The way we work is changing. As the modern workplace evolves, your role in it as a leader is changing too. If you, as a manager, want to keep being effective and serving the people who make your company so awesome, you’re going to have to be open to adjusting your perspective and the old things you knew about being a great leader.
Teams are no longer content to accept the overarching pronouncements from a shadowy boss figure that they never see, let alone speak to. Instead, people want to be led by someone they know. Someone they trust. Someone who seeks their input, as the people out there doing the work and putting the big plans into action.
We all want to be leaders in our career. That includes everyone from your most junior just-out-of-college developer to your been-there-done-that superstar project manager. What does this mean for how you run your team?
Listening is more important than talking. As a manager, you might be used to the idea that you do all the talking and your subordinates do all the listening. But if you want to be a leader today — a real leader — you understand that collaboration is more important than dictation. Innovation can come from anywhere; will you be listening when someone tells you their great idea?
Drawing ideas from your team members who may be hesitant to share them is key. Some people on your team are envelope-pushers, and they’ll always have something new to tell you. That’s easy. But you need to focus energy on the people who don’t want to rock the boat too. Just because someone is hesitant to share a wild idea doesn’t mean they don’t have one to give.
Challenge your team to wow you with ideas. Don’t let people get away with not contributing. Nobody grows without being pushed, and it’s your job to do the pushing.
Managing overall strategy. Just because everyone wants to have input into how the team is run, doesn’t mean everyone has free reign to dictate what the whole team works on, when, and why. As the manager, you are still responsible for making big picture decisions about where your business is going and how you’ll get there. Your team still needs to be working with a common goal and focus, not running around on a thousand individual whims and projects.
Not every idea your team brings to you will be a good one or one that makes sense for your priorities at that time. And that’s okay — but it’s your job to determine what suggestions should be pursued, which ones should be tabled for later, and which ones are no-go’s altogether.
Leading through trust. Not every idea is a great one — but when you say no, it shouldn’t crush the person who contributed it. How do you accomplish this impossible feat? By making sure people know *why* you make the decisions you do, and by making sure they know all along the way that you value you their contributions, even when you can’t use them.
Be an active listener. Make eye contact, take notes, ask questions. And when you announce strategy, commend all the people on your team who brought great ideas, regardless of whether their individual contribution is part of this specific plan. Thank people for their hard work, publicly, privately, any chance you get.
An innovative team is an interdependent, fluid structure. No one person runs the show anymore; instead, everyone knows they rely on everyone else to get the best possible work done. Trust is of the utmost importance, and everyone knows their success depends on other people.
“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” — Henry Ford