Get Shift Done: Management
Now that you’ve read Line Management 101 and have the basics down, how can you up your game? In other words, how can you manage your team like a (really good) boss?
If you think back to your pre-boss time, one of the most irksome things about managers was their seemingly-random availability. Now that you’re a manager yourself, you understand that your direct reports don’t see everything you see. They might not understand why you’re available one week and not the next. In the absence of information, people make up their own explanations — and they’re often not good ones.
Here’s five ways you can manage with intent and ensure that your team understands when you are and when you aren’t available.
1. Share Your Calendar(s)
Every modern calendar system allows you to do this. Sharing your calendar on a free/busy basis means that your employees will know when you’re potentially available for a quick check-in. If you’re feeling braver, or if you’ve got a PA who can help you with this, you could create a calendar that shows what you’re doing throughout the working week.
This approach also helps your team understand why you haven’t sent an email reply to that burning issue they raised this morning. There’s scope here to make this a quid pro quo. In other words: you share your calendar with me, and I’ll share mine with you.
2. Schedule Flexible One-On-Ones
You should schedule regular one-on-ones with every member of your team. Initially, these could be weekly but, as you get to know and trust individuals within your team, you might want to discuss whether some employees would be better off with an every other week, or even monthly, schedule.
The converse is true, of course. If you’ve got a team member who seems to be struggling in their current role, you might want to check in with them a couple of times a week. This may seem onerous, but all of us go through times in our life when we need more support than at other times. Don’t unthinkingly implement a one-size-fits-all policy.
Oh, and one more thing: change your settings so that you only get emergency and extremely high-priority notifications during your one-on-ones. Nothing is more frustrating than a boss who is distracted. Focus on your direct reports. Barring true emergencies, everything else can wait.
3. Provide ‘Office Hours’
Over and above the flexible one-on-ones, set aside a time when you’ve available to be approached by any member of your team. Keep this time free and sacrosanct in your calendar. Friday afternoons are good for this purpose.
There may be times when you have to cancel or postpone one-on-ones with your team due to important other commitments and the daily realities of work. Providing a guaranteed time when you’ll be available means that the individual whose one-on-one you missed knows they can carve out at least five or ten minutes of your time later that week.
4. Set boundaries
Many managers are so busy spending time in meetings and doing their own work that they catch up with email whenever they can. Sometimes this can be late at night, or on the weekend.
While this approach might be necessary and fit your life, it puts pressure on the members of your team to be constantly available. Instead of hitting send on an email at 2am or during a Sunday afternoon, why not save it as a draft and send it at a more work-friendly time?
Better yet, services like Boomerang for GMail and Boomerang for Outlook allow you to ‘schedule’ emails to be sent at certain times. This enables you to work when you have to while not stressing your team out with emails at unusual hours.
5. Clarify the purpose of communication channels
On the subject of ‘work/life balance’ these days, many of us experience an increased blurring of our work interests and our personal interests. Work has become more social. As a result, it’s difficult to know where the lines are — particularly when it comes to various communication channels.
At your next team meeting, audit the ways in which your team communicates. This may include examples such as email, instant messaging, workplace chat (e.g. Slack), and weekly team meetings. Recognize that there may be some channels that you, as the boss, perhaps shouldn’t be part of (everyone needs to blow off steam!)
When you’ve got a list of ‘approved’ communication channels, along with perhaps new ones to spin up, then create a ‘terms of reference’ for each one. Include:
- Why the channel exists;
- Who should use it;
- Times when it should (and shouldn’t) be used; and
- Etiquette (I.e., what’s acceptable/what’s not).
This means that individuals on your team are empowered to ask others to take their banter to a different channel.
All of this might seem like a lot of work when everything might be going OK with your team at the moment. The goal of the above five tips is to keep it that way — by intentional planning, rather than luck.
By making explicit what is often left implicit, we reduce anxiety, get everyone on the same page, and create a happy, collaborative team culture in which you can, legitimately, manage like a boss.
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