Want to be a great manager? Coach employees by asking questions, mentor them by sharing feedback and sponsor them by praising work.
Great managers, the ones who set themselves apart from their peers, focus on the relationships below them just as much as the ones above them.
What do I mean by this? Great managers understand the value and importance of growing and developing their employees.
This is not an easy thing to do. If not, all managers would do it. Instead, the vast majority of managers focus all their energy on operational goals and looking impressive in the eyes of senior-level leaders.
Although these managers may be seen as good at their job, they will never be great.
A recent Forbes article reiterates this sentiment, stating that the majority of characteristics associated with great leaders are related to managing and developing people and teams.
Managers who recognize the importance of the people-side of business and the financial impact it can have on a company’s bottom-line are on their way to becoming great. That’s because they realize the connection between employee engagement and productivity and therefore strive to create teams that are highly engaged and motivated.
Need a few pointers on ways to do this within your team? Learning and development is an extremely effective way to increase engagement and job satisfaction. Let’s look at a few simple but impactful tips from Centric leaders on ways they create growth opportunities by coaching, mentoring and sponsoring team members.
The Coach: Asks Guided Questions
“One of the best coaching techniques is to ask a question. When you ask a question, why they want this or how should we do this, it places the responsibility back on that person to create the solution and be accountable for their career. It’s a very simple tool, but very powerful.“ – Colleen Campbell, Organizational Change Management Practice expert.
Managers are accustomed to fixing, directing and answering. During a coaching conversation, your approach should be to ask, not tell.
The coach’s role is to guide and empower the employee to discover their own answers. The best way to do this is by asking open-ended questions and listening, intently. At times it may be appropriate to provide a bit of advice but resist the urge to always give your two cents.
I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how rewarding it can feel to help someone find their own path, rather than pointing them down one.
The Mentor: Gives Real, Constructive Feedback
“All the research shows that most people are too uncomfortable with giving real, constructive feedback. We tend to avoid saying the thing that everyone else is saying about a person, directly to the person. Or we don’t go far enough to help them solve their problem. I believe new skills and capabilities can be created with practice. But someone has to show them the way. I’m always willing to do that for some IF they are willing to change.” – Renee Giacalone.
A bit different than a coach, a mentor provides direction by imparting their knowledge, experience, and expertise.
As a manager, you have most likely been in the same position as those on your team. This provides you the prime opportunity to mentor them be successful in their current role, while building the skills and knowledge necessary to climb the proverbial ladder.
One of the most impactful ways you can mentor someone is to be honest with them in your feedback.
Delivery is key, but shying away from difficult conversations or sugarcoating the situation doesn’t benefit anyone.
Most people learn more from their mistakes or missteps than they do from successes. Be the mentor who is caring and supportive but also honest. It may seem a bit counter-intuitive, however being a mentor who gives the tough, but necessary feedback is a great way to show you care about that individual and their career.
The Sponsor: Publicly Recognizes Hard Work
“Make sure to recognize the hard work of your strong performers – and do it publicly. Not only does this encourage that person to keep shooting for this standard of excellence, but it helps others respect their expertise. Public praise shows others the value this person brings and that you, as a leader, appreciate their efforts.” – Misty Walsh, National Marketing Lead
One of the most effective things you can do for someone’s career is to be their sponsor.
If there are people on your team doing great things, by all means, encourage this effort and give them praise.
But don’t stop there – tell others how awesome they are as well.
Mention your top performers when talking to people who can influence their career trajectory. Don’t keep your compliment to yourself – send it on to upper leadership. Recommend them for important projects and assignments and be prepared to attest to why they are the right person for the job.
Managers: Don’t Settle for Good, Go for Great!
Look for ways you can continue to meet company goals, while also providing learning and development opportunities for your team. Coach them to discover their strengths, mentor them on tough assignments, and sponsor them to create new doors of opportunity.
In doing so, you will establish yourself as a great manager and a true leader within your organization, not just because your title implies it. You may also find yourself pleasantly surprised when your engaged and motivated team not only meets company goals but exceeds them.