There seem to be two strong thoughts as to optimum management styles these days – manager or mentor. The first is the manager who sets targets, sets clear boundaries, monitors closely and ensures no one strays from the task at hand. They are clearly your ‘boss’ and keep a distance from their subordinates.
The other management style is more nurturing-focussed on team happiness and the overall wellbeing of the team. There is a presumption that ultimately a happy team will equate to a productive one that is making the business money. In many instances, this ‘manager’ is often everyone’s best friend.
I’d like to introduce a concept which is a position somewhere between the two; a manager who is more of a mentor. In my personal view, 30% of the first style should be mixed with 70% of the later style. Let me explain the what, why and how.
What is a leader who is more of a Mentor than a Manager?
A mentor is quite similar to a business coach, which is what I am. As a business coach, I am leading business owners to succeed. I’m listening, encouraging, guiding and yes, holding them accountable. I am not their boss, nor am I their employee (despite being paid by them). More, I consider myself an equal and a teacher. I will listen to their ideas and viewpoints and equally, there is an expectation in turn of being listened to. There is mutual respect, cohesion and a mutual objective which is the improvement of the business. I would expect nothing of my clients that I myself am not prepared to do myself, or have done in my long business career. Leadership, mentoring and management of a team is quite similar. So, rather than being the ‘boss’ and ruling with an iron fist from your lofty perch, you might consider a softer approach. Notice I said softer, not soft. There is a difference and that will come out in this article.
Why adopt this softer management style of Mentor?
Business is the output of our teams. Barking orders will achieve little. No-one ever goes the extra mile out of fear; so wielding the whip isn’t effective. Not explaining the why behind a decision or project leaves people in the dark. When a team thrives and is motivated, they are more productive and deliver better results. Many tasks these days are more than factory type outputs, but rely on creativity and personal effort. Pressure and control do not increase productivity; in fact, the opposite. A happy, motivated and engaged worker equates to:
- Lower staff turnover
- Fewer safety incidents
- Less absenteeism
- Improved customer satisfaction
- Greater productivity (which usually means a better bottom line).
On average, it costs 1.5 times a person’s annual salary to replace them! That’s huge, so if a business has a high staff turnover, that is costing the business in cold hard dollars. From a human perspective, high staff turnover is toxic, leads to low morale, feeling unsafe and ultimately looking to leave themselves. It just snowballs.
A bad boss is the reason most people leave a job; and a good boss is the reason most people stay. I recall many moons ago working at a place on bare minimum wage. I had frequent offers for more dollars, but I loved working with my boss; she was fun, she was a teacher, she was fair and she treated me like an equal.
So what is the solution? HOW do we mentor as a leader and manager?
Before we start with any of this, ensure you have great team on board. People who will flourish in a more flexible and nurturing environment. If you have people on board who are only turning up to pick up a paycheque whilst doing as little as possible may not be the ones you want. Something I learnt years ago in recruitment; recruit based 80% on attitude and 20% on skill. Skills can be taught, but un-teaching a lousy attitude is hard work.
Make a conscious decision about your leadership style and your why. If you are able to seek a mentor yourself, this may well help you grow in your own right, and you’ll pick up some techniques you can pass on. Additionally, if this is new to you, then you’ll have someone to ask for advice.
Not just more, but more effective. Meetings where you just lecture or reprimand achieves little. Keeping them in the dark means they cannot contribute in any meaningful way, plus it sends a message that you do not trust them, plus makes it hard for them to show initiative. If you don’t trust them, why should they trust you? Yourself, allocate time to talk with your team and support any who need that bit more. Naturally knowing and understanding each person as an individual will help more in working with them as individuals – they are people, not numbers.
In order for your team to improve, grow or develop they need the skills, which means they need either training or time to action. Ditch the thought “but if I train them up, they might take that knowledge elsewhere”. Yes, they might, but if you don’t provide these opportunities they are likely to go anyway.
Just as I nurture my clients as a business coach, so should a good leader or mentor. Show warmth and trust and they will come back. Not only listen to their challenges but ask them about them. Show you are not perfect and they will be more willing to open up. When they do open up, be supportive. I recall one of my team (in an old computerised accounting business I had) came to me almost in tears. She feared she had made a huge mistake with a client’s work. After calming her down, I listened. I asked relevant questions (in a very non-threatening way) and make it clear we would work it out together, that all things are fixable. I guided her on the course of action and was there for her as support. By her coming to me early, we fixed that problem and hugely mitigated what could have been a large problem. In fact, it wasn’t as bad as she thought and the story closed on a really positive note. That person was with me for many years.
Another important aspect of great leadership and management is valuing the input of your team. Ask for their advice and thoughts. Listen and if you hear something you think won’t work, don’t knock it down. Thank them for contributing and if one of their ideas is used, then credit them, whether that’s to management above you, clients or simply to the overall team. Always remember to thank your team for their input and hard work.
Educate & give positive feedback
Instead of just giving people the answers, why not lead them to finding the answers themselves (with support and guidance) with leading questions. Feedback should be frequent and both on the good and what needs improving and delivered in a positive way. NEVER give negative (even if constructive) feedback to a team member in front of others, or worse, in front of clients or customers! As Marshall Goldsmith says – consider the feedback is ‘feed-forward’ in order to keep the team motivated, valued and positive.
Know what motivates people
Find out what motivates each individual person in your team. Remember that it’s rarely money or promotions. They want to feel valued, enjoy going to work, know what they are doing and what’s expected of them. They want to see achievements and have the opportunity for advancement (often learning and skill gathering). They need to feel a degree of trust, so micromanaging them or severely limiting them won’t help there.
Being a leader, mentor and manager that people want to work with doesn’t mean you have to be their best friend, or be walked all over or not make those tough decisions. It does mean that you get to know your team and value them. You become a teacher and guide them and someone they can trust. With the softer approach, you will build a rapport with them and when it does come to keeping them on task or meeting a deadline, they will respect you for your request and will endeavour to help you achieve that objective, out of loyalty. Remember that balance with a ratio of around 70/30; grow and nurture your team whilst achieving business objectives in front of you.
Need coaching on how to be a great leader or team mentor? Call me on 0411 622 666.