10 Ways to Be a Better Manager

Last Updated Nov 29, 2010 4:50 PM EST

How to Motivate Your TeamAbout the biggest mistake successful managers make is thinking they've got all the answers. Let's face it, when you've got enough successes and failures under your belt and plenty of gray hair on your head, it's a natural tendency to spend more of your time talking than listening.

That's a pitfall none of us should fall into, and that includes me. While it sometimes seems like I have enormous disdain for some "leadership gurus," especially the academic type, I'm always on the lookout for folks who, like me, have real-world management experience and the inclination to share it with others.

Angel investor, entrepreneur, and former high-tech executive Martin Zwilling appears to be one of those guys. In a post on Business Insider he shares some excellent advice on how to motivate and engage employees, which he says derive from three key factors:
Alignment of the employee with the goals and vision of the company.

Faith of the employee in the competence of management and their commitment to realize the goals and vision.

Trust in their direct supervisor that he or she will support his or her people and help them to succeed.
Zwilling goes on to name 14 management dos and don'ts to help accomplish those three goals and engage your team; I expound on 10 that resonated with me:
  1. Don't send mixed messages to your employees so that they never know where you stand. Nothing gets people running around in circles, chasing their tails, like saying one thing today and flip-flopping tomorrow. Be consistent and clear.
  2. Don't BS your team. Be genuine and straightforward. If your management sets direction you don't agree with, explain that you don't always agree with them but then, you're not the boss. It's called "disagree and commit" and it is effective.
  3. Don't act more concerned about your own welfare than anything else. Selfish behavior inspires the same in your team.
  4. Don't avoid taking responsibility for your actions. Holding yourself accountable is the only way you can credibly hold others accountable.
  5. Don't jump to conclusions without checking your facts first. Mature leaders never react or overreact to a single data point or event. All that accomplishes is getting others to panic and start pointing fingers.
  6. Do what you say you are going to do when you are going to do it. I'm not crazy about the wording, but the message is clear: walk the talk. That's what builds credibility and confidence in you as a leader and your team as a group.
  7. Do be responsive (return phone calls, emails). In this day and age of over-communication I wouldn't spend all your time responding to every little thing, but when it's important, communicate in real time if possible.
  8. Do admit your mistakes -- and take the blame for failures. There is no better way to learn and teach. Failure is how we grow and mature.
  9. Do recognize your team and publicly support your people. That doesn't mean destroy your own credibility by BSing your management or acting as if your team is perfect, but when they do the job or excel, get the word out.
  10. Do ask and listen. Enough said.
Above all, remember that the day you stop listening and learning is the day you stop growing as a manager, as a leader ... and as a person. In my experience, expertise is both relative and transitory.

Also check out:
Image of Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer CC 2.0 Flickr user aanijhan

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