Great managers learn to do something that can be critical for the focus and productivity of their team; they protect them from distraction from above. They remove the background noise. Find out how you can achieve this.
I think singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell had it spot on when she penned the lyric: “don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone” (see ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ video below)!
It could be written about great staff, and especially managers. The best are only really appreciated when they move on, and the true scale of their contribution can be measured by those left behind.
Like anyone who is expert in their field, great managers make it look effortless; like they’re not really doing anything at all. And yet all the time, they are being pulled in two directions; answering to senior management whilst managing the performance and day-to-day needs of their team.
Those managers who fall into the ‘great’ bracket have learned to do something that can be critical for the focus and productivity of their team; they protect them from distraction from above. They remove the background noise.
In any cohesive business, it’s important to have a flow of information and communication down, as well as up. Unfortunately, too often the effectiveness of a team can be derailed by the stream of white noise that accompanies this.
Innocuous queries, unrealistic timescales, discussions about performance beyond the team’s influence, concerns about fiscal issues and the like all serve to draw focus away from the objective the team is working towards.
A manager that can prevent these distractions reaching their team is invaluable because they recognise the negative impact that these kinds of distractions can have:
- Diminished focus – as soon as some or all of the team are drawn into ad-hoc requests from above, then focus on the team objectives will inevitably reduce. This can be especially critical in teams with short-term performance targets
- Decreased Motivation – constantly being exposed to unfiltered discussion and noise about performance or personnel issues can have a destructive effect on morale.
So, what can you do in order to act as that all-important noise filter for your team, preventing unwanted distractions from reaching them?
- Be clear on what senior management expect from you and your team – knowing exactly what is expected lets you be proactive with relevant updates to the senior team to reduce the need for ad hoc requests
- Engage regularly with senior team members – understand what challenges they have in order to anticipate and manage any impact on your team
- Create scheduled opportunities for engagement with the team – removing unwanted distractions doesn’t mean keeping the team wrapped in cotton wool. Create regular opportunities for the team to engage with senior staff but in an environment that can be managed
- Deliver feedback up, as well as down, where necessary – this is not always straight forward but you must be prepared to feedback and push back when it is appropriate and justified to do so
- Ensure that any personnel or HR-focused discussions are conducted behind closed doors – this should be completely self-explanatory but it is surprising how often it doesn’t happen
There will always be bona fide and appropriate circumstances when your team need to engage with senior management and you should encourage this. After all, the goal here is not to isolate them from the operation, rather give them the best possible environment to develop and perform in.
And if you’re doing it right, the chances are it won’t be until you leave that anyone will notice just how noisy it can be when you’re not there!
This is a difficult skill to master and requires a level of self-confidence that can be hard to achieve in your early days as a leader. At Leading Results we offer a range of courses and coaching designed to help you understand how to harness helpful skills to support your progression so if you’d like our help, just email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Watch: VIDEO – ‘Leading Results’ success has been built on reputation’.
Singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell’s lyrics:’you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone’ are pertinent for how truly great managers are missed when they leave a business.