Written by Susu Wong based on Etta Jacob’s How to Improve Your Management Skills Webinar.
Etta Jacobs, Founder of Hermes Path and an Executive and Career Transition Coach has a passion for helping people reach their highest potential. We were honored to have Etta as a speaker for two webinars in January where she shared “How to Improve Your Management Skills.”
The webinars were highly interactive and the attendees were encouraged to chat about their challenges and experiences as managers. Many attendees said that one of the hardest adjustments was delegation because they were used to being individual contributors. Why do new managers have a hard time delegating? An underlying reason is managers think they can do it faster and better than their team members. Training people takes time and can take as much as eight months but the time is worth the reward.
New managers are no longer being judged on their own merit, but rather by the performance of their entire team. They also have other responsibilities and assignments from their supervisors creating a wedge in the ranking file. When a new strategy rolls out, such as a new product, programs, or service offering from their supervisors, the middle managers have to make sure it gets implemented on time, on budget, and on top of everything else on their plate. Delegating tasks and setting expectations for their team will make it easier for managers to get their jobs done because they can no longer do everything. Let your team figure things out on their own and guide them along the way. Be clear about communicating your expectations and the outcomes you are looking for— this will help them know if they are heading in the right direction.
One of the observations Etta made was that no matter how you think of yourself, your title will precede you into the room. Your team is constantly watching everything you do and sizing you up. You should assume competence, and fake it until you make it!
Can friends be your employees?
This is especially challenging if you become your friend’s boss after a period of acting as peers. Your new status can make it difficult for you to remain friends so you have to consider your day to day roles and may have to change your behavior and interaction. Set boundaries between you and your friends to help avoid conflict of interest issues and even perceptions of favoritism. Needless to say, you don’t want to give your friends—who are now your employees—the impression of any special treatment. While at work, always keep it professional.
Here are some tips from Etta:
- Do not reprimand your team in front of your boss, it will make them look bad and lose the respect of your authority.
- Watch your body language. Don’t make eye rolls when you’re unhappy with someone!
- What if I make mistakes as this is common for new managers? The important part is what can I learn from this? Don’t bury your mistakes and don’t blame someone else for your mistakes. You need to own it and come up with a plan to improve the situation.
- Encouraging questions will help you to understand what the underlying issues are so you can come up with a solution or work-around.
- It is important to set aside time to manage your budget and hiring. Sometimes it is tempting to hire someone quickly when you are short on staff and your team is working extra hours.
- Remember to hire the right people that compliment your strengths and weaknesses. Making thoughtful decisions in terms of hiring talent will go a long way.
- Stress, what stress? Etta said that a lot of stress is self-induced and it is helpful to shift your mindset. Your Inner Critic is really watching out for your best interest not trying to undermine you. Learn how to interpret the signals from your Inner Critic.
- Say to yourself, I got this and quiet the noise. Visualize positive outcomes, and ask yourself – what is stressing me the most? Please stop trying to be perfect!
- You can’t fix your boss but you can change some of your approaches to him/her and take a different view. Try to think of the boss as a teacher or a mentor. Keep listening and be open-minded to suggestions.
- Your boss hates surprises and hates being blindsided.
Here are some strategies to de-stress:
- Find what works for you such as a to-do list, exercise to de-stress, etc.
- Ask for help – self-care is the “secret sauce” to be very effective at work.
- Find a safe space – a circle of peers who you feel comfortable talking to.
- Embrace risk and try something new.
- Don’t beat yourself up over trying to be perfect.
- Learn to see your mistakes as opportunities to be better.
Etta recommends reading Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck to get more in tune with your mind.
For more middle manager tips from Etta, visit her website at: https://www.powerinthemiddle.com/