Management Skills: Not Knowing the Answer
When I’m helping managers, team leaders and business owners develop their people management skills I often come across some reluctance to take action to practice those management skills – to actually take action to manage their employee’s performance. Often this reluctance is about managers being fearful of not knowing all the answers or not knowing how, exactly, to do something
So they say things like
I should set some new performance objectives for my employees but I don’t know what, exactly, those performance objectives should be
I should monitor my employee’s performance more but I don’t know the best way to do that
I want to help my employees improve their job satisfaction but I don’t know what it is they want
From my point of view the mistake these managers are making is believing they have to have all the answers. Why?
Because when we, as managers, don’t know the answers we can then be much more open to involving our employees in coming up with those answers
And if there’s one thing we certainly do know it’s that employees are more committed to actions they have had input into
Do you see how ‘not knowing’ could be one of the key management skills?
The management skills of not knowing the answer
So, you don’t know the answer – but what are the management skills of involving your employees in coming up with those answers?
Let’s take an example
Management Skills: Co Writing Performance Objectives
Imagine you want to agree some performance objectives (or performance standards) with your employees to improve the way they work as a team
But you’re not entirely sure what ‘effective teamwork’ looks like in practice – what it really means.
What you do know is that if you can’t get some description in clear, behavioural language of what ‘effective teamwork’ means then your improvement plans are doomed to failure
Here’s what you can do:
1. Have a conversation with your employees where you explain:
a) Why you think the team needs to improve the way they work together
(See an example of how to explain why teamwork is important to the business in my blog ‘Management Skills: Helping Employees to See the Bigger Picture’)
b) That you would like their input into defining and agreeing what ‘effective team work’ actually means – for our team
2. Then either:
a) Ask the question ‘what do you think effective teamwork looks like in practice?’
(Being careful here to challenge any non behavioural language e.g. ‘being supportive’ or ‘being collaborative’ by asking – ‘what would that look like?’)
b) Use some objectives or descriptions of team work written by someone else (for example from my e-book ‘Instant Performance Objectives’!) and ask the team to edit, amend and / or suggest further descriptions
Then simply work together – as you usually would – amending and refining until you come up with a series of behavioural description of ‘effective team work’. Voila! You now have your performance objectives
The real benefit of the management skills of not knowing
It doesn’t take a genius to see that involving your employees in defining objectives has a huge benefit in building their commitment to achieving those objectives. The only thing, at this stage, you will need to do is to say something on the lines of ‘so now we are agreed what effective team work looks like, can we all agree that this is now how we are going to work together?’ On the basis your team has co written the description of ‘effective team work’ it’s unlikely they will disagree, isn’t it?
Management Skills: Not Knowing the Answer Summary
OK let’s be honest. You could take the management skills of ‘not knowing’ too far. If you don’t know anything at all about managing employee performance you might struggle (to say the least!) with your credibility. A great way to make sure you know best practice in managing employee performance is to grab a copy of my FREE Special Report ‘Boost Your Business Performance through Effective Employee Management’ HERE