The Two Words That Will Make You a Better Manager

A person who feels appreciated will always do more than expected.

When I read this note, which was posted above a restaurant, I thought of a conversation I had with my daughter. She was into her second job with a marketing background. Sadly, both jobs introduced her to bad bosses.

Her comment to me was, “Just once I would love to work for someone who could just say ‘Thank you,’ or ‘I really appreciate the work you do.’ It seems regardless of the work I do, regardless of the accolades from others, never once have I heard those words. There have even been instances where she claimed she worked on the project once the accolades came.”

As I listened to this I was heartbroken, but not really surprised. We have people managing people who do not have the capability to manage people. Marshall Goldsmith’s book from a few years back, What Got You Hear Will Not Get You There, says it all.

The 8 Traits of Great Managers

We promote people of hard skills, when it should be based on soft skills. Project Oxygen was a fantastic project in which Google dug into the effectiveness of their managers discovering there were 7 soft skills that the most effective leaders possessed. The total skills were 8. Hard skills was the one that anchored the bottom. However, that is normally what sits at the top of organization’s requirement for moving someone forward.

Your employees are the biggest asset you have, or at least that is what your web site probably says. Their performance and attitude can result in the success or failure of your business. Whether team leader or manager, that person is required to lead, motivate, train, inspire, and encourage. That is a monumental task and your business depends on it. However these responsibilities fall to people who often don’t know how and have not been developed with the capabilities to lead in today’s work environment. So, in the end we can’t really blame them. Some will survive it as they have an innate ability to have people skills.

Drawing Out the Best in Them

Probably the most important task a manager will face when dealing with the people under their direction is that of bringing out the best in them. Unlocking people potential is often seen as the key to any business’s success. When an employee’s talents are not channeled correctly, their behavior can seriously compromise the success of an organization.

Employees require praise and reinforcement of any progress that they make. This has the effect of reinforcing good behavior. As my daughter mentioned to me, it is only a few words, but used in the proper context praise can have a huge effect on output and continued high performance.

Empower Your People

Empowerment of our people is the key to competitiveness and innovation. Employees cannot be blamed for an organization’s inefficiency if they are not provided with the skills necessary to perform adequately. I call it managing from a 360 perspective. Most managers do the opposite and manage from 180 degrees concerned only with the 9-5 workday. However, knowing the key touch points of the people we manage can give us the key to empowering them with a sense of ownership.

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Empowering employees with authority, accountability, and responsibility for improving the processes which are under their control without first having to obtain permission will unleash that excitement and creativity that is just waiting to get out. Leaders bring it out by encouraging, asking and coaching from the sidelines.

Leadership Starts With the Basics

Our most important leadership development started when we were babies. Parents were our first leadership coach. They would remind us regularly with a “What do you say?” To which we respond with a thank you. They would never let us forget the importance of that. So, if you are thinking about leadership development for a manager, make sure they understand those two words, used properly and timely, are more important than any seminar. If they can’t even do that, skip the seminar and save your company some money.

Ron Thomas

Ron Thomas is Managing Director, Strategy Focused Group DWC LLC, based in Dubai. He is also a senior faculty member and representative of the Human Capital Institute covering the MENA/Asia Pacific region.

He was formerly CEO of Great Place to Work-Gulf and former CHRO based in Riyadh. He holds certifications from the Human Capital Institute as Global Human Capital Strategist, Master Human Capital Strategist, and Strategic Workforce Planner.

He's been cited by CIPD as one of the top 5 HR Thinkers in the Middle East. He received the Outstanding Leadership Award for Global HR Excellence at the World Human Resources Development Congress in Mumbai, and was named as one of the 50 Most Talented Global HR Leaders in Asia

Ron's prior roles included senior HR positions with Xerox HR services, IBM, and Martha Stewart Living.

Board memberships include the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council, McKinsey Quarterly's Executive Online Panel, and HCI's Expert Advisory Council on Talent Management Strategy.

His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, Workforce Management and numerous international HR magazines covering Africa, India and the Middle East.