Blogs by InnovatorsBox®

Knowing Is Different From Living It: Five Tips To Empower Managers

Originally published in Forbes

Congratulations, you are a new manager! You’ve read enough to know what a good manager is like, and you’re committed to creating a workplace where your team feels happy, encouraged and understood. But just when you thought you figured everything out, there seems to be unexpected challenges everywhere. The balance of being available yet needing space to process all the empathizing and project deadlines is not easy. On top of it all, you have to stay connected and manage teams online. How do you do it all?

If you feel overwhelmed, you are not alone. Being a good manager takes practice, patience and a lot of self-awareness. And reading about it is different from living it.

As a leadership coach who works with leaders and managers every day, I’m humbled to recognize how most managers’ biggest stress comes from caring — they want to help people but don’t know how. If more managers were empowered, we may have happier workplaces. So, I want to share five core management tips that I hope could help you as a manager be the leader you want to be. You got this!

1. Practice awareness and listening skills.

It’s important to be aware of your surroundings, your team, your company and your own voice. Take the time to really understand what works for you and why. Ask the same of your team, your peers, your company and your surroundings. This helps you have a fuller grasp of where things are and where things have been. When you stay curious, it’s easier to identify what you can do differently — whether it’s changing your feedback communication style or your schedule with back-to-back meetings. Often, for the sake of supporting a team, new managers don’t account for their own emotions and thoughts and try to always be available. Please ask yourself what do you really want and how can you serve best. That’s where you’ll find the unique management style that works for you and your team.

2. Empathize with courage.

Be both an active listener and a problem solver. You want to empathize with why a team member needs help and also have the courage to give solid feedback and set clear boundaries. Other times having courage means you have to let go of your plan and try their plan, trusting that they’ve got this. That means not over-checking in, letting them do what they got to do and creating space so they know that you are there to support them. All of this takes courage and empathy, and that cycle will help you also find courage and empathy to hear your own voice.

3. Strive for clear and thoughtful communication.

Sometimes because we fear hurting other people’s feelings or overburdening them with information, managers sidestep an issue or hold back. This leaves your team members without the full picture and an understanding of why certain things are done a certain way. In turn, this leaves little room for them to voice their opinion, support or problem-solving insights. Save yourself from those extra emails, messages and conversations by communicating clearly upfront.

4. Set clear boundaries.

Practice setting both emotional and energy boundaries for yourself. In doing so, you can demonstrate how your colleagues can do it, too. We live in a time where everyone seems reachable and is expected to be available all the time. However, this prevents us from having focused, deep work time which leads to more productivity and enjoyment. Optimize your work flow by setting boundaries on hours when you do deep, strategic work.

The same goes for processing emotions. Had an upsetting conversation with a colleague? Block off time to think through what happened — even if it’s five minutes. Being emotionally available for everyone requires a lot of energy. After you give support to others, how can you recenter and recharge at the end of the day? I suggest the one-minute management exercise, a helpful tool to rethink how you set time to boundaries in a different way. Start with one thing one minute at a time.

5. Lead with clear accountability.

If someone is out, who else picks up that task? If something is not done, who can jump in to support? As the manager overseeing your team and project flow, you want to be intentional and provide clear accountability, support and flexibility. Human error and last-minute changes happen all the time. Do team members know what to do when something does not work? Do they feel safe to ask for help? I recommend reading the Harvard Business Review article “Management Time: Who’s Got the Monkey?” It outlines why clear communication is helpful not just for you but also for your team. When you are clear about who is doing what and why that has to be the case, you are empowering your team members to lead, decide, do and proceed.

These small nuances can make a huge difference in how you show up every day as a manager. Learning how to be a great manager is truly a skill of learning how to thrive in managing multiple voices, insights and perspectives and meeting your people where they are.

About the Author

Monica H. Kang

Monica H. Kang

Monica H. Kang, Founder, and CEO of InnovatorsBox® and Author of Rethink Creativity is transforming today’s workforce through the power of creativity. She helps companies rethink culture, leadership, and team development by making creativity practical and relatable regardless of industry or job title. She has worked with clients worldwide including Fortune 500 companies, higher education, government, and nonprofits. Monica’s work has been recognized by The White House, Ashoka Changemakers, National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC), and Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC). Prior to InnovatorsBox®, Monica was a nuclear nonproliferation policy expert. She holds an M.A. from SAIS Johns Hopkins University in Strategic Studies and International Economics and a B.A. from Boston University.

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