Empower Your Managers
to Lead People
Who sets the tone, vision, and culture of your organization? Leaders.
Strong leaders bring out the best in people. They’re critical in activating strategy through people. From frontline managers to executives, leaders within your organization are impacting employees and being impacted by other leaders.
Leaders at all levels matter—and their growth is paramount.
Here’s a common scenario: A high-performing individual contributor is promoted into a management position because they do great work. However, they haven’t had the opportunity to develop how they lead people. As they continue to advance and lead more people, the impact of their habits and beliefs is magnified (for better or worse).
Managers are the link to engaging your frontline employees, and their growth shouldn’t be left to chance. To be successful, managers must become strong people leaders who inspire teams AND drive meaningful business results. They need the right mix of technical skills and business acumen to get work done. But they also need emotional and social intelligence to motivate and involve employees in work.
Here are three key tenets pretty much every manager should model if they want to lead people:
- Embrace development
- Create meaning
- Diffuse drama
1. Embrace development
When managers are people leaders, they recognize that the opportunity for improvement is limitless—both for themselves and others. They actively seek growth opportunities and take time to reflect on their strengths and areas of development. They attend workshops, take assessments, meet with mentors, and seek feedback from others. By developing who they are as people, they better understand how they show up at work to lead people and teams.
They also embrace the continuous development of others. They strive to know the people on their team as individuals: What makes this employee tick? What are they currently seeking in their career? What areas can they develop to reach their full potential? What role can I, as the manager, play in their development?
The best managers encourage a growth mindset in their team. Not only do they model a growth mindset, but they recognize and reward employees who are continually finding opportunities to develop themselves and others.
Consider: Managers are busy, which means keeping all this stuff in mind can be overwhelming. Time-based communication and nudges can drive engagement and provide reminders to prioritize development. Systems for badging, social community, and certifications are also powerful for sustaining continual growth and development (and can add some friendly competition).
2. Create meaning
Simply put, everybody has to know why they matter. It’s what motivates many of us to get involved and participate in what we’re being asked to do. When we know our hard work is valued, we work harder.
Managers are crucial for communicating how their employees fit into the bigger picture. It’s important for any team to understand its value and collective role in driving desired business results. Effective people leaders articulate the value their team brings to the organization. They also inspire team members to stay in the game when the going gets tough.
It’s especially critical for managers to create meaning during times of change. Managers are on the receiving end of a lot of input for change—senior leadership, the market, their team, the customer. How they receive and communicate that information to their team has a huge impact on employees’ ability to succeed and thrive in the new normal at work.
Consider: Managers don’t exist in a vacuum—their messages and actions are viewed within the context of the organization’s broader story. We often ask managers to connect the dots from the work their team is doing to the company’s mission, vision, and values. A compelling narrative can help managers recall key values or concepts more easily, making it easier for them to champion your organization’s culture.
3. Diffuse drama
Have you ever seen a manager put pressure or strain on a situation? Maybe they stoke fires through communication that comes off as accusatory and blaming. It isn’t very productive and can even cause drama.
To diffuse tension and stress, managers must reframe the difficult situation as a challenge that can be overcome. People leaders engage others in meaningful conversations and interactions by:
- Asking the right questions
- Actively listening to others
- Respectfully challenging ideas to draw out better thinking
Facilitating quality conversations not only involves managers’ communication skills. They also need to understand business financials in order to make good decisions. With the right “soft” and “hard” skills in place, managers can transform stressful situations into development opportunities for themselves and their team.
Consider: Some managers may struggle to diffuse drama through meaningful conversations. And changing mindsets and behavior is hard work—being handed a checklist of policies to memorize won’t adequately equip managers to have better conversations. Provide managers with a few guiding principles or behaviors to guide their day-to-day interactions and ensure that leaders at every level are creating an environment where healthy, frequent feedback is readily exchanged.
Empowering managers to lead people
We all have to own our role in manager success. If we’re going to ask managers to embrace development, create meaning, and diffuse drama, then we’ll need to examine how the organization is equipping managers to lead people AND drive business. It can take hard work, yet everyone at the organization will benefit when your managers can motivate, engage, and lead employees at work.