Words to Manage By: How to Bring Out the Talent in Your Team

If you manage other people, the first thing you need to understand is that your success depends on their success. The more you empower your employees, the more they will grow and thrive.

Here's how to get started...

The best managers get outstanding performance from ordinary human beings. If you wait for a team of superstars, you will be waiting forever

Give employees generous boundaries

Contrary to conventional wisdom, boundaries don’t restrict team members; they empower them. Define the boundaries within which an employee can make his or her own decisions. In doing so, you give them freedom to act.

For example, if you allow a customer service rep to spend up to 20% of a customer’s annual fees on keeping that customer happy, you enable the rep to solve a problem without consulting a manager (and slowing down the service provided).

Listen intently

Too many managers try to get employees to say what they want to hear. “Tell me we will hit our sales target.”

This is nonsense. It is far wiser to listen carefully for the truth… and then change your behavior in response to that truth.

Believe in your employees

The best managers get outstanding performance from ordinary human beings. If you wait for a team of superstars, you will be waiting forever.

Discover what each person does best. Find better ways for people to support each other. Bring people together to support and encourage each other.

Then believe 100% in these partnerships and collaborations.

Forgive mistakes

If your team isn’t making mistakes, then you aren’t reaching high enough. But if you punish mistakes, you will encourage overly-conservative behavior.

Establish clear differences between acceptable mistakes versus mission-critical offenses. Example: It is OK to test a new advertising method and discover it does not work; it is never OK to engage in false or deceptive advertising.

Provide growth paths

Everything in life — including people — changes. If you don’t give people room to grow, you will force them to either leave your business or grow stagnant.

Even if it is inconvenient for you or your business, you must provide robust ways for your employees to grow.

Praise effort

Don’t focus on talent; focus on effort. Over the long run, effort is far more important than talent.

Also, by praising effort, you will encourage people to learn and grow, rather than to simply stay focused on the one or two things that come easily to them.

Ask powerful questions

Instead of making rash demands or constantly telling employees how to do something, try talking less and observing more.

Then, when you start to actually understand what’s happening, express your observation in the form of a powerful question. Remember this question, and wait as long as necessary for a good answer.

Example: “How could we sell a new product that is 10 times cheaper than our competitor’s product?” At toothpaste company Crest, this thinking resulted in a spinning toothbrush that stole market share from expensive electric toothbrushes.

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