Managing others today is no easy task. There’s no one correct way to do it, but there are plenty of missteps that can have a negative result. Managers are leaders when they master the art of inspiring others and creating a work environment that develops, retains, and attracts great team members. Unfortunately, managers who have a less than positive impact—even if they achieve great results—have blind spots that make them a boss instead of a leader. Being a leader is a worthy aspiration, but being solely a boss is not. The good news is that becoming a leader is easier than one might think. Here are a few questions to help you uncover some potential blind spots that may be holding you back from becoming the leader you want to be and that your team deserves.
1. Ask for bottom-up feedback from your direct reports.
Performance reviews are almost always from manager to employee and involve advice for improvement. Leaders often ask for feedback from their direct reports. This must be done in a penalty-free environment or you will not get honest input, which is the chief goal. This is a great way to show vulnerability and that you are open to criticism. Don't do this if you have no intention of sharing the feedback with the team as a whole and are not willing to implement some of the feedback. Otherwise, you will erode trust with your team. Ask your team members:
- What can I do to help you do your job better?
- How can I be a better manager for you?
- What are the top 3 things that, if changed, would help you achieve your goals and objectives?
2. Ask yourself: “What makes me a leader?”
If your answer is: “I have a team of direct reports answering to me,” I have some bad news for you. Giving instructions and demanding results are a boss’ MO. On the other hand, a leader inspires direct reports, and others, throughout the organization, with her actions and initiatives. The most powerful answer to this question is deceptively simple: “My staff trusts me,” is a great answer—and a requirement of being a great leader.
3. Invest in yourself and your team.
Even though leadership can be difficult to assume, there’s a good chance that you can name five or six leaders that have inspired you.
- Read books, blogs, white papers on the subject; always be learning.
- Listen to CDs on the subject, expose yourself to different point of view.
- Work with a coach, mentor or paid professional, they will provide unbiased feedback and help you identify your blind spots.
By constantly working to improve themselves, a leader seeks ways to continually improve the work environment they are responsible for. It is said that the only constant is change. As a leader you must be able to quickly adapt to the ever-changing environment that is leadership. You have been put in a trusted role and given a great responsibility, not just to the company, but also to those that report to you.
To learn more about Leadership and the impact it has on the work environment, download our white paper, How Managers Create a Work Environment that Fosters Employee Engagement and Excellence.