As a business owner, entrepreneur or as someone responsible for a group of employees, there is a lot you need to manage. You need to manage people. You need to manage their performance, behavior, attitude, grievances, differences and much more. You also need to manage the outcomes of your team and business. Most of you may also need to manage clients, their expectations, product development, cash flow and a host of other business activities. While functional expertise is needed for some of the above, let me share three skills for effective management.
The focus of this article is people management. How to be an effective manager at work?
What are these 3 skills for effective management?
- Ability to ask the right questions
- Ability to listen with patience and observe
- Ability to remain unbiased
Irrespective of your seniority in the organization, irrespective of your team size and nature of business, these 3 skills will serve you well.
1st skill: Ability to ask the right questions
The key to problem solving and providing solutions is the ability to ask the right questions. The “5 Why Analysis” is considered to be one of the most effective and simplest problem solving tools. As a manager, when presented with a problem or question, do not jump to provide a solution. Help your team reach the solution and solve the problem themselves. Your questions need to work as hints. Similar to hints we use in puzzle games. Even though you may know the answer right away, refrain from giving it to your team. Ask questions one by one and lead them to the solution.
By helping your team solve the problem, you are developing their skills. They get more confident. As they propose the solution, they are more invested in the process of executing the solution. This helps you prepare them to handle difficult situations in the future.
2nd skill: Ability to listen with patience and observe
This is a pre-requisite for the first skill. Only if you listen carefully and observe, you can ask the right questions. Equally important is letting the team know that you are paying attention to what they say or ask. Not being able to or wanting to listen is a major reason for relationship and trust issues, both at work and home.
There is another benefit of active listening. I can vouch for this from personal experience. As we listen patiently and carefully, the other person herself finds solutions to the problem. This may sound like a weird theory. However this is how it works:
- Employees like most people rush to ask questions or doubts when they face a problem. Very few take the time to talk to themselves
- This deprives them the opportunity to listen to their own thoughts, analysis and self-doubts
- When they talk to someone who listens carefully without interrupting, they too listen to what they say
- Like the listener which is you, their subconscious too is listening with equal care and patience
- As they speak and you listen, based on past experiences, their subconscious triggers a solution
How often have you experienced someone pause while sharing a doubt or problem to state that they have found a solution. They act surprised as to why they did not think of it earlier. They act dumbfounded at the sheer simplicity of the answer.
That is the power of active listening.
Now the third important skill for effective management.
3rd skill: Ability to remain unbiased
This is a must have skill. However of all the three, this is the most difficult to master. You may at times need to have a monk like ability to stay unbiased.
Well this indeed is too much to ask for. It requires practice and intention.
An unbiased behavior lets you win the trust and respect of your team. Trust and respect is what pushes your team to stand with you. To go out of their way and beyond their job responsibilities to achieve goals.
An unbiased outlook helps you in accurate evaluation and appraisal of your team and situations.
You have to train your mind and it takes a lot of practice and dedication. Similar to active listening, you need to create a perception that you are unbiased. This is easier. The trick is to create and sell this perception while you work on your skill to not judge people based on a bias.
Whenever I had an unpleasant conversation or review with any of my team members, I followed up after a while with a plan. My follow-up conversation was always about something not even remotely connected to the unpleasant conversation we had a while ago.
Let’s say I called one my employees for a one on one meeting. Remember, such meetings need to be held in private. In the meeting, I had to use some unpleasant words and aggressive behavior to convey my displeasure with his performance. This unpleasant experience would stay with both of us. It would cloud our judgement and feelings for each other for a while.
I wait for about half an hour and walk up to the same employee. He avoids eye contact as the previous conversation is still fresh in his mind. This follow up conversation is a part of my plan to diffuse the situation. I strike a very normal and unrelated conversation with him. I may comment on the ongoing cricket match, the recent movie release, share an office joke or something similar. This surprises the employee. For a moment, he cannot figure out my behavior. As I continue, I am able to shift him to a mental zone where the unpleasant experience starts to fade away. I would even ask him to join me for a coffee or walk.
Had I not done this, the incident would remain with both of us. The memory will create a bias. An unpleasant bias.
This trick has always worked for me. Try it out. It need not be with someone at work. Try it out with your partner, spouse, friend or kids. It works.
Effective management like most other skills and traits can be practiced and mastered. Be persistent with these three skills for effective management. Do share your experiences.
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