‘Bring your best self to work’ sounds cliche’ but as a manager, it’s crucial to your team and those you report to. But what does that mean exactly? It means taking the time to consider how you show up at work. In particular, I’m talking about the way you interact with and communicate with others. It also means holding yourself accountable as well as those you manage. It’s a tall order, but as a manager, all eyes are on you and your behaviors. Your example sets the tone for the culture of the team. Therefore, to put your best foot forward, there are three things you can do to bring your best self to work.
How we show up in the world is not always how we think we do
First, let’s talk about how you show up. This is crucial because how we think we show up isn’t always how others experience us. For example, you may think that the team appreciates how results-oriented and driven you are when in reality they see you as an impatient micro-manager or taskmaster. Or maybe you are more into providing collaboration opportunities but when conflict occurs, you avoid it. And this makes the team think you’re a weak leader.
And then there is the issue of simple verbal or written communication. For example, have you ever had someone totally misconstrue the meaning behind something you said or wrote in a text or email? If you went back to consider how you said it (words used, inflection, and posture), my guess is there are multiple ways it could have landed. Or if the communication was written, you may have left the door open for it to be construed in more ways than one.
I am steeped in this knowledge and work with teams constantly around this topic, and I still catch myself having to go back and reiterate what I meant because of the way the other person heard or perceived my message. So, as a manager, it’s incredibly important to ensure that what you say gets across exactly in the way you meant it to.
Be accountable to yourself – it goes a long way
Second, to bring your best self to work, you have to hold yourself accountable for your actions. Your behaviors actually speak louder than your words. If you say you’re going to do something you must follow through because if you don’t, you run the great risk of your team questioning your integrity and your competence. This could show up when you’ve caught yourself saying (several times) “that’s on my list of things to do next…” The reality here is that you may be struggling with prioritizing. So, not only are you not doing what you said you’d do, but you’re also making up excuses when it gets brought to your attention.
Or, what about something as seemingly benign as rescheduling your 1:1 meetings? We all have things come up unexpectedly so an occasional last-minute change isn’t the end of the world, but if it becomes a regular occurrence, you might be leaving that person feeling like everything else you’re focused on comes first and is more important. Managers are human and make mistakes like everyone else, but if these types of things are commonplace, your direct reports will begin to feel used and abused.
If you say you want to build a cohesive team and create a culture that people won’t want to leave, then make sure your actions prove this. Holding yourself accountable also means acknowledging when you’ve made a mistake or said something that you shouldn’t have. There are many big and small ways to keep your word and hold yourself accountable.
This might mean cleaning up the way you talk to people. Getting rid of sarcasm and instead use language that builds people up. Or it might mean having an open door policy and then not being frustrated when people actually take you up on it.
You’re not the boss of me! Oh, wait… yes you are.
Third, managers have to hold others accountable to bring their best selves to work. This might sound odd because the focus is on people other than yourself. But holding others accountable for their words and actions shows that you care about the individuals on the team as human beings, as well as the work they do. When your direct report needs feedback but you’re holding back trying to save them from hurt feelings, what you’re really doing is stunting their growth and the possible development of the team. As uncomfortable as it may be, feedback is a necessary part of your job as their manager. You have to nurture and encourage them to grow and feedback is how you do this.
When managers aren’t willing to have difficult conversations everyone loses. So, be willing to have the courage to confront the situation head on by listening, offering feedback and coaching in the moment. This will ensure that all sides are clear about how the situation needs to play out differently in the future. It’s an unfortunate reality, but bad behavior left unchecked sends a message to the team that bad behavior is OK. And, when you think about it, good culture is never the result of bad behavior.
Managers today are expected to manage and lead. It’s a lot to take on but it makes total sense. Any time you are responsible for the output of a group of people, you also need to be able to motivate them, provide the guidance they need and create a culture around them where their work can be done to the best of their abilities. To do all of that well, focus first on three things:
- Understand exactly how you show up as a manager and work on the areas where you need to improve
- Hold yourself accountable. The team needs to know that you recognize when you’ve gotten things wrong and that you’re willing to fix the situation for the overall health of the team
- Hold others accountable. Providing feedback, both positive and constructive, will help individuals know that you care not only about the bottom line but about them personally as well
Here’s a mantra you can adopt and share with your team: Failure is progress in the moment. We have all shown up for others in ways that are cringe worthy at one point or another, but if you instill this attitude and actually live it out, it will help you and your team grow to new heights. They’ll understand these three steps as part of the “progress” you’re after as a leader of their team. You can do this, and your team will be so glad you did!
Whether you lead a team of individual contributors or managers, we’ve got you covered. Call us to learn about our strategy for empowering managers to build cohesive, collaborative teams with the Wiley Management™ assessment and full day training session.
The Culture (R)evolution Starts With You!
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