While people leave for better opportunities or to make a career change, having a not so great manager probably tops the list of reasons people leave. As the saying goes, people leave managers, not jobs.
No one wants to be “that” manager. Recognizing there’s a problem means you can take action to fix it. Here’s what to watch for.
People are leaving
Are people leaving for an opportunity or are they fleeing your team? Consider if you’ve lost more than a couple of employees over the last year, if people leave without another job to go to or if people take a step down in the same company. If there isn’t an overall company issue that’s driving people to leave, you need to consider your management style.
Your team isn’t matching your energy and enthusiasm
If your team doesn’t have any energy or enthusiasm, there’s an issue. Ideas are met with silence. No one gives feedback, either positive or negative. They nod and agree with everything you say. Sometimes it shows up as negativity, and everyone seems weary, angry and scared.
If you’re a bottleneck, you’re causing a problem for your team
If your team isn’t empowered to act on their own and has to come to you for approval, it can be very hard to keep up. You end up being a bottleneck. If you can’t deliver, you’re affecting your team’s performance.
You overhear negative feedback or complaining about you
It feels terrible to walk in on a conversation and realize people are saying negative things about you.
Negative feedback from a 365-degree review
Sometimes, the feedback comes directly from a review. The good news is that it will give you concrete information you can’t ignore.
If you check any of the boxes above, it’s time to take action. While acknowledging you have a problem can feel like a punch in the gut, it’s better to know. Here’s what you can do about it.
1. Ask for feedback: If you don’t have the feedback, ask for it. Do it in a way that lets people respond anonymously and allows you to absorb it privately.
2. If you’ve received (or overheard) feedback, don’t dismiss it: Be as objective as possible. It takes a great deal of emotional strength to admit your management style needs work. Remember, you won’t be forced to stand in front of a room and confess your sins to others. You only have to admit it to yourself.
3. Focus on what you can control: There may be elements of corporate culture you can’t change, but you are in control of how you interact with others. Micromanaging, bullying or being authoritarian will not make you a better manager. Taking responsibility for your actions and changing what doesn’t work will give you power.
4. Make an action plan: Create a list of what you will stop doing, what you can start doing and what you should continue doing to improve the situation.
5. Check your standards: Do you need to lower your standards for what you’re demanding from your team? It depends. Are your standards realistic or are you demanding more from them than you should?
6. Check your personal life: Is your personal life affecting your abilities as a manager? Are you treating your team like your children? Are you angry about elements of your life? Are you overwhelmed? If one part of your life is off balance, it’s not unusual for everything else to be out of whack.
7. Build trust: If your behaviour has caused damage that means trust has been eroded. Begin with learning how to be authentic and how vulnerability can help you be a better leader.
8. Be patient: It takes time to turn around a negative situation. If you give up and ignore the problem or dismiss the feedback, things will never improve.
9. Learn new skills: A lot of people become managers without any training or education. Even after years as a manager, you may not have the leadership skills you need. You may have learned bad habits from the other leaders around you. Sometimes it helps to learn skills from scratch.
10. Know when to walk away: Everyone has limits. If you want to improve, but you don’t have support or if the corporate culture is toxic, you may have to evaluate if there is hope for improvement. Consider if it may be time to make a fresh start.
Once you recognize what you’re doing wrong, you’ll have a chance to fix it. Ask for the support you need. With thousands of books and hundreds of programs, the information is out there to help you improve. You can always connect with a coach to help you through.