Over the years I have seen new managers make some fundamental mistakes, and those mistakes have taken time to recover from. As a creative services manager, your job is to make your team more effective and productive than they would have been without you. You should be able to plan, organize, direct and motivate. You probably have heard many times that as a manager you are only as good as your people. So how do you motivate your team to do their best? How do you encourage people to follow you as a leader to achieve a common goal? Here are a few basic behaviors I have learned that may help you as a new manager.
Articulate Your Vision
What vision do you have for your team/department? How does is it align with the greater department’s/company’s vision? Articulate it and communicate it often to your staff. It is important for everyone to know the direction to take in order to meet a common goal. Articulating and communicating your vision is key. Your vision can change and develop and that’s okay. A good manager can adjust as needed and articulates the vision often but is never perceived as flighty.
Be an Advocate
It is most important that you operate as an advocate for your team. Communicate what your team is doing to help reach company goals. Tell stories about the successes your team has achieved. Be proud of what your team has the ability to accomplish.
How many times have we been in situations where a “finger is pointed” at your creative team? Stand up for your team and the things they are doing well and right. Take constructive criticism to heart in order to improve the team’s performance. Let your team know you are there both leading and backing them.
Advocacy is an important part of building trust with your staff. A manager who is a good advocate knows that every member of the team is important. There is an understanding of and appreciation for the skills and talents each member brings. A good manager is able to deploy those strengths appropriately.
Coaching and training can be an important part of advocacy. Understand where there is room for improvement and solicit training for the team and individuals as required. Coach to effectively modify and improve skills and behaviors that will not only achieve the department goals but will also develop the individual for future roles.
Give Credit Where Credit is Due
Although recognizing your staff is part of advocacy, I think it is important enough to mention as a topic. One of the fastest ways to gain the trust of your staff is to give them full credit for the work they are accomplishing. The fastest way to lose the trust and following of your staff is to take credit for the work they have done. You may often find yourself in a position where senior management is complementing you on a job well done. ALWAYS give the credit to your staff. After all, without them there would be no need for you. Likewise, when senior management brings up a problem or issue, take full responsibility for it. NEVER point fingers at a staff member in that setting. Individual performance issues can be brought up and worked on in coaching sessions and individual 1-on-1 staff meetings.
Delegating work is a key skill a new manager often needs to learn. Just because you can do it doesn’t mean you should. As a manager you need to be keenly aware of the unique value your individual staff members bring to the table but also aware of the value you yourself bring. When tempted to take something on yourself, ask:
- Where can I add the most value?
- What skills do those in my organization bring to the table? Who is best suited to take on this work?
- Who is trying to develop a skill for which this project is uniquely suited?
- What skills can be purchased from outside resources relatively inexpensively?
Be Engaged, Show Interest
A wise person once said to me, “Welcome to management. You will never have another bad day in the office.” Your personal demeanor and the way you handle things is on public display. It is important to keep a positive frame of mind at all times.
As a manager, you will often have the opportunity to hear company initiatives and department goals before they are introduced to your staff. This usually gives you time to plan how you will communicate and implement with your own team. It also often results in you hearing a message many times before it actually gets communicated at the staff level. It is very easy to become a little lax thinking you have already heard and taken in the message and your valuable time can be used elsewhere while your staff hears the message for the first time. This is a huge mistake. Your staff needs to see you engaged in the meeting and the new messages they are hearing from the company. As their leader, they take their cue from you. Your staff will mimic your behavior whether consciously or unconsciously. They watch to see your reaction to news, communications, and goals. If you show no interest, the message they get is that it isn’t important. No matter how many times you have heard a message delivered, you need to be present and engaged as if it were the first time the message is being delivered to you.
This list just touches on some of the behaviors that are important for a good manager to be aware of and adept at. Getting to know your staff personally can add a good deal of joy and fun to the workplace where we spend so much of our time. You have the unique ability to find ways to really inspire your staff to do their best work. You help them further their careers. Your staff will watch you behave in ethical, fair and thoughtful ways that will lead them to act likewise. Instilling the behaviors listed in your everyday work can help make your management role a very rewarding experience.
For information about how Cella can add value to your business through consulting, coaching, and training, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. This article was written by former Cella Consultant Sue Wolski.
How much work do you delegate to outside agencies? Are you fulfilling their—and your team’s—potential? Learn more about working with agencies at InSource’s upcoming signature event: An Evening with Paula Scher—Perspectives on the Relationship Between In-House and Outside Creative Agencies.