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Improve your management and leadership: Overview

Fine tuning how you manage and lead is one of the most important business investments you’ll ever make. Here’s a quick view on improving your skills. Click on the links to the other management and leadership pages in this section (after each tip) to dig deeper and take your business where you want it to go.

Put your people first

Whatever your reasons for being in business, you can’t do it alone.

To succeed in business, you need to:

  • work well with your people (whatever their skill-level or the situation)
  • help your people perform well
  • know how to effectively delegate
  • know when to delegate and when to take control.

When you invest in your management and leadership you’re more likely to do this well — which makes life better for your people, your business and you.

He aha te mea nui o te āo? He tāngata, he tāngata, he tāngata.

He aha te mea nui o te āo? He tāngata, he tāngata, he tāngata.

What is the most important thing in the world? It is people, it is people, it is people.

Māori proverb.

Fine tune your communication skills

Good communication underpins every aspect of being an effective manager or leader.

Strengthen your communication skills to:

  • motivate people to work to their full potential
  • convey expectations clearly so that people know what you want from them
  • delegate projects and tasks as necessary
  • help prevent mix-ups that waste time and money
  • build relationships with your employees that will see you through good times and bad.

Check the way you give staff feedback. Make sure people are able to act on what you say, eg if someone has done something well, let them know what you liked so they can do it again. If somebody needs to improve, make sure you convey how.

Make sure you’re getting messages across clearly. That people understand what you’re trying to say, and you’re using the best tools.

And remember, different people may have different preferences, and you may tackle different situations in different ways, eg always try to deliver bad news and give complicated or urgent instructions face-to-face.

Quick tips

Do

  • Share your business vision, purpose and priorities with your team. 
  • Be as specific as you can when you give people feedback. Name the situation, what they did and what happened as a result.
  • Ask employees if they have any feedback for you. Learn to take their feedback graciously — whether it’s good or there’s room for improvement.

Don't

  • Try to cover too much in one go. People generally remember three to five points. Start and finish with the information you most want people to take on board.
  • Assume people have understood your message Check with them that everything is clear.
  • Don’t use terminology or language that’s outside people’s skill-level or area of expertise. Try to mirror people’s own language.

Learn more:

How to communicate and give feedback

“Tend to the people and they will tend to the business.”

“Tend to the people and they will tend to the business.”

Leadership expert John Maxwell.

Make trust a priority

Healthy, trusting relationships with your workers are a key part of leading and managing well. When your business is based on trust:

  • it’s easier to retain staff
  • your business is more likely to be efficient — and so more profitable
  • people are more likely to give each other honest feedback and share ideas 
  • your workplace will be happier and healthier place to be.

Make sure your people have the right skills and tools to do their jobs and trust them to perform well. Take time to win employees’ trust in you.

You’ll be rewarded with high functioning and loyal teams, more time to give to your family and hobbies, or to watch your business grow.

Quick tips

Do

  • Understand your employees’ values and respond to their needs.
  • Explain the reasons behind important decisions.
  • Demonstrate your competence whenever you can by showing the positive effect your decisions have on the business.

Don't

  • Underestimate how much trust influences profit.
  • Be afraid to let employees experiment and make mistakes. 
  • Forget some employees will trust you more willingly than others and adapt your approach depending on who you’re dealing with.

Learn more:

Building trust — How to be a good leader

Trust and profit go hand in hand.

Trust and profit go hand in hand.

Check your practices are fair

Treat people fairly and fairly manage your business policies and processes.

Being fair doesn’t always mean treating everyone the same.

For example, if one of your employees has a low stress threshold because of a medical condition, it would be unfair if you didn’t make special allowances for their circumstances.

In some other situations treating everyone the same is essential, eg applying the same criteria when you manage people’s performance.

Quick tips

Do

  • Ask employees to contribute to new policies.
  • Allocate resources fairly, eg who works which shift, company equipment and pay.
  • Give people information they need, when they need it.

Don't

  • Assume everyone’s needs are the same — where possible, be aware of people’s circumstances and take them into account when you manage and lead them.
  • Show bias towards people who have the same background or views as you.
  • Forget to be mindful of who you’re talking to and tailor how you communicate to their skill level and needs.

Learn more:

Check your practices are fair — How to be a good leader

Use different leadership styles

When it comes to leadership, there’s no one size fits all. Most leaders tend towards a certain style. But sometimes an approach other than your go-to may get better results. Learn to adapt your leadership style to suit:

  • who you’re talking to
  • their skill level 
  • your deadline
  • how critical the project or task is to your business success.

Quick tips

Do

  • Understand different preferences and work styles in your team. Personality tests are a great place to start. 
  • Identify your go-to leadership style and practice adopting the traits of others.
  • Think about what motivates different employees.

Don't

  • Shy away from delegating because you think it’s quicker and safer to do tasks yourself.
  • Be too prescriptive about how people do things long-term.
  • Forget to confirm actions and responsibilities when making decisions as a team.

Learn more:

Leadership styles and when to use them 

"Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence."

"Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence."

Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer Facebook.

Motivate your employees

Motivate your people and they’re more likely to care about your business. Understanding employees’ values is the key to motivating your team. If you want your business to fire on all cylinders, take time to discover what lights employees’ fires.

Motivated employees:

  • take pride in working for you
  • waste less and achieve more
  • will happily go the extra mile
  • roll with frustrations and roadblocks
  • are less inclined to look for work elsewhere.

Quick tips

Do

  • Be clear what you expect from people. Be sure they know what’s appropriate in your workplace and brief them clearly when you delegate tasks. 
  • Agree on goals that benefit both your business and your employees.
  • Invest in people’s learning. Let them own projects, help them grow and apply new skills. 

Don't

  • Give people more responsibility than they’re ready for, or they’ll feel out of their depth and demotivated.
  • Rely too heavily on financial rewards. People can come to expect them, and they don’t work for everyone.
  • Distance yourself from your people — when you’re growing a business it’s difficult to always be there, but it’s important to find a way to regularly connect.

Learn more:

How to motivate your staff

Manage your people's performance

Just as you would take care to service your most valuable equipment or machinery, it’s important to actively help your people perform.

Look after your employees, find out what they need. Identify any problems and work out how to fix them together. Give them the right tools and develop their skills.

Performance management allows people to:

  • prioritise their workload
  • think about skills they’d like to develop
  • work more efficiently
  • achieve what’s important to you both.

Connect what employees work on with what’s going to make your business succeed — whatever success looks like for you.

Quick tips

Do

  • Give employees ongoing feedback instead of once or twice a year.
  • Focus on coaching and developing your employees.
  • Motivate people to keep performing well or up their game.

Don't

  • Review the performance of people you have little contact with day-to-day. Ask for feedback from other team members, customers or clients.
  • Be too negative. Make sure your feedback is motivating and will help employees improve and grow.
  • Discount individual differences. When it comes to motivation, one size doesn’t fit all.

Learn more:

Managing people's performance

 

Many businesses now focus on coaching and development as performance management tools.

Many businesses now focus on coaching and development as performance management tools.

Have a plan for underperformance

If an employee is underperforming, check you’ve done all you can to help before moving on to a formal performance management plan.

Set workers up for great performance by removing anything that may be stopping them from performing well. Give them the tools and support they need.

Planning for underperformance helps you:

  • address problems before they become serious
  • support employees to do their best work
  • meet your obligations to employees
  • do right by your people and your business.

Quick tips

Do

  • Check you’re not getting in the way of great employee performance.
  • Focus on writing fair, accurate role descriptions when hiring new staff.
  • Make a real effort to turn underperformance around — it’s better for your business and for workers.

Don't

  • Assume an employee is solely responsible for making sure their job is done well.
  • Expect employees to perform well in areas not covered in their role description.
  • Underestimate the financial time cost of finding new employees and getting them going in a role.

Shape your workplace culture

Don’t leave your culture to chance. Your market position, your strategy and long-term business goals should all play a part.

Getting your culture right helps you:

  • build competitive advantage 
  • attract and keep the people your business needs
  • give people a sense of belonging
  • make people feel good about working for you
  • show people what’s expected
  • motivate people to do their jobs well. 

Most workplace cultures are people or process led. Smart leaders adjust the levels of one or the other to support their long-term business plans.

Quick tips

Do

  • Identify your culture and think about whether it’s taking your business where you want it to go.
  • Recruit different personalities to change your culture.
  • Use cultural champions to influence how other people behave.

Don't

  • Be afraid to change your culture to deal with performance issues or win competitive advantage.

  • Forget the role that work space and dress code can play in shaping your culture.

  • Underestimate the value of leading by example.

Learn more:

Shaping your workplace culture

Think about whether your culture is working for you. If not take steps to change it.

Think about whether your culture is working for you. If not take steps to change it.

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