"Managers can take advantage of the start of a new year to upgrade their management and leadership skills, team up with mentors, and clarify the objectives and career paths of those they manage," said Annie Stevens, managing partner with ClearRock (www.clearrock.com), an outplacement and executive coaching firm headquartered in Boston.
"To retain talented employees in this slowly improving job market, managers must sharpen their motivational skills and demonstrate to their direct reports they are valued through individual meetings and career development plans," added Stevens.
ClearRock offers the following 13 ways executives and managers can become better leaders in 2013.
1. Prioritize goals that can be fulfilled early in the year. "Everyone wants to be part of a winning team. Successes that come early in the year will help build teamwork, improve engagement, and spur greater involvement as more workers seek to contribute solutions," said Stevens.
2. Meet early in the year with workers you manage. "Personal one-on-one meetings are a great way to clarify objectives – what is expected of them and the timetable they have to achieve them. Crystalize for each worker what his or her 'critical few objectives' are – the two or three most important accomplishments they must realize," stated Stevens.
3. Clarify your own objectives with your boss. Meet early in the year with your supervisor and get an understanding of your own critical objectives and the way he or she prefers to receive progress reports.
4. Formulate a career path for each worker. "Mutually develop a career path with each worker early in the year or check in with them to see how they are progressing on their individual plans. Employees must see near-term and long-term career opportunities and a commitment to help them achieve their full potential, or they will test the increased prospects elsewhere," said Stevens.
5. Challenge workers early in the year with 'stretch' assignments. "Use demanding 'stretch assignments' that require workers to learn new skills and designate them to lead projects that are out of their comfort zones. You will both discover the full range of their capabilities, which can evolve into greater responsibilities and value to the organization,"
6. Begin the year with a commitment to Management By Walking Around (MBWA). "Make it a regular practice to get out of the office and out from behind emails and interact with employees where the work is being performed. It is a great way to become more visible and connect with workers," said Stevens.
7. Pair up with one or more mentors. "Managers can have more than one mentor at the same time to serve different purposes. One mentor can be a coach for improving function-related skills and another can instruct in soft skills such as how to make better presentations,"
8. Progress from being an individual performer to a manager. “Star performers are often promoted to managers, but sometimes they have not been able to make the transition because they have not learned the management and leadership skills they need. This is especially true about employees who were promoted to replace those displaced by layoffs. Strive to receive the coaching and training you require," said Stevens.
9. Perfect your communications skills. Good communications skills consistently rank at the top of skills managers need to build, according to ClearRock surveys. Inability to communicate well – both verbally and in writing – will limit the success you and your team can achieve.
10. Reinforce the importance of customer satisfaction. Share best practices and methods employees are using to satisfy customers.
11. Celebrate early successes. Recognize and reward the achievements of your direct reports and their contributions to positive outcomes.
12. Pledge to regularly offer timely feedback. "Feedback should be delivered consistently and not just during performance evaluations. It creates more occasions to interface with direct reports and reinforce positive behavior," said Stevens.
13. Use this list throughout the year. Keep track of which of these tactics you have been able to employ, those you have not tried, and implement the ones with the highest value as part of your management style.
FOR INTERVIEWS AND MORE INFORMATION:
Annie Stevens and Greg Gostanian