Q: I'd like to help the managers on my team become more effective with their direct reports. They tend to have different approaches — one is highly organized with a "command and control" approach, one has a more empathic approach, and so on. How can I help them all become more well rounded?
A: Use your managers' strengths to build a whole that is stronger than each of the parts.
The inner game
Think about the suite of skills that a manager needs. A good manager needs to be able to teach, coach, delegate, oversee and sometimes, to set limits and enforce expectations. They also need to be able to create a vision and inspire employees to build commitment and engagement.
As you prepare to work with your team, start with self-assessment. Identify areas where you're strong; you can use those strengths to help your team. Also pay attention to areas where you have less skill. Don't devalue them as areas for development for your team just because they don't play to your strengths. This could be the chance you need for some additional growth.
Do some analysis and planning for each of your managers. Know what strengths you'd like to leverage and the top opportunities for improvement for each. Also consider whether they are out of balance, relying too much on one approach rather than having more leadership flexibility. Then create a vision of your team as a whole so that you'll know when you've achieved your objective.
Determine the resources available within your company so that you can make a realistic plan for growth that fits within time and budget constraints.
Have one-on-one meetings with each manager, talking about your assessment and engaging them in considering next steps for their development. Be aware that they may resist the feedback, or may simply have blinders on that are hard to get through. Be consistent with your expectations … and be ready to both push and support. Also, make the point that you're not trying to create clones and that the best outcome will be that each manager grows in unique ways.
Then pull the group together, using this as a team-building opportunity. Consider a one-day off-site meeting, where you can step away from day-to-day work and collaborate on ways to become more effective. Ideally, you'd have a facilitator so that you can participate and so that there is some neutrality. Encourage mutual support and teaching, perhaps having managers share their best practices. Your goal will be to have specific action plans so that your managers are ready to move forward once they get back to work.
Build progress into goals and objectives, and observe performance and provide feedback on a regular basis. Make it clear that refusing to build new skills is not an option, while recognizing that growth also involves the risk of failure (and trying again), so it needs to be a safe environment. And seeing their managers continue to push themselves will send a powerful message to more junior staff.
The last word
Growth is challenging but could be the path to a strong and cohesive leadership team.
What challenges do you face at work? Send your questions to Liz Reyer, leadership coach and president of Reyer Coaching & Consulting in Eagan. She can be reached at email@example.com.