When I first became a manager in 2010, I quickly realized how HARD it was to keep everybody happy (including my own boss while still getting my work done.
I’ve always said that great bosses are like unicorns – we’ve all heard of them and have an idea of what they look like, but no one’s actually ever seen one on real life… I kid!
But seriously – bosses these days operate under immense pressure with increasingly impossible time lines, while also having to travel, be strategic, handle clients, solve operational issues, be flexible and always available, answer e-mails, attend meetings in different time zones and a million other things. Oh, and sometimes they have families and lives, too!
At the end of the day, managing people is a huge responsibility and for every request that doesn’t get handled or e-mail that doesn’t get answered, there is a risk that other people’s work is piling up…
So what does a manager need to do to keep a team motivated and keep things rolling?
Here’s my list:
1. They solve problems quickly
There are few things more frustrating than problems that need to be solved that are holding you back from doing your job in an effective and enjoyable way.
Problems can include inefficient internal processes, unclear responsibilities between you and your team mates or just waiting to get a go-ahead on a budget issue.
I once had a boss who as soon as he identified friction in the team would call a stand-up meeting for the involved parties. We quickly made sure the issue was cleared up, so no unnecessary time was wasted or that we by mistake went down the wrong road.
2. Create availability pockets in their calenders
When I was a manager, I always spent about 30 minutes at home working though my inbox before heading to the office.
That way, I could start the day present with my team instead of having the emotional burden of 78 unanswered e-mails calling me from my computer.
I also made an effort to avoid back-to-back meetings in a day so that I was available for impromptu things that would come up.
By doing this, I created space to help my team move forward with things that came up during the day.
I have worked in teams that sometimes had to wait WEEKS for the boss to take five minutes to reply to an e-mail or sign off on a decision.
3. They check in on their team
Whether it’s to take the pulse on the organization by having coffee with a strong culture bearer or have weekly one-on-ones scheduled with team members, a great boss makes their team members feel seen and heard.
My first boss in a company of 40 always started every single day by walking around the office, chatting with us along the way.
He knew what was going on their private lives and what they were working on, while also picking up if there were concerns or client issues.
When I asked him about this during an especially stressful time in the company he said:
“Do I have time to do this every day? Not really. But I MAKE the time”.
4. They empower, delegate and develop
Great people love to learn new things and develop.
A great boss creates these opportunities to grow and learn, feeds your ambition and nods you in the right direction when it’s time to step up.
She will make sure to involve aspiring team members in projects not immediately in their scope, to expose them to new people and thoughts.
I once had a team member say that she wanted to be the next Marissa Meyer.
I’m sure she regretted that a few times after I invited her to present at a regional management gathering, had her stay late to clean up after a marketing issue and pulled her out of her comfort zone as often as I could.
5. They exemplify the culture and demonstrate values
Show me a company these days who doesn’t exhibit their values on a wall.
More often than not though, these values were crafted in a workshop or, even worse, by external consultants.
Real company values come from the founder or management and can be defined as “this is how we do things around here”.
People will always look to the top to see what behaviors will help you get ahead and that are rewarded.
I once worked with a CEO who was obsessed by the company values and anchored all of his hirings and firings on them.
He was also a walking example of the values and I have never set foot in an organization that was so aligned on expected behaviors.
6. They communicate through established channels
By having clear communication channels, whether it’s a Monday morning all hands meeting, a weekly e-mail update or a more of a I’ll let you guys know as soon as there’s anything to know approach, predictable ways of communication let’s your team spend less time wondering what you’re NOT saying and spend more time doing their work.
Having a backgrund in the media industry, I’ve had my fair share of downsizing, layoffs and company mergers.
I’ve been on both sides – both as a manager and as a team mate – and I know that as soon as someone catches wind of potential bad news, we all immediately start to wonder how this will affect ME.
I always made a point to build trust with my teams that I would alway let them know directly from me and made sure to hold that promise sacred.
And yes, not everybody can fit all of this into one day, but if you start with the ambition, action will follow.
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Anna Cosic is a Leadership and Career Coach who works with busy, ambitious women to help them earn more, achieve more and have more.
She holds a Master of Science in Management from Stockholm University. Anna spent almost 10 years climbing the career ladder in Scandinavia’s biggest media company, Schibsted, eventually leading a company and managing 70 people before starting her coaching business.
She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, toddler son and two pugs, Igor and Doris.