Frontline Supervisor: Becoming a Better Manager

On 9 Nov 2014, in Frontline Supervisor

Each month, “The Balance Sheet” provides questions and answers from experts on a topic that’s important to you as a manager. Please feel free to share this information with other colleagues who also manage people.

Q. What makes a good manager of employees? What common traits do the best managers possess?

A. The Gallup Organization has examined this issue quite thoroughly through a massive in-depth survey based on interviews and studies they conducted with about 80,000 managers. They arrived at a set of four characteristics worth knowing and thinking about. What is interesting is that the attitude of the supervisor is directly or closely associated with three out of the four. That’s an argument for examining any personal issues and how they help or impede your ability to be a good manager. Supervisors have a resource to help them address these issues — BJC EAP. The four common denominators are wanting to see employees grow and succeed; matching the right people with the right roles; defining desired outcomes while being willing to give people the latitude to accomplish them in their own ways; and focusing on what’s best in people, not what’s worst.

Q. In my pursuit of being the best manager I can be, my biggest challenge has been seeing problems before they happen -- identifying early trouble in the decisions made by those I supervise. Is this an art or a skill?

A. As you manage employees over time, you may feel uncertain about the course of action or solution offered by an employee. You’re not predicting the future. Instead, your accumulated knowledge is working for you to create uncertainty, causing you to act. This is a skill. Unfortunately, for most managers, these sensations may be so subtle as to be dismissed; so, the challenge is spotting them and acting on them earlier. Train yourself to gauge your level of certainty or uncertainty sooner, rather than learning from costly mistakes. Ask the following: “How certain is my employee about what he or she is doing or proposing?” “What do I need to do, say, or ask in order to get past these feelings of uncertainty?” “Has this employee answered all of my questions, or are the answers incomplete or skirted?” Avoid accepting solutions to problems you know aren’t viable with the idea of fixing problems later if they occur.

Q. I’m a concerned manager and want my employees to come to work every day enjoying what they do, and feel like I am measuring up to their expectations as a great supervisor. How do the most successful managers accomplish this?

A. Employees are resources to companies, and because they are paid for what they do, a partnership or contract exists to provide them with benefits in exchange for work. Frequently, managers and business organizations get too stuck within this model trying to help employees feel motivated by looking to benefits, rewards and tangibles to keep them happy and loyal to the organization. But this is only half of the picture. The other half is an effective relationship employees have with the organization. It is also part of the contract, although much of it or perhaps none is in writing. You’re the closest representative of that relationship. Meeting employees’ needs in this part of the loyalty equation requires things that are harder to produce for some managers. They include getting closer to the employee by offering coaching assistance for career goals, helping employees connect with mentors, giving them lots of feedback and ensuring that no “trees” are growing between you and them by keeping communication channels open and demonstrating that you are empathetic to their needs.

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