Even if you see yourself at the bottom of totem pole, you are a manager. Don’t believe it? Look at all the things you are responsible for.
You have relationships with everyone around you. You have choices to make, choices that reflect on your team and on you as a player. You’re managing your time. You’re managing your relationships. And you’re managing your reputation.
Your specified job responsibilities are merely the beginning. Former Harvard Business School professor and business management guru David Maister has some great advice you can use to start thinking “like a boss.”
- Do something for someone … and they’ll be more likely to do something for you. “I scratch your back, you scratch mine.” It’s intuitive, it’s natural, it works. According to Maister, you need to invest in the relationships you have with your subordinates and with your supervisors (it works both ways). It doesn’t have to be anything big; simply showing an interest in the things that interest them is a good start. It doesn’t even have to be work-related. Keep the conversation professional and appropriate, but don’t pass up a chance to talk about their kids or their pastimes, for example.
- Don’t criticize. Criticism—constructive or otherwise—is all too often seen as an attack. Maister cautions that the natural response to it is a counterattack. As human beings, we can’t help it. Among members of a team, counterattacking is counterproductive. Suggest a change by saying “I’ve got a problem. Will you help me?”
- Be sincere. How will others to respond when you ask them to do something? The answer, states Maister, depends on whether or not they find your request sincere and in line with what they wanted to do anyway. Therefore, to influence coworkers, you have to show that you share their motives. You have to show that doing what you want them to do will also accomplish what they want to accomplish for themselves. Be honest and straightforward. Don’t give them any reason to think you have something up your sleeve, and they’ll be that much more likely to do what you want.
- Don’t condescend. Nobody wants to be treated like a child. It’s insulting. If your managerial style is demeaning rather than respectful, you will not achieve the results you seek. It doesn’t matter if you’re the oldest, the smartest, the highest-paid, the best-dressed or the one with the whitest teeth. It doesn’t matter if you’re the CEO and you’re talking to the person who cleans the restrooms. If you’re giving someone feedback, your tone should be that of a trusted advisor—not a parent. It’s psychology, not rocket science. Show some respect and you’ll get it in return.
- Don’t sacrifice the team to win a game. Each time you collaborate with someone at work, there are three outcomes. The situation you’re all dealing with can be improved, it can be ruined or it can be maintained. You want improvement, natch, but not if it squanders the goodwill you’ve worked so hard to build up among your teammates. Choose your words wisely and you’ll build bridges instead of burning them. Instead of saying, “You are wrong,” learn to say something like: “Is there another way of looking at this?”