What makes a great manager? I could list off a plethora of technical skills that you would probably agree are useful. But when it comes down to it, what separates a great manager from a mediocre or even a good one is how they treat their people.
Sweet, job done, article finished.
Okay, maybe not. Let’s dig a little deeper. Humans learn really well through contrast, so in this article, rather than focusing on what you should do to be a phenomenal manager, I’m going to focus on what you shouldn’t do.
Specifically, things that great managers never say to their people.
4 Things Great Managers Never Say To Their People
Great managers never say, ‘It’s not that hard’.
A sure and exceptionally fast way to disengage and lose the trust of your team members is to devalue them and their work. Stating or even alluding to the fact that you don’t consider their work or role to be of value is the managerial equivalent of shooting yourself in the foot.
As a leader, it’s your job to lift your people up and have them operating in their role to their fullest potential. Whether that’s through encouragement and giving the right feedback or upskilling people who aren’t there yet. Devaluing the role devalues the person doing it. If you want your people to value and be motivated by their work, you need to show that you value their contribution as well.
Great managers never say, ‘Make it quick’.
Look, I get it. You’re a leader which means you probably have a pretty hefty workload that moves fast. I’m not saying you should drop the tools, roll out the psychotherapy couch and dedicate half a day to any question from one of your team members.
However, even if you only have a few moments to give someone, the way you turn up in those moments is critical. Listening carefully and giving a response that values the person and the question can go a long way to having your team feeling supported and positively engaged in their work.
There are always going to be times when you truly don’t have a moment to spare. On these occasions, something that can go a long way is a simple statement like ‘I don’t have the time right now, but I do want to talk this through. Let’s lock in 15 minutes this afternoon (or whenever works) and we can speak about this properly’.
Great managers never say, ‘I’m disappointed in you’.
The first risk of emotion-based statements like this is that they may make your people feel like they are being treated like a child. It’s also not specific or actionable enough to create a change in behaviour.
Rather than using statements like this, a better first point of call is to give clear and specific feedback regarding what you want the person to do differently. For example, rather than saying ‘I read the report you wrote, and I’m really disappointed in you’, you are better off saying ‘I read your report, and there were a few things I need you to work on. Next time, I need you to make sure you spell check your work before you send it through’.
This creates a feedback conversation that is less focused on emotion and more on the action.
Great managers never say, ‘Leave your personal issues at home’.
Gone are the days where people accept leaving their personality and personal lives at the office door. More and more employees are expecting a degree of personal expression and integration between their work and personal lives. And truthfully, the trend is that organisations are coming to expect and encourage this more often as well.
When members of your team seem ‘off’ and maybe even express challenges they are facing in their personal life, simply asking them what they need or if you/the organisation can assist can go a long way. This isn’t to say that you should expect yourself, or the company, to be able to fix the situation. Taking the time to ask shows that you care enough to ask can go a long way to your team feeling valued and supported.
The big caveat to this is that you aren’t expected to be a counsellor or social worker. So, when you feel issues are beyond your knowledge/skills then my recommendation would be to follow the processes you have in place for that.
There we have it, short, sweet and practical. Remove these four statements from your vernacular and you’ll have a more engaged, motivated and committed team.
And if you’d like to learn about how to have tough conversations and give tricky feedback, take a look at our Dealing with the Tough Stuff program.