<- Click here for the first 2 Tips on Being a Good Manager

3. Give the Freedom to Challenge

Respect my Authoritah! As a manager, your team should do everything you say, right? Their job is to do what you tell them, so this is the way it should be, the natural order of things. If you think you know everything that there is to know and that everything should be done your way, then take a deep breath and read on because managing a team should be anything but a dictatorship.

If people are too afraid, or you do not allow them to challenge you or the way things are done, then you are missing out on valuable discussion and input which will lead you to progress your organisation as well as more informed decisions.

a) Progression: If you don’t know the story about the monkeys and why it is a bad idea to continue to do things the way you’ve always done them then read this. Progress happens when someone sees an opportunity to do things differently. The status quo is great in a stable environment, but no organisation is, and no economy is, so consider the world to be in a constant state of change. If someone wants to challenge the status quo in your organisation, it is the wise manager that listens. It might be something great, or it might not be, and most likely it is something that has been suggested before. There may be reasons why it hasn’t been considered before, or blockers preventing it, but listen to the challenge and provide constructive and positive feedback. Educating your team on circumstances they may not be aware of will empower them to think of different or better solutions, so the next time they come to you, it might just be with a piece of brilliance.

Let people know that you are interested in their ideas, the good, the bad and the ugly and you are providing your organisation with the opportunity to benefit from the collective minds of your team. Which brings me to the second point.

b) Two heads are better than one. Some people like to challenge you because they want to be seen to be heard, or are trying to gain some power from doing so. You will be able to see through those pretty quickly. After that, you have people who are actually challenging your views and even your decisions because they see things from a different perspective. Again, you might find there are extenuating circumstances and things must be done as you prescribe, however take the time to listen and understand what the challenge is. Have you missed something, is there a different way that is more sensible, are you being unreasonable?

You can learn a lot from the types of challenges that people present you with. Sometimes you learn about the other person, sometimes you learn about yourself, but in all cases you benefit from the views and minds of more than just yourself. You think you might know everything there is to know, but one day someone will know something you don’t, so be grateful for the challenge and upon the floor to new ideas and radical thinking. Your team will feel better appreciated and you can benefit from the collective minds of your team. Win, win all round.

4. Be Yourself

No matter how much of a nutcase you really are, there is no point in hiding it. There is nothing that kills a teams respect for their manager quicker than someone who is trying to be someone else. Humans are interesting creatures and they are usually quite in tune to subtle differences in behaviour and non-verbal communication. Trying to be someone else is a form of dishonesty, it is a lie and people do not like those who are not genuine.

Imagine the manager who tries to be different for everyone, in a group situation, which version of themselves should they be? It is simplest and best to be the person you are and if that doesn’t work for your team then you need a different team.  There is benefit to flexing your style so that you can be effective in communications and management with individuals but that doesn’t change who you are. If you like to smile and laugh about things, go for it. If you are a serious and logical person, so be it. Management isn’t about being a stereotypical management type person, it is about working as part of a team towards a set of unified goals. The best way to achieve that is to be tolerant and accepting of the diversity of your team. Not just gender or race or age, but personalities as well.

This means that you also have to be tolerant with yourself and allow you to be the best version of you that you can be.

5. Understand that there is more to Life than Work

I had the pleasure of some wise words in the past, and one of those was about being able to keep work and personal life separate. This is, in principle, how I have tried to spend my working life. I work at work and I leave home at home. It is easier said than done but the reality is that sometimes these two worlds cross over. Sometimes, as the saying goes “shit happens” and when this happens to someone in your team you have two choices. To be inflexible or to be flexible.

People come to work to get paid, so that they can live and survive. If they are really lucky, they earn enough to have some fun in their free time as well. In both cases, there is life after work, and that life is far more important that whatever job they are employed to do. We live in a society that has become increasingly competitive, increasingly connected and a lot of people are unable to switch off from their jobs. They get emails sent to their phones and their phones are on, all of the time. I even heard of someone making a four hour conference call from a train while travelling across Europe with their friends. This is not good for the soul and it is not good for your team to be constantly “at work.”

If someone in your team needs time to sort something out, or is having a domestic crisis, or just needs some space to switch off. Be flexible, give them the space to do what they need to do. Give them options, not barriers. This is not about being a manager, it is about being human and living and working with other humans. Life gets in the way of so many things, don’t be the terrible manager who makes things even worse. Your team members will be thankful and loyal to you if you support them through difficult times. Working with them instead of against them will benefit the team and create a supportive, trusting environment.

Be a great manager and you will have an amazing team who is productive and efficient – You can do it!!