As the year draws to a close, we’re reflecting on the strategies and habits of the most effective managers and people leaders we have come across.
We’ve worked with hundreds of people over the last year, so we’ve gathered a lot of insights into the most effective management and leadership skills in action. Today we’re going to share these with you so you can be the best people leader.
Perhaps the most effective strategy we’ve seen is to make your wellbeing a priority; put yourself first. By making it a foundation in their life, we’ve seen managers sustain their energy levels through this busy period at the end of the year and achieve their goals.
The best way to do this is to create mini habits for yourself that promote solid mental, emotional and physical health. You could start with something simple like not eating lunch at your desk. Instead, go outside, eat in a communal area or go for a short walk at lunchtime. Try it for a week and you will soon see the benefits.
To boost your mental health, start a conscious breathing habit or learn to meditate, even if it's five to ten minutes every day or every second day. Just be still and calm the thoughts. They will come through, but that's okay, just keep focusing on the breath.
An emotional strategy we recommend is to simply tune in to your emotions. Awareness is the first thing that allows you to move into change and then into action. So set yourself mini targets - think about how you’re feeling and think about how you would describe it.
Another common character trait we’ve seen in effective managers and leaders is having operational excellence in some area of their work and recognising that. Think about the one thing you do really well.
For me (Jan), it’s meetings. Do your meetings have an agenda? Do you have a chair that rotates? Do you write things down and assign responsibilities? These are basic things but the difference between effective management and poor management is putting them into action.
There is something very powerful about sending an agenda out in advance, giving people time to prepare, and giving them an opportunity to add to that agenda. And it’s good to mix things up. You do not want to have the same format that you had at the beginning of the year at the end of the year. Whether it's the time, the place, the sequence of events on the agenda, or who's running the chair, you definitely need to keep that fresh.
If you’re not holding a meeting but attending one, do you participate the way you would want people to participate in a meeting you're running?
Another area of operational excellence as a people leader could be in your one-on-one catch-ups with team members. Ensure you have a process and an approach, and make it consistent. Whether you do it for ten minutes every week, every fortnight, or once a month for thirty minutes, it doesn't matter. Just make it consistent.
It’s important not to focus solely on tasks, too. It should be about development and moving forward in the company.
While it’s good to know your strengths and to own them, it’s just as important to continue developing yourself. We have found the most effective managers are the ones that keep learning, and who are emotionally aware and intelligent. They do this by listening to podcasts, reading up on trends, listening to audiobooks, and attending courses.
Tying into this, stretching yourself in one key area is something that can make you a better people leader. Growth happens when you go beyond your comfort zone so think about where you can stretch yourself. It should be something that feels a little scary, yet doable.
For some, it might be in the area of public speaking, attending a conference, or publishing a white paper. Or you might connect with five key people in your industry and share an idea with them. Or even going the extra mile for one of the goals you've agreed with your manager. The area you choose to excel in doesn’t have to be work-related, either.
Whatever area you choose, when you complete a big goal, you can look back and draw on it in times of self-doubt.
As a people leader, it’s not only important to develop yourself, but you have a responsibility to do the same for your team.
Harvard Business Review (HBR) says three quarters of the employee's day is spent communicating with colleagues and that collaborative activities have increased by more than 50%, so it’s important to keep developing your team.
One way you could do this is by using a team meeting to use our High-Performing Team Tool to discuss how to become an efficient team and what it could look like. Doing this also means you’ll learn to listen to one another, consciously.
According to Google’s team-based research project, Aristotle, there are a number of factors that make good teams. The first is that everyone has an opportunity to speak roughly the same amount. The quality may not be the same but usually, throughout the day or a meeting, they have the opportunity to speak.
The teams that performed best were skilled at noticing how other people felt - they had emotional intelligence and were sensitive towards their colleagues. They also had very clear goals and a culture of dependability. The last, perhaps most important factor, was psychological safety. This means people didn’t feel the need to put on a front to be someone else at work and felt secure that they could openly discuss any problems or issues.
Having an effective team is all well and good, but you need to know what drives that effectiveness. If we were to ask managers what the number one motivator for employees or team members is, a lot of them would say acknowledgment, or to give them a challenging task.
According to another HBR study, the number one motivator for employees is progress. It makes sense. Everybody wants to leave work at the end of the day knowing they have moved forward on something.
And what's your role as a manager? To remove the obstacles, to have the conversation with your team about progressing and what you can do to support them.
It's so satisfying to move forward in any goal - and to help somebody else move forward! That's one of the joys of people leadership.
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