People sometimes find themselves moving into management roles accidentally.
Time and time again, I’m told by middle managers in fields such as IT, engineering and other related fields that they got promoted because they
I’ve been told this time and time again by middle managers in fields such as IT, engineering and other related fields. They got promoted because they had excellent technical skills and decent social skills. They weren’t even fully certain they wanted the promotion at the time. But took it because it seemed like a smart move.
And yet, once they were promoted, they came to realize that effectively leading a team of diverse personalities can be flat out hard. Figuring out how to motivate and engage every single person isn’t quite as simple as figuring out the one trick that works. Because people are more complex than that, and what works for one doesn’t work at all for another.
This is exactly why focusing on developing leadership communication skills in middle managers who want to continue to be promoted is so essential.
If you’re a middle manager whose dream is to continue moving up the corporate ladder, refining your leadership communication skills is a great place to focus. Fostering trust and respect will help you create an environment where each and every team member can reach their absolute potential.
Some of the most common challenges my clients experience when leading a team include:
- team members addressing challenges in ways that perpetuates conflict, rather than resolves it;
- certain individuals resisting leadership efforts, whether overtly or behind the scenes;
- chronic, ongoing tension between certain members of the team;
- chronic tension and collaboration challenges between their team and another team within the organization;
- lack of clarity and agreement around priorities, methods of attaining goals, etc., leading to chronic inefficiencies;
- deadlines that are missed without adequate communication prior to the deadline;
- teams working in silos, leading to lack of coordination of efforts, inefficiency and ongoing frustration.
Here are some communication tips to help you position yourself for that next promotion.
1. Address issues early on
Often when people feel that they don’t have the skills needed to address tension and conflict in their teams, they simply avoid it. They don’t necessarily mean to, or even actually decide to. They just do it by default.
And guess what happens…? It of course gets worse.
Addressing issues early on is one of the best things you can do to resolve the challenges that are constantly derailing your team. The complexity of conflict exists on a continuum. The longer the situation goes on unaddressed, the more difficult and complex it will be to work it out. This means that your job as a manager will just get harder over time.
Deciding that you want make learning how to model effective leadership communication skills for your team members one of your top priorities is one of the absolute best ways to get you there. If you’re looking for support, our free e-course on managing workplace conflict and confrontation may help you get one step closer.
2. Listen more deeply
Truly listening to others means setting aside your preconceived notions about certain people and situations and approaching conversations with a completely open mind. It’s a lot harder than it seems. Although a large proportion of people would say they’re great listeners, the reality is that we can mostly all benefit from working on our listening skills, if not just a bit more.
Listening isn’t just about not talking. It’s about connecting with others and being able to see things through their eyes. It means being open to truly rethinking your own perspective. It means questioning how your own biases influence your thinking and being open to acknowledging that you see things the way you do based on your own personal experience of the world. This means being willing to give as much space and truth to another person’s perspective as you do to your own, even when you really disagree.
3. Admit to your mistakes
Be willing to admit when you’re wrong. This seems so simple. And yet nobody really loves to admit that they’re wrong. I don’t like to do it. But I try to do it anyhow because I think it’s a fundamental leadership skill. One of the most crucial things that your team needs to see is that you’re willing to accept responsibility when you’ve made a mistake. This will send a message to your team members that it will be safe for them to fess up when they’ve made a mistake.
While many managers fear that admitting to a mistake error will make them look weak, it will actually show just how strong you truly are.
4. Support without fixing
Many managers tend to approach any issue that is brought to their attention as a problem for them to jump in and solve immediately. As much as this may seem like a quick fix to a problem, the reality is that in the long run, this approach is not terribly effective when leading a team.
Each time you solve one of your team member’s problems for them, you basically reinforce that their best path to problem-solving is to come to you to have their problems solved. But your role as a middle manager isn’t to solve every problem that arises. Rather, it’s to provide the mentorship and guidance needed for your team members to hone their own problem-solving skills. Doing so requires being able to support your team members in exploring problems and possible solutions without owning the problem yourself.
5. Be willing to let go of being right
As stress and tension mount, people often have a tendency to become defensive. During moments of conflict, or when things go wrong, people often begin to focus more on proving that they’re right and less on listening to the other person.
As conversations convert into a debate about who is right and who is wrong, the ability to solve conflict decreases. One person defending their point of view often leads to the other person doing same. When you can step into a conversation knowing that you don’t have all of the answers and truly believing that others’ insight is of equal value to yours, it opens the door to collaborative discussions where different points of views can be fully explored.
If you’re ready to deepen your knowledge and skills to help you navigate communication challenges that you face in your role as a middle manager, take a look at my free e-course on workplace conflict and confrontation. It might be just what you need to help you be well positioned for the next promotion that comes your way!
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