As a great manager, you need to create and maintain an environment where people feel motivated and inspired to do their best work. In other words, you need to become a leader.
So leadership starts with you. The qualities and behaviours you demonstrate will have a big impact on the people that you work with. And the first question to ask yourself is: why do you do what you do in the first place? If you can’t tap into some genuine excitement, inspiration or commitment to your organisation’s work, then it’s unlikely that you will be able to engender this in your staff or volunteers. In the words of John Maxwell: “People buy into the leader before they buy into the vision.”
The value of vision
And vision is crucial because leadership is always about change and moving forwards. If there is no change needed to go forwards, then there isn’t much call for anyone to lead it. But of course “no change” is not an option for organisations, since we live in a rapidly changing world.
As a leader, you need to be able to formulate and communicate a vision, strategy and plan, based around a sense of purpose. Without this, an organisation tends to thrash around, firefighting and never investing for the future. This is inefficient and bad for morale. And leadership is needed at all levels. It’s not just for the CEO! Whatever your management level, you need to be able to communicate a vision for your team which is congruent with what the organisation as a whole wants to achieve.
One way to do this is to practise telling stories. Stories resonate with people in a way that dry facts and figures don’t. To give a simple example, don’t just say, “we need to improve our client service by doing …” Instead, tell a story of when a team member dealt particularly well with a difficult client. Tell the story as if the team member was a hero, overcoming challenges to achieve a great result.
Motivating your people
Offering an attractive working environment will go some way towards motivating your staff and volunteers. And of course staff need to be paid properly for their work. People will quickly become demotivated if they sense they are not being treated fairly. But for a really motivated workforce, you need to go beyond these so-called “hygiene factors” such as pay, and tap into people’s intrinsic motivators.
Once the vision and sense of direction is clear, you need to be willing to allow your people some autonomy in how they work towards it. Ultimately, your staff and volunteers are there to help deliver the results that you need for your organisation. So you need to be crystal clear about the outcomes and standards you expect. A good leader will then choose an effective leadership style for the situation. New staff or volunteers may need quite precise instructions and supervision, but as they grow in confidence, you need to be able to step back and trust them to deliver.
People like to leave work with a sense of achievement from a job well done. There is a skill in setting your staff objectives that are both stretching yet achievable. Other motivators are friendly colleagues, and a sense of being part of a team working towards a common purpose. As the leader, you can do a lot to model a supportive working environment, and communicate a sense of direction.
The best leadership allows you to tap into the collective wisdom and creativity of your people. This is particularly so if you’ve been courageous enough to recruit a diverse team, and create an environment where people feel able to speak out. The best way to encourage this type of environment is by giving plenty of clear positive feedback, and by taking responsibility when thing go wrong, rather than passing blame down the chain of command.
Trust is essential
Trust is crucial and it works both ways. You certainly don’t need to be perfect to be a good leader. But you do need to operate with integrity and earn the respect of your team. And in turn, you need to trust your people as capable and creative, and support them to do a great job.
To build trust, get clear on your own values, and use them as a compass to guide your actions.