Is It Time To Truly Manage Your Team?
March 20, 2017
If you’re new or struggling a little in a life sciences management role, it should comfort you enormously to know that leaders are not born, but made. In truth, it’s your cumulative effort—learning, watching, emulating, and making mistakes over time—that takes you on the journey from novice or nervous manager to a confident, successful leader of your team.
So where you are now? If you’re finding your feet as a manager or going through a rough transition, that’s absolutely fine. It’s a stage, and it’s an incredibly important one to the leader you’ll become. This period as a new manager may be full of uncertainty, self-doubt and even a few uncomfortable errors, but it’s all a vital part of the process.
Luckily, you don’t have to make all the mistakes yourself.
Here are some strategies that will free you from that uncertainty and allow you to step up and manage your team truly.
1. Focus on strengths, rather than weaknesses.
Sure, you may not have the same specialist knowledge that your lead scientist does, or perhaps the new intern has better IT skills than you do. In truth though, does it matter? As a manager, your role is to bring out the best in those around you, and manage projects towards success.
Focus on your strengths and don’t get caught up stressing about what you can’t do as well as others around you. That’s not to say you shouldn’t try to improve your skill-set in important areas of weakness, but there’s little point spending lots of valuable time bringing yourself up to an average level, when your talents lie elsewhere.
2. Learn to communicate vision effectively.
Great leaders not only know what the business goals are and have a plan to reach them, but can communicate this vision to each and every member of the team.
Spend time formulating a plan for your team, and get to know each member well so you best know how to motivate them towards the goal in a way they can relate to.
Remember to introduce tasks and projects as part of the bigger picture, so that the team never forgets where they’re going, and why.
3. Be a person that your team trusts.
They don’t have to like every decision you make (and believe us, they won’t), but they do have to believe that you’re making the best decisions for the company and team. Trust is a hugely important factor in leadership success, so ensure that you lead by example, always do what you say you’re going to do, and show integrity.
4. Don’t view your promotion as a reward.
This is the way promotion to management has traditionally been seen: as a reward for high performance. This is how most companies promote, and it is also completely wrong. Star performers are not necessarily good managers— in fact, they’re often individualists who enjoy personal success, and can find the transition to management difficult as the role is to encourage the success of others.
Managers should dispel this notion that a promotion means they’re being rewarded, and instead view it as a completely different role—and responsibility (which it is.)
5. Hold regular one-on-one meetings.
Your team is what’s going to make or break you as a leader, so it’s in your best interest to get to know them well.
What do they want to learn? How can you coach them? What are their career goals? What obstacles are in the way of their performance? Are there any tools they think would make their job easier or more efficient? Are they happy in their job?
Do they feel their skills are being properly utilised? How could you improve as a manager in their opinion?
Be brave, ask questions- and you’ll get answers that can revolutionise not only your team’s performance, but your relationship with them.
6. Learn how to let employees go.
The art of letting an employee go is a delicate one, and no decent manager enjoys it. However, it can be done with fairness and diplomacy, and the sooner you learn to navigate this thorny rite of passage, the sooner you’ll stop letting your debilitating ‘fear of firing’ cloud your management decisions.
7. Actively seek feedback.
It’s not enough to have an ‘open door policy’, as many of your staff (particularly introverts) won’t ever use it. You need to actively get out on the office floor (or telephone with a remote team) and check in with everyone and gently probe for information.
Everyone should feel very comfortable telling you that something’s not working, or that the deadline is not feasible. It’s also extremely important not to show anger or frustration if you hear negative feedback, as it will only deter people from coming to you with their ideas and opinions.
8. Admit to your mistakes.
When you’ve messed up, put your hand up. The most terrible disservice you can ever do to yourself (and your team) as a manager is to try and hide from blame, or worse, push it onto your team. You don’t need to apologise for every little thing, as a manager who is always saying sorry for tiny things often undermines their own authority as well as the power of the word ‘sorry’, but when it matters, stand up and take the blame. It’s a great example for everyone.
Being a mediocre manager is easy enough, but becoming a great one is a lifetime achievement to be proud of. Start your journey today.