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Simplify Management by Focusing on These Three Areas

This article was based on episode 224 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Amazon, and Stitcher. Members of the Modern Manager community get a free Motivation and Feedback document. Never miss a worksheet, episode or article: subscribe to Mamie’s newsletter.


There’s a direct line between good management and successful teams. Research shows that happier employees deliver 2.5 times more revenue. But with so much leadership advice out there, it can be hard for managers to remember what to follow when navigating the daily whirlwind. As Russ Laraway put it, it’s hard to pick from the managerial buffet of ideas when there’s a food fight in the cafeteria.


To solve this problem, Russ has developed a simple formula for managers based on thousands of interviews and extensive research. Russ has had a diverse 28 year operational management career. Over this time, Russ has managed 700 person teams and $700M businesses, facing a vast array of leadership challenges along the way. In the last several years, Russ served as the Chief People Officer at Qualtrics, and is now the Chief People Officer for the fast-growing venture capital firm, Goodwater Capital. He's the author of the book When They Win, You Win: Being a Great Manager Is Simpler Than You Think.

From his research, Russ found three key areas that managers need to improve their skills: direction, coaching, and career. Here, Russ shares simple techniques any manager can implement that will result in highly engaged and successful employees.


DIRECTION


Everyone needs to know what’s expected of them. Expectations include developing both a long term purpose and vision, as well as short term quarterly goals. Direction is about priorities. Helping your team decide on their priorities is about subtracting - not adding! - to their workload. Most employees feel overwhelmed and overloaded. If the manager doesn’t give them permission to do less, who will?


Small Ways To Implement Direction

Help your team prioritize by getting their quarterly goals in place. Utilize “Stand Up Meetings” once a week where everyone shares their three priorities for the week, rooted in their quarterly goals. Encourage people to set and share their daily goals that align with their weekly priorities. Consider setting up a Slack bot to prompt your employees to text in their three daily priorities.


COACHING


When we coach, we need to know what performance results we’re looking for. Results include both work products (what we want done) and behaviors (how we get them done). Desired behaviors are those that help us live our core values. Typically, coaching involves either encouraging our employees to repeat things they do very well or helping them understand what’s not working and how to do it better.


Small Ways to Implement Coaching

It’s all about giving specific feedback. Avoid the generic phrase “Good job!” as much as possible. Instead, incorporate the phrase “Do you know what I love about..” as much as possible into your work vocabulary. For example, ask: “Do you know what I love about your presentation/how you handled that sale/your slide deck?” Now you’ve explicitly shared what you appreciate which helps the person feel recognized for their contributions and increases the chance those behaviors will be repeated.

CAREER


Our job as managers is to be like a gravity-assist to the slingshot in all those Sci-Fi movies. (Think of a space ship getting close to a planet whose gravity helps propel them in their desired direction.) We are here to help employees launch themselves into space. We are the instruments to help our team realize their wildest dreams, not just be successful in this current job.


Simple Ways To Implement Career

Helping your employees reach their dreams is about helping them develop their long term vision. Where do they want their career to end up? What is their ultimate goal? As managers, we want our employees to grow. We need to understand what it is they desire to grow into. When they have that vision, they come to work as different employees. And when we know where they want to go, we think differently about development opportunities for them.


In the grand mess of office life, there is so much flying at us at all times. To thrive, managers need to focus on developing the specific skills that matter most. If we dedicate our time to the areas of direction, coaching, and career, we will see tremendous success on our teams. Help your team prioritize their daily, weekly, and long term goals. Create a routine for which your team shares these goals. Be specific with your positive feedback so that everyone feels recognized and incentivized to repeat those behaviors. And understand the vision for each employee’s greater life goals, so you can help them move in that direction. Management doesn’t have to be so complicated. If we focus on the right things, we can reach incredible heights together.


KEEP UP WITH RUSS


One member of the Modern Manager community can get a copy of Russ’s book “When They Win, You Win” when you become a member of the Modern Manager community at themodernmanager.com/join.


This article was based on episode 224 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Amazon, and Stitcher. Never miss a worksheet, episode or article: subscribe to Mamie’s newsletter.

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