There’s no doubt about it, middle management is hard. Chances are you find yourself wearing all kinds of hats. In fact, any given week may find you completing tasks ranging from candidate screening to refereeing, mentoring and yes sometimes even producing final deliverables yourself to make an impending deadline.
In fact in some organizations, it’s a job that can land you squarely in career limbo. Undoubtedly, it can be an incredible challenge to showcase the abilities of your team while still trying to place your foot firmly on the next rung of that elusive career ladder.
Sure doing great work personally and encouraging your team to match your performance is a great step towards success. But managers are also judged by their ability to be a “leader.” Management guru Peter Drucker’s famous quote, “Management is doing things right. Leadership is doing the right thing” perhaps says it best.
While this concept seems basic, I’ve coached far too many managers who quickly point the finger at others without considering the repercussions. And if you’re reading this thinking…not me! You might want to dig a little deeper.
1. Walk the Talk. Whether you’re talking to the CEO or your newest college intern, lead your own conversations with integrity. Little will frustrate your team more than the illusion that you are exempt from conversations about ethical behavior. Quite simply if you don’t demonstrate the ability to make the right (or hello ethical!) decisions at work, you give everyone else a pass to behave as you do.
2. Keep the Door Closed. When you discuss one employees’ performance with another, you are on a slippery slope. Some managers hold these conversations under the illusion of building a strong team that can cover each other’s weaknesses. But the message to your team members is “you can’t be trusted!”
3. No Guessing Here. For employees one of the surest signs of fair treatment is equality to all team members. So it’s important to set guidelines that are consistent. And it doesn’t do you much good to define the expectations and penalties if you don’t share them openly. Ensure that Susie and Joe’s infractions are handled equally and everyone understands the expectations and consequences.
4. Interview for Ethics. If ethical behavior is one of your foundational management blocks, then it’s critical you consider ethics before making employment offers. By adding a few situational questions to your interview process you will be surprised just how quickly the ethics box is (or isn’t!) checked. For example, you may ask what they would do if they knew a co-worker was stealing from the company. Or you can ask them to share an example of a mistake they made and how it was handled. Regardless, simply opening your mind to the importance of ethical behavior for your employees will make a noticeable difference in your interview process.
5. Reward the Behavior! One of the most simple (yet often underutilized!) management tips is to simply reward the behavior you want to encourage. Rewards for ethical behavior can be as simple as a few honest words of praise shared between manager and employee or as blown up as an enterprise wide contest where someone receives the “Ethical Employee of the Month” award. And realistically anything in between. Ultimately, you should give thought to budget issues; corporate culture and what “perks” resonate with the team.
6. Read the Book. Regardless of size, most employers have an Employee Handbook. While it may not be the most riveting thing you will ever read, it’s definitely required reading if you hope to win the “Manager of the Year” award from your employees. These publications spell out the behavior the company does (and doesn’t!) expect. As a manager, it’s your role to know the policy and consistently apply it.
7. Stay Strong or Move On. Unfortunately there are plenty of examples where large corporations make poor ethical decisions. While it’s never “ok” admittedly there are organizations where the culture simply doesn’t lend itself to the topic of ethics. If you find yourself in this situation, you really have only three choices: Do the wrong thing, do the right thing or move on.
8. Keep your Promises. There’s no doubt that the word promise implies some heavy commitment. While you may consider your dialogue with team members a “conversation,” chances are good that they hear “commitment.” Be cognizant of the difference between those terms and alert to the actions you agree to take. In order to be a strong (and ethical!) manager, it’s imperative that you always follow through on things you commit to doing. So whether you agree to request a promotion, or more head count or even some continuing education, always follow through on promises.
Admittedly with all of the other noise and pressures in your life and career, it can be a challenge to simply get it all done. But no one (yourself included!) wants to work for a boss with poor ethics.
So a simple question for you: Today will you do things right or will you do the right thing?