says Daniel Jung, Professor of Law at Abraham Lincoln University. “On that day (say Thursday), no one was allowed to schedule a meeting on my calendar. Others did not mind because they knew I was using this day to get ahead and focus on my deep work.”
It can extremely easy to drift away from your core tasks when everyone else is clawing for your attention. Try setting up the time just to work and be productive.