Want to be a great manager? Build a culture of openness

By William Seidman Managers are typically expected to have two roles: expert and coach. In the expert mode, they tell people what to do. In the coach mode, they are supposed to listen and support their people. In over 15 years creating and implementing leadership development programs I have found that the telling mode overwhelms the listening mode  frequently and consistently. A cultural norm gets firmly established that asking employees for education is not trusted by the employees being queried. The manager may be asking, but the employee knows that the manager will soon be telling again and that saying too much could get them into trouble. If a manager really wants to learn from employees, she needs to establish an environment around two factors — compelling purpose and path to mastery — and get out of the way! Step 1: Build a collective purpose around achieving a greater social good. If everyone in a work group is completely aligned on the purpose, it is easy to share information about the best ways to achieve it. Step 2: Build a clear, collective path to mastery. Each person will have, and follow, a clear and specific plan for becoming great at their job. When everyone is aligned on purpose and is great at their job, there is no need for the manager to do special things to learn from employees:  it will happen naturally. A culture of openness is much better than a few listening tactics.  ]]>

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