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15 Words to Better Management

Have you ever (secretly) rolled your eyes when The management book of the year comes out? You know the one. It’s the book everyone’s reading and suddenly quoting. Your boss read it. Your boss’s boss recommends everyone read it, and your colleagues react with a subtle hint of judgment when you confess over coffee you haven’t read it…yet. That management book.

I wrote this post for all the lazy, but well-intentioned managers who need a cliff notes version of how to be a better manager. You read that right. I wrote this for lazy managers. This is a no-judgment zone! I’m providing some pretty good management advice that I’ve whittled down to just 15 words. But let me be clear, simply reading my 15 words of advice without taking any action is not going to make you a better manager. But neither will reading a book by the latest self-proclaimed management guru. Nobody can read their way to being a better manager. If you’ve ever had a bad manager I’m sure you didn’t come home every night just wishing that person would finally read the latest management book. Nope. You hoped your manager would suddenly start saying different things and engaging in different behavior.

If you are committed to being a better manager, here are the 15 words to say and the five things to do.

Yes. (1 Word)

Don’t be the manager that always finds a reason to say “No.” Find a reason—just one—to say “Yes” more often. Yes drives innovation. It drives creativity. Yes drives results. If you’re inclined to say “No” because you’re a risk-averse person keep this in mind: You don’t have all the answers. That’s why you have your team. Saying “Yes” shows your team you trust them. And you need to show that trust even when it’s going to cost money, when you’re not 100% sure about their ideas, and even when that idea didn’t exactly work the last time someone tried it.

I’m sorry. (2 Words)

Does your team ever make mistakes? Sure they do. And do you as their manager ever make mistakes? Yes, all the time! And sometimes your mistakes warrant an apology. When they do, you should say “I’m sorry.” Not “I’m sorry you felt that way.” Not “I’m sorry you misunderstood me.” But simply, “I’m sorry. I made a bad call.” See the difference? If you want to build trust with your team you have to demonstrate humility and vulnerability. So contrary to past advice to never admit fault, the truth is you need to acknowledge when you’re wrong.

Tell me more. (3 Words)

If you’ve hired wisely you’ve surrounded yourself with people who know way more than you about some things, and people who are way better than you at doing other things. Let your team showcase their talent by making the phrase “Tell me more” a part of your daily discussions. Ask your team for their input, their counsel, their advice, and after that…are you ready for this? Take it. That’s right, I’m suggesting you listen to your team and actually do what they say. If you truly value the diversity of thought you first have to know what people are thinking. So ask. Ask lots and lots of questions, then listen.

How can I help? (4 Words)

Your job as a manager is not to take care of customers, write reports, or make fancy presentations. Your top priority (or at least it should be) is to take care of your team. When your team is winning, you’re winning. So do all you can to create an environment where they can thrive. Check-in with your employees to find out if they’re feeling overwhelmed with their workload, stressed about a deliverable, or frustrated by a client. You know the deal. A little goes a long way. So check in regularly, listen carefully, and show your support.

What can I do differently? (5 Words)

If you want to create a culture of feedback and transparency, start by leading by example. Ask for feedback on how you’re doing as a manager. Make it easier for people to be honest with you. Ask specific questions (e.g. “What’s one thing I can do to make our team meetings better?”), listen graciously and show gratitude—even if you don’t always agree. Your team can help you become a better leader—if you let them. Remember they have more experience being managed, than you have being a manager. They know what works.

So that’s it folks. Say these 15 words, do these five things, and I guarantee you’ll be a better manager. I know you’re skeptical. But before you go buy that book just try this: Share this post with your team and ask them if they think these 15 words and five things could make the difference. They may just say “Yes.”

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