Posted by Tamara Stanley on Monday, May 19, 2014 - 00:00
Remember how on "The Office," manager Michael Scott was convinced he was the best boss, proudly displaying a mug (he gave himself) much like the one pictured here? The employees at Dunder Mifflin saw things quite a bit differently. The lesson here? In case you have a blind spot to your leadership skills, take some time to get a little perspective. Ask yourself these nine questions to reality check your management style and get tips on how to become an even better leader.
1. Are you leading by example? If you want your employees to work hard and give 100 percent, you must be willing to do the same. Set high standards for performance and hold yourself to them. Be an example in terms of time management, client service and creative approaches to problem solving. Set a professional tone by treating everyone — your peers, team members, customers and vendors — with equal respect and courtesy.
2. Do you establish clear expectations? Make sure your employees understand their individual responsibilities and how they contribute to achieving the firm’s goals. Explain the criteria that you will use for performance evaluations so your team knows what you expect.
3. Have you set your employees up for success? Although it’s important to challenge your team and encourage them to acquire new skills, you don’t want to overwhelm them with tasks that could be far beyond their current abilities. When delegating tasks or calibrating workloads, analyze skill sets and assign duties accordingly.
4. Do you support professional growth? Take the time to find out each staff member’s career aspirations and motivations, and then find ways to help them achieve these objectives. Share authority and responsibility to give individuals the chance to develop new skills and prepare for more complex roles. Delegating tasks and involving your employees in decision making and planning are other ways to enable them to build their professional skills. Mentor promising employees so they can eventually move into a leadership capacity.
5. How open are you? Ask your team to come to you with any problems and work at becoming a better listener so you can readily identify their concerns, even when they are not stated directly. When employees believe their voice will be heard, they are more likely to perform at their best. Communication goes both ways, so ask your staff to give you timely status reports and feedback about difficulties or challenges they face.
6. Do you give employees autonomy? Your responsibility is to provide strategic vision, establish goals, clarify objectives and set expectations. Your main focus is results, not process, so try not to become overly involved in how your employees perform their jobs. Give clear directions and guidance, then step back and allow them to put their talents to work.
7. Do you criticize gently? In a perfect world, your employees would do their jobs flawlessly. But the reality is that they will make mistakes, miss deadlines and forget to tell you about important information. When you need to call attention to these errors, make it your goal to preserve the individual’s dignity. Meet in private and allow him or her to explain what led to the problem. Rather than assigning blame, reframe a mistake or failure as a lesson and focus on what the employee might do differently in the future.
8. Do you praise effort and achievement? All professionals appreciate recognition, particularly when they’ve put in extra time or effort. With a single sincere statement (“You’re doing a great job!”), you can help keep productivity steady, even during times of peak activity. At staff meetings, congratulate individuals and project teams on their accomplishments. But don’t just wait for formal occasions. Spread the word whenever a team member achieves something important.
9. Do you do what Michael Scott would do? If yes, this is an approach you may want to abandon, unless you want your team to seriously question your leadership skills. Instead, experiment with the strategies outlined above, while remembering that they are not a hard-and-fast recipe. One of the most important qualities of a good boss is adaptability. Remain open to new management styles and techniques and find one that best fits you and your team.
Do you have other tips for developing leadership skills? Please share in the comments below.