4 new year’s resolutions for managers

We’re a week into 2015 and plenty of us are Not Doing Well on our new year’s resolutions.

But it’s not too late! Here are four resolutions for managers that can be the workplace equivalent of vowing to hit the gym.

1. Give more feedback. If you’re like most managers, you don’t give nearly enough feedback to your staff members. Or you give plenty of positive feedback but don’t speak up quickly or clearly enough when you’d like people to do something differently (or just better). Or you might be the opposite of that, if you’re a manager who’s comfortable giving critical feedback but doesn’t give much praise for work well done.

But feedback is one of the most powerful tools managers have for getting results from their teams. In fact, just articulating the areas in which you’d like to see an employee improve or develop can go a surprisingly long way toward making that change happen. And of course, employees who don’t get alerted quickly when there are problems with their performance don’t get the opportunity to develop professionally – and bad habits are more likely to become ingrained. Or, when it’s positive feedback that’s lacking, people will often become demoralized and feel unappreciated, and that can show up in lower productivity and lower retention rates.

Resolve to make 2015 the year that you get serious about upping the feedback you give – on individual projects as well as overall. Make sure each staff members hears it when they’ve done well and knows when you wish they’d do something differently.

2. As a team, get ruthless about figuring out how you could perform better. In resolution #1, we covered you giving people more feedback to help them do better. This resolution is a different side of that; it’s about brainstorming as a group to figure that out at a team level.

As a manager, you probably have plenty of ideas about how your team can be doing better. But your roadmap will be far stronger if it contains input from everyone on your staff. So spend a few hours with your staff reflecting on what you want to achieve this year, what you might do differently to hit your goals out of the park, and what might get in the way of success. Give people the freedom to put everything on the table – are there strategies that aren’t working, policies or processes that are getting in the way of results, or whole new avenues you should be looking at?

People may have ideas or perspectives that never occurred to you – and plus, doing this will make staff members feel more invested in your team because they’ll feel that their input is meaningful and their voices have been heard.

3. Measure your own performance by their lowest performer. As a manager, you might be tempted to judge yourself by what your top performers achieve. But the real measure of a manager is how you handle your lowest performers. After all, they’re the ones who show what you’re willing to accept on her team, and whether you’re willing to take on problems head-on and hold people accountable, even when it means difficult conversations.

Make 2015 the year you get serious about tackling any performance challenges on your staff.

4. Get really serious about hiring well. The biggest thing you can do to influence what kind of work your team produces is to hire the right people in the first place. But if you’re like most managers, you’ve probably been guilty of rushing to fill a position so you don’t have a vacancy – and so you can stop spending time on hiring and get back to your real work. Of course, any time savings from that approach gets canceled out if you make the wrong hire … and even if the person you hire is okay, there’s a big opportunity cost attached to “okay” versus “extraordinary.”

In 2015, resolve to put a ton of energy into recruiting and screening candidates – especially including finding effective ways to test candidates’ skills and see them in action before making any hiring decision.

{ 6 comments… read them below }

  1. Ann Furthermore*

    To expand on #1, I would also add commit to doing regular one-on-ones with your direct reports. My boss has to cancel ours, sometimes pretty frequently. I do understand — she has to do it because there’s some emergency she has to deal with, or she’s been scheduled into meetings with directors or VP’s and she can’t back out. But I do like having that time with her so I can keep her up to date on what I’ve been working on, and anything I might need help with.

    1. So Very Anonymous*

      Agree with this. My boss is supposed to meet with us one-on-one once a month, and I think I met with her all of four times last year. We are in a state of constant flux, reorganizations, goalpost-shifting, maybe-those-aren’t-even-goalposts etc., and it’s felt scary to have her not know what all I’m actually doing. I also don’t like having the feeling that I’m bothering/interrupting her or needing too much hand-holding if I have to go to her with questions. I’d rather have regular meetings where we could just talk about what I’m doing, especially so that I can balance out the “here’s what I need help with” stuff with “here’s what’s going really well.”

  2. Sharon*

    I would embellish #2 by adding to listen to your team when they propose new workflow efficiencies or process improvements. I’ve had many environments where my boss was well into headless chicken territory because we worked “harder not smarter” and wouldn’t listen to suggestions to make things better.

  3. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

    You’re freaking me out, Alison. I have clearly been spending a lot of time here, you’re in my brain.

    I made new years resolutions at the end of December and have been working on implementation this last week. New processes, one-on-one meetings with my next level managers, etc. all focusing on

    #1, #2 and #3. (#4 we’re pretty good at.)

    #2 is the big one for me.

    Wow. I have never made new years resolutions before and the year I do it, it is nearly the literal list that you publish the next week.

    Imagine a world filled with Mini Me Alisons.

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