For most companies, the idea of growing is exciting. There’s also nothing more dangerous to the founding tenets. That may sound odd, so let me explain. The faster or larger a company grows, the more there is to coordinate, manage and control. This is a stage of growth when inexperienced managers think they have the authority!
When a small company begins to evolve into needing processes to become efficient, the speed at which doing and creating these, can lead to chaos, becoming overly processed and hierarchical, so much so that the joy, creativity and innovation are sucked out of the company. Employees often wear many ‘hats’, helping to get things done without the needed resources of either more colleagues to share in the work, or great systems and tools, to support the work efficiency and scale. This can be exciting for a while, as the employee is learning and doing at the same time. At some point, the sense of ‘too much and too fast’ shows up every day and you arrive at burnout. The work day becomes exhausting and this can derail productivity and morale. When this happens, and it usually does during growth phases, companies turn to those with manager titles to fix it, to set a direction and to guide and lead them forward. So rather than using their authority and control, a great manager, leans into identifying a vision with the team. They break it down by prioritizing, then through great stakeholder management, lean into influencing others; the individuals on their own teams, other teams, other managers, to align and head in the same direction through those partnerships.
So let’s look at the concept of influence. You can influence others in six different ways
- Relationships – build relationships with other teams and your team. By knowing your people and others you know what to expect, foresee reactions and build trust. People will be more likely to do what you ask, if there is a relationship there.
- Attitude – how you treat others is the most important element in influence. Don’t waste time, communicate and be honest. It will place you in good stead over the long term.
- Context – is powerful and probably the most important out of all the six ways to influence. Share regularly and gather it often. What we do, what we do, always matters.
- Resources – the right resources for the right project matters; it allows a team to finish a project, it can help define budgets, skillset needs to deliver on outcomes and through understanding workload and priorities, also can influence others
- Expertise – is a powerful influencer. If you have expertise in a particular domain, utilize it to underpin your recommendations and build your influence
- Authority – is the most direct way to influence others and can help you set direction and establish priorities. We think it should be utilized infrequently. There is a time and a place to utilize authority and direct, rather than share context and allow for the team to make their decisions relevant to their work.
Why do we break out these six concepts? It’s important for a manager to truly understand that there are other ways to influence, such as context, relationships and attitude, that go further to make an impact on other stakeholders, on the team and the organization at large. These also help to build a culture where employees feel heard and valued as they are being listened to, rather than their managers utilizing their authority and control to manage the team. Behavior, leadership and direction that result from an open, communicative approach, can be empowering, especially when each member of the team freely offers perspective, wisdom and thoughts without judgment.
For many new managers, that don’t yet have the experience, leaning into their own new found ‘authority’ is often done, however that can dis-empower the team and leave them frustrated with the leadership and direction. Instead, new managers should lean into building great stakeholder relationships, gathering and sharing context, which they should then share with the team. In turn, the team will share what they know and together, you can work to identify the team’s overall vision and direction
What does a great manager look like? A great manager understands that motivating and inspiring teams to success is not about getting them to do what you tell them, it’s about uniting them toward a common vision and allowing them to connect to that vision. For more on visions, read this article.
Great managers know that it’s ALL about relationships & negotiation. They’re aware of all the interdependencies and focus on building stakeholder relationships inside and outside the organization. They offer employees the freedom to make decisions relevant to their work, so that they are passionate about the work and deliver results. They offer coaching so that employees know what great performance looks like to the company. They allow employees the opportunity to try and fail without fear. To learn from what didn’t work well and to continually improve.
How does someone become a manager who creates high-performing teams? We offer 1:1 coaching as well as courses on Management and Team Performance.