There is lots of advice out there providing practical steps managers can take to become better managers. A lot of it is simple and good advice. The article below highlights a few simple steps such as apologise for your mistakes, invite feedback, celebrate success and of the old cliché of lead by example (which still rings true of course).
Perhaps one of the hardest things for a manger to do is to give effective feedback. People want to know how they are doing, they want to know what you are thinking about them. They also want to know if there is something you are not happy with, so they can do something about it. It sounds simple on paper - give good, timely and honest feedback. But what stops that from happening? As human beings we don't like conflict and if we need to deliver negative feedback to someone in our team, our brain will gear us up for potential conflict. We quickly switch into 'threat' mode which means that we will release increased levels of adrenaline into the body and our brain will automatically start scanning for signs of threat. This is an unconscious process but impacts upon our body language, facial expressions and tone of voice. So what started out as helpful feedback to try and support the individual can end up feeling clumsy, unnatural and awkward, and the true message gets lost. How can you overcome this?
1. Spend some time preparing. Think carefully about the message you want to convey and how you can best do that.
2. Leave enough time for a decent conversation. Don't squeeze the 1:1 between two meetings - find the right time. Equally - be timely - don't wait too long as problems don't age well.
3. Ask open questions and allow the individual time to talk. Listen more and talk less is always a good rule of thumb!
4. Be clear what the issue is. Don't try to gloss over the problem for fear of hurting the person's feelings; being honest builds trust (but this also comes back to good preparation - what words will best convey the message in a constructive way?)
5. Agree a plan of action - don't impose it. Ensure that you have buy-in so that the plan will actually work.
5. Agree a framework for ongoing communication - be clear that you want to provide ongoing support.
6. Make it clear that you value the individual, that they are an important part of the team and you want them to do their very best.
A final tip is to warn yourself that you brain is likely to want to treat the meeting as a 'threat' - the more conscious you are of how your brain is likely to respond, the easier it is to control the body's reaction.