Being a manager is challenging. I think 90% of managers would agree with that statement. In my last post, I described some of the obstacles you face as a manager. However, every manager has strengths that they bring into their role. Every manager also has what you can call weaknesses or vulnerabilities.
The best managers I work with are keenly aware of both. They take steps to minimize the impact of their weaknesses and leverage their strengths. The following are steps I have seen them take to do this that you can also use to improve your effectiveness.
First, Understand Your Strengths and Weaknesses
What are your strengths and weaknesses in the workplace? I recommend taking a sheet of paper with two columns, strengths and weaknesses, and just start your list. Then, take it to someone who is close to you, preferably at work, to get his or her input. Focusing on your strengths, work with that person to identify your ten strongest.
Next, Understand Your Responsibilities as a Manager
Being a successful manager requires that you effectively carry out a diverse array of responsibilities. Here are six that I consider key to your success as a manager:
- You have to motivate diverse employees.
- You must drive for results by overcoming obstacles and roadblocks.
- You must hold everyone, including yourself, accountable.
- You must form positive relationships with your employees and within your team.
- You have to make good decisions that take into account both a short and long-term perspective.
- You must successfully navigate the political environment within the larger organization.
Pick One Area of Focus
Rank the above responsibilities on both your overall effectiveness and the impact to your team. Does one stand out as an area that, if you could improve your performance, would yield big benefits to you and your team? You might want to ask others for input too. Once you have just one responsibility to focus on, develop your plan for improvement.
What Is Getting In the Way?
Before you jump into action, consider why you haven’t been as successful as you would like in that area. Often, I find that managers fall short in fulfilling a responsibility because they have one or several weaknesses that hinder their success. Sometimes, they overuse their strengths and those become weaknesses.
That was the case with Bill, an executive I assisted who was considered top talent. (The executive is real, but Bill is a fictional name.) One key responsibility he struggled with was developing positive relationships with many of his employees. Bill was an extreme driver and problem solver, and excelled at accountability and delivering results. But, Bill alienated his employees in the process. Half of his team had left during the first six months he managed the team. He was in serious trouble.
The first step we took was to discuss how his weaknesses impacted his relationships with his employees. In particular, we discussed that his sole focus on results left many of his employees and his team feeling undervalued. The environment of his team was one of high stress and negativity. Do you have weaknesses getting in the way of your success in your one key responsibility?
Don’t Try to Fix a Weakness
Often, the suggestion for making improvements is to ‘just fix that weakness’. Have you received that advice? It’s hard to fix weaknesses, especially those that are innate. It’s like asking someone who is left-handed to instantly begin writing with his or her right hand. It’s not going to be pretty and, when given the chance, he or she will revert back to writing with their left hand. In Bill’s case, he couldn’t just turn off his driver personality.
Instead, Apply Your Strengths to That Area
Numerous studies have shown that people are better able to improve their performance by figuring out how to apply their strengths. You have your list of strengths. How can you apply those strengths to make improvements in that area of responsibility?
In the example of Bill, we reviewed his strengths. Since he was strong on structure and managing details, he developed an ongoing schedule of meetings with his employees. Bill also changed his standard agenda to include a specific agenda item to check in with his employee on their personal lives, their work challenges and how he could help them overcome obstacles. He also opened up with his employees about his desire to improve his relationships with them and asked for their feedback to help keep him on track.
Three months after starting those meetings, the rate of attrition on Bill’s team dropped to zero. Also, Bill’s manager was getting unsolicited feedback from the employees on the team about how much they enjoyed being on the team. Bill had come up with a sustainable approach that improved his performance.
Bill’s approach can work for you too. How can you use your strengths to improve your performance? Sometimes, it is very helpful to have an outside perspective regarding your own situation. Team Building for Success provides coaching services that are guaranteed to improve your performance. Contact us for a free consultation.
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