Being a manager is tough; some say, so tough that it’d be nice if organizations could somehow run well without them.
But they can’t. As suggested by Google research, organizations need great managers to excel.
In my experience, three particular situations are critical for managers:
- Early onboarding experiences
- Running meetings
- Providing performance feedback
By singling out these specific moments, organizations can provide a tangible set of practices and action items to help their managers succeed.
Early Onboarding Experiences
People perform best when they know their organizations care about their well-being and value their contributions, and supervisors are often the “window” through which we “see” the organization. When your supervisor supports you, you feel like the organization supports you.
When you’re new in the organization, you need help getting set up for success so you look to others to figure things out, and your direct supervisor plays a critical role.
Managers in an onboarding situation should plan ahead so they are ready to welcome the new employee, they should assign a sponsor to help the newcomer directly, and they must be patient by investing time to help the newcomer acclimate. Managers should also check in regularly to answer questions and share perspectives, as they can build a culture of mentoring and coaching right away by setting expectations and communicating with candor.
Myth: People hate meetings. Science: People hate bad meetings.
Workplace meetings that managers run are a public venue in which team members can directly observe and evaluate the competence of their supervisors.
My research suggests that managers who run meetings should develop better relationships with those in the meeting and create perceptions of a supportive organization. Namely, supervisors should be extra mindful of treating each person with dignity and respect. They should also run the meeting well, which involves being prepared, scheduling them in advance whenever possible, demonstrating deep interest in what people think and making it safe for people to disagree.
Providing Performance Feedback
A final critical management moment involves those times when managers should provide performance feedback, both positive and corrective. Doing this well is absolutely an art and a science, and it requires practice.
First, always focus on behaviors. Managers should focus on a specific situation, what they noticed an employee doing or not doing, and the impact or consequences of those actions.
Second, make it a conversation. Managers should consider paraphrasing their employees’ words back to them, checking for understanding.
Third, be timely and stay in the conversation. There’s never a perfect time to deliver either positive or corrective feedback, but it should be done soon. Managers should avoid the temptation to end the conversation early due to discomfort—stick it out and come to a common understanding. Be both accurate and kind.
My experience and research suggests that these three critical management moments are practical ways for organizations to improve their managers’ skills, and by doing so, it’s clear that organizations benefit from highly engaged people, stronger teams, and a culture of support and transparency that drive results.