"I'm a doer, not a delegator."
These words are uttered by many who are new to management roles, having spent their early careers as individual contributors. Their hard work and dedication earned them a coveted promotion.
While many companies offer training for new management, tackling topics such as human resources, management policies and personnel oversight, few provide instruction on how to lead and influence those they manage. In 2013, CIPD research discovered that more than one-third of line managers lacked proper training for supervising employees. Yet, in 2017, a Microsoft case study cited management weaknesses as a primary concern for businesses today.
Unfortunately, the terms "management" and "leadership" are used as if they are interchangeable. While management provides authority and oversight, leadership provides influence and inspiration through concise, continual and consistent communication skills.
A 2017 study by Gallup reflects a strong correlation between ongoing, consistent management communication and higher employee engagement. However, 69 percent of managers indicate they feel uncomfortable communicating with employees overall.
How can a manager, especially one new to the role, become influential, routinely inspiring others to act, especially when they lack the training and courage to do so?
Simply put, influence is the ability to get others to willingly act upon what you have to say. Anyone in management must develop their communication skills if they wish to transcend into a role of influence and inspiration.
While this may seem easier said than done, these 10 methods provide managers with ways to elevate their role to one of leadership and increase their influence on others.
1. Maintain composure.
Everyday management situations can incite fight-or-flight emotions in any reasonable person. Demanding customers, insubordinate employees, and misdirection from leadership can create frustration and rising emotions in even the most seasoned managers. An essential element of leadership is maintaining your composure, no matter the scenario. Speaking respectfully, with tact and reason, is key to being heard by others. A true leader can respond to emotionally charged situations with a sound mind and calm disposition. They consider all possible effects of their response and act accordingly.
2. Exude confidence.
No matter the risk of success or failure, a leader exudes confidence and courage in situations that others may question. Employees may fear a decision's outcome but willingly support it when they witness confidence in their leader's verbal and nonverbal messages. When you demonstrate confidence in your or others' decisions, it encourages your team members to do the same. When leaders are confident enough to take the helm, employees become encouraged to follow.
3. Be accessible.
Not only must you be accessible in your office, you must also be proactive with your employees and actively seek opportunities to support their efforts. Accessibility can be a challenge for new managers who are accustomed to working independently, having only ever been accountable to their managers. A leader, on the other hand, is accountable to everyone they manage. Accessibility is crucial to building trust in management-employee relationships. Move away from the office and out from behind the desk. Walk the floor and visit employees. Determine their roadblocks and commit to solving problems and setbacks.
4. Motivate others.
Leaders do not seek recognition. Instead, they offer it up freely. Give credit where it's due, and recognize others' hard work and efforts. Leaders know recognition doesn't just come in the form of occasional rewards, bonuses and promotions, but through the daily identification of accomplishments and tasks that benefit the team and goals at hand. When you convey an attitude of appreciation for workplace accomplishments, employee engagement increases, morale is boosted, and teams are motivated to accomplish difficult tasks.
5. Watch your body language.
Every move a leader makes is evaluated, consciously or subconsciously, by those they wish to influence. If your body language is not consistent with your verbal cues, listeners see a disconnect and are less likely to trust what you say. For instance, leaders know to stand in an open stance when speaking and listening. This neutral position provides access to their space and demonstrates confidence in the message. When you stand with your arms crossed or speak with uncontrolled mannerisms, others become distracted and question the credibility of what you're saying.
6. Practice word awareness.
Leaders speak succinctly, choosing to use only words that add value to their message. You can hone in on this skill by practicing the less-is-more method. Eliminate all nonwords, such as "um" and "uh." Pause to transition between thoughts and topics, allowing listeners to consider what is said. Provide messages in a clear and concise manner to avoid rambling and confusion. Clarity builds confidence in listeners and credibility in the message.
7. Respect others.
Share the floor with those who desire to share their thoughts, giving them the opportunity to ask questions. Listen with intent. Give all speakers your undivided attention. Ignore all devices that may attempt to steal focus from those you wish to influence. When others speak, listen intently. Lean forward in your posture, make eye contact, and refrain from formulating your response until they have finished speaking. Allow your thoughts to be clear and entirely focused on others. By giving this level of respect while others talk, you strengthen your credibility and earn respect.
8. Be grateful and humble.
Leaders recognize no success is achieved alone. While the recognition of others is essential, gratitude and humility continually demonstrated by leaders inspire others to act. When you acknowledge you are unable to act alone, while showing appreciation and humility for those doing the work, you encourage more focused, deliberate work from engaged employees. Humility demonstrates that no matter how experienced you may be, you recognize that improvements are always possible.
9. Continue your development.
Leaders know there is always room for improvement and are never so arrogant as to believe they have mastered any one aspect of influence. Seek feedback from those you trust so you can continually work on your weak areas of management and communication skills. A true leader wants to know how they are perceived and works diligently to earn trust and credibility from those they lead. Seek mentors to guide you and coaches to develop your skills, and continually read up on how to improve.
10. Champion others.
New managers often fail to recognize their responsibility to develop others. Leaders know it's their responsibility to mentor, guide and continually provide feedback to their employees. More than that, you must champion those you believe are ready to seek promotional opportunities and be recognized for their considerable efforts.
These 10 leadership proficiencies are essential to the ongoing success of every manager, experienced or new. Even when training is absent, you can be mindful enough to implement these tactics each day. By doing so, you will elevate your position from that of management to that of leadership. As a result, you will have the influence necessary to get others to act on what you have to say.