3 Tips & Tricks for Managers of Human Beings
I was born full of questions. For most of my life, my curiosity was encouraged by leaders and teachers around me. However, I once had a boss who was less than pleased with my interest to know “Why?” As my manager, she expected me to automatically accept the state of things, and when I would ask questions she viewed it as an irritating insubordination rather than a sign of my eagerness to understand and succeed. Our relationship got tense. I viewed my inquiring mind as an asset but my manager viewed it as a nuisance or even a defiance. When I didn’t feel safe or free to be myself at work, I began to shut down. My wellbeing, and then my engagement and effectiveness, suffered as a consequence.
I have since moved on from that job, but I still have a relationship with this manager - a good relationship where we can actually joke about our early clashes! Still, it took us over a year to get to this place. We spent a lot of time intentionally cultivating trust and understanding, and we ended up learning a lot from one another. Being a manager isn’t easy, but it can be extremely rewarding if we open ourselves up to the possibility for growth and lean into the leadership skills that employees benefit from the most.
Here are three practical and sustainable ways managers can build positive and human-centered workplaces. These tips and tricks are especially relevant in 2020, when all of us are moving through big emotions and many of us are working remotely.
Be transparent. When I would ask my manager lots of questions, it was often because I was feeling uncertain from a lack of information. Believe it or not, our employees want to know what is going on. When we provide our team with regular updates and clear outlines of intentions and expectations, we limit the potential for unwelcome surprises and reduce stress and anxiety. Management transparency makes for happier employees and helps everyone do their job more effectively. Looking for ways to keep your employees in the loop? Try communication via public Slack channels. You can also maintain a running Google document that is shared with all staff and tracks important updates, announcements, and notes from meetings.
Trust your team. If you’ve ever watched Office Space, you know that Bill Lumbergh is the epitome of the overbearing boss who suffocatingly oversees everything his team does. Don’t be the next Bill Lumbergh! To effectively manage the people on our teams, we must deepen our ability to trust them. Promote accountability by setting clear expectations around measurable goals and then believe in your employees’ ability to effectively and efficiently complete tasks without micromanagement. If you’re having a hard time letting go of the reins, it might be a sign that you want to re-establish a sense of control in the midst of stress and uncertainty. Make sure to tend to your own anxieties and insecurities so you don’t end up projecting them on to others.
Create space for authentic human connection. Of course you’ve heard that good communication is the cornerstone of any effective leadership strategy. But sometimes we forget to communicate with our team about the things that really matter - emotions! Talking about our emotions is an act of vulnerability. Thinking about doing it at work might make you want to run away faster than the Road Runner giving the slip to Wile E. Coyote. This is natural. But all workplace cultures greatly improve when bosses make space for team members to connect on a personal level, which includes discussing feelings. This year in particular, learning how to talk about grief in the workplace is vital. If you’re looking for ways to generate connection and have these difficult conversations, you might be interested in taking advantage of Reloveution's CALM Sessions.
In the end, managing teams is all about navigating relationships. My former supervisor and I benefited from getting to know one another as people and today we are honest friends. Our story shows that being a kind, empathetic, and approachable manager pays off. If you’d like even more support as you develop your human-centered management skills, consider scheduling a free 30-minute connection call with our Founder, Marissa Badgley, who believes that transforming the ways we develop, support, and supervise others is possible and necessary to building a world of work where human beings thrive.
Joy Meikle is a Communications Apprentice with Reloveution. She is passionate about social emotional wellness, racial justice, and Tarot. She loves being a new cat mama and going birdwatching (as long as her partner carries the binoculars). Find her on IG: @alegria_moon and follow @truereloveution while you're at it!