You've done a good job all year of managing up and your business relationships with your peers allow you to push projects forward with enthusiastic cooperation. Now what about your team? Will they be compelled to stick around to help achieve the lofty goals you're mapping out?
Perhaps. As the economy turns and more jobs become available, you'd better be prepared to follow these simple guidelines to keep your team engaged, committed and productive as the calendar slips from '03 to '04:
1) Make Integrity and Ethics Matter
Whether you like it or not, you are always center stage when you have direct reports. I don't mean this in an egotistical way, but your team is watching you. If they see you working hard, they're more apt to work hard. If you're taking two-hour lunches and bad-mouthing the folks in IT, they're likely going to think it's OK to kill some errands midday and complain that the help desk is ignoring them. You're the boss, you may say, and this gives you the right to bend the rules and speak off the cuff. Wrong. Leaders lead by example and their teams are reflective of their work ethic and the standards they set. If you have direct reports, it's a huge responsibility. Watch what you do and say.
2) Manage Across, Not Down
The days of the classical manager style are over. You'll make more of an impression on your team if you can do what they do and show willingness to help. Delegation is a large part of managing, and there's a right and wrong way to give instructions. Take the time to understand what each person is doing, and segment the work only when you have the correct data on what it truly takes to complete specific tasks. Sit with your team and talk through obstacles. Spend time in the trenches. Understand the dynamics and interdependencies that could lead to stress in achieving daily and weekly goals. Moses came down from Mount Sinai with non-negotiable instructions on how to do things. You're not Moses. Work together.
3) Manage Specifically, Not Generally
If you have direct reports, these individuals are the most important reason why you come to work. If you don't get this, you shouldn't be managing. You can help someone's career or you can stall it. If you manage with generalities and fail to provide succinct feedback -- both good and bad -- you're being lazy. It's easy to say "good job on that project." Why was it a good job? What did she do well that made the project come out splendidly and on time? Be specific. By illustrating the good points, you're providing an education and she'll remember why her actions were good. Conversely, if mistakes were made, be sure to discuss the specifics. This will minimalize the chances that they will be made again. You groom with a comb, not with a plough.
4) Share the Vision
The executive team has a roadmap. You're a guide. You need to understand the vision at the highest level and translate tactics into actionable steps. A lot of times you hear that a company is top-loaded with visionaries but has no one to get things done. As a manager, it's your job to make sure this doesn't happen. No one is going to hold your hand and tell you how to educate your team on the goals and objectives. You need to serve as translator, empowering your players with information and inspiring them with the knowledge that what they're doing is contributing toward the bottom line.
5) Goof on Your Team
Simply put, have fun. All work and no play makes for a dull team. You don't need to bring in donuts and lead the table dance in the pub every other day, but you do need to set an example that it's OK to laugh, to think outside the box and to poke fun at one another. Surprise someone with a personal story. Break off a meeting a few minutes early to discuss music. Be real. Your team is, in a sense, a family, for a good portion of every week. You're living and working together, sharing space and time. It's OK to digress. In fact, it's essential.