In my 15 years of managing people, along with working with hundreds of small business leaders, I’ve learned one main lesson to pass on… it all starts with you... the manager! It has become more apparent recently as I’ve been helping companies implement Strety, our passionate People Management product. What I have said to our customers is this:
You have to lead by example.
Yes, for sure, it’s a big part of your job (as a manager) to lay the framework for some basic communication requirements. Stuff like:
- Schedules for weekly team meetings and 1:1s (daily, weekly, etc)
- What check ins are required from everyone and at what frequency
- What type of transparency among the team is required.
But setting up the framework is not enough. As a manger, you have to lead by example in how you want things to work. You have to walk the walk, not just talk the talk, or else you’ll never get buy-in.
For example, as a manager you always want to have more productive meetings, especially 1:1 meetings, with direct reports. This means you’ll want an open and meaningful discussion about a wide range of topics. Well if you’re like us, then you know you’ll need to send agenda items ahead of time and ask the same of your direct reports.
For example, you may send them questions like these (with context) so your direct report is prepared.
- What’s been unclear in your job responsibilities - I want to get a sense of anything you find unclear about your assignments. This way I can clarify or remove them.
- Where do you think you’ve been underutilized in your team - Your skills are important to the team, do you think there is something else you can be adding? Let's discuss.
- Anything else? - Please add any other agenda items you want to discuss or hear me discuss
You have to come prepared for your 1:1 meetings or your direct reports never will. If you’re not doing this, you’re not walking the walk. And if you do this and they aren’t adding any topics, keep going, behavior doesn’t change overnight. Eventually they’ll start adding items because they’ll know you’re committed to collaborating on making them better performers. It starts with you.
If you want the team to participate in important weekly check ins like “what challenged you this week?”, it has to start with you participating in them. Show them how you respond to these check ins and they’ll follow your lead. I’m always the first one to share in the companies I’ve run, especially vulnerable weekly check ins like “what challenged you this week?”. It sets the tone that I want to run a transparent and authentic team. I write a short but honest response so the team knows (1) that we’re all open and (2) that it doesn’t have to be the most thorough or time consuming response. It starts with yo
If you want the team to provide solid peer feedback, you should be out in front providing great feedback both publicly and privately. And even more importantly, you should be asking for feedback on your own management performance. One of the reasons we built Strety was how badly I wanted feedback on my own performance as a leader. If you create an environment where peer feedback is accepted and constant… you will be able to receive and react to critical feedback on your own skills. Even better, your peers will provide valuable feedback to each other and support each other. But you know who it starts with right?? Yeah you do, it’s you!
If you're a manager in a larger organization or if you've inherited a team used to a different management style, this can be difficult to accomplish but it isn't impossible. And I would argue it’s even more critical for you to set the tone early and lead by example consistently. Trust me, your direct reports want to be more engaged, want to have their thoughts heard, and want to do good work. It’s up to you to pull it out of them.
Don’t let the opportunity pass you by, lead by example. It starts with you!