At the heart of the job of managing people is the imperative (and opportunity) to create the environment within which the team does its work. The best managers know that the informal rules around how people should work make a substantial difference to what people do and what they pay attention to, and they seek to shape that in a way that maximizes success.
Here, excerpted from my book The Self-Determined Manager, are eight things the best managers know and consistently do.
Great managers understand that shaping the environment is their job. Great managers are clear about the impact they have on the team environment. They recognize this is not accidental, that team culture is not random. They understand that it’s their job to create the environment for the team, and they can choose the type of environment they create.
They understand the power of amplification—it’s in the structure of the job. By virtue of being a manager, your words and actions are amplified. Every pronouncement you make may be repeated, every action emulated and every expectation reflected in the work of your team.
They deliberately choose the environment they hope to create. This process is active and deliberate. Different managers choose different themes for the environment they create.
My checklist for the best kind of environment to create is as follows:
They create environments that get the best from people. The best managers are gifted at creating for their people a sense of self-confidence and accomplishment that gives them a platform, and from this platform of self-belief and achievement comes more success and greater performance. The trick is that the manager is always looking for the next thing for their people, the next challenge or the new skill, which will move them ahead a little.
They catalyze greater achievement and performance from individuals than they realized they were capable of. They see that their people must be achieving and overachieving on their own in order to create greatness for the team, and they know that the way to get to this state is to build an environment where their people do better and do more than they expected or understood they could.
The self-determined manager offers a simple deal—personal and professional growth in return for great attitude and effort. The greatest managers want their people to achieve and do more because it builds their self-respect and career, ensures their employability, and helps with their sense of satisfaction and mastery. Fundamentally, it is the right thing to offer an employee, the chance to learn more and achieve more as a result of working for you.
They are fueled by a passion to make other people successful (although there are some strings attached). The strings? You must expect individuals to live up to the opportunity that comes with working for a self-determined manager. Your people must be as self-motivated as you are, and must take responsibility to perform, deliver, learn, grow, and to have an impact and make a difference.
They create environments where “right” is clear. In a pressure-filled work environment, the best managers make choices about whether to push their people harder, or adapt the task to make it achievable, or use shortcuts to achieve an all-important endpoint. When making these choices, they are consistent in application of their core values. They never stray from doing the right thing. This means honesty is never compromised, false promises are never made, people are never deliberately harmed, client trust is never abused, and customers are never misled.
When you become a self-determined manager, everyone in the company benefits and the workplace becomes harmonious. Employees feel supported and incentivized to work hard, you feel satisfaction that you’re making a difference, and your higher-ups are delighted by your and your team’s efforts to help the company thrive.
David Deacon is the author of The Self-Determined Manager: A Manifesto for Exceptional People Managers. He has been a human resources professional for 30+ years and has worked for some of the world's leading companies, including Credit Suisse and MasterCard. www.selfdeterminedmanager.com