The competency of leadership, unlike the other competencies is not exactly an attribute but a relationship. The relationship that you share with your direct reports defines your competency of leadership in your organization. It is absolutely the most essential requirement to climb up your career ladder and make no mistake, the higher management sees all. It is not all about how well you get along with your direct reports but also, understanding their individual strengths and weakness’ enough to be able to assign responsibilities such as independence with a task, guidance, mentoring and assistance with the development in their roles. Good managers don’t care about their direct reports for an attribution to their leadership competency list or other selfish developmental needs but because they genuinely care.
Direct reports defines your competency of leadership
Being able to listen to your direct reports without interrupting their chain of thought is an attribution to your leadership competency. Listening to your direct reports, even if you feel that they are wasting your time, will give them a sense of importance. You don’t want to seem like the mean and impatient boss who has a little to no interest in your direct reports because it will invariably affect you as a leader. So, always keep your door and ears open to your direct reports.
What you give is what you get. All successful managers understand an important leadership competency that requires you to open up to your direct reports and make yourself approachable. No, you don’t have to tell them your family secrets but don’t undervalue the importance of telling them about things that are not related to the job. Introducing an unofficial topic of their interest will make you seem like a peer more than an authoritative figure and that will help you build a better relationship with your direct reports. Also, being in the managerial position, gives you the knowledge of individual performance assessments of all your direct reports and hence, you know what they are doing wrong, what they need to improve and all the important information that might further help in their development. Do good by them and share these factors with them but make sure you make suggestions and not give orders.
Socially level up
Apart from the office setting, your direct reports have lives where their majority of minds and hearts live. Most competent leaders understand the importance of this fact and makes sure to learn about the lives of their direct reports. However, it is close to impossible to know everything about everybody’s personal lives. An important tactic that you can use to learn about your direct report is to just know atleast three important factors like, their wives and children’s names or their hobbies or something you have in common. This will help release the usual tension that exists between a direct report and a managerial executive.
Leadership competencies are not always authoritative and action oriented. Sometimes, it’s about understanding and being accepting about the things your direct reports have to say. When you have an understanding of open doors, open ears and open to criticism kind of a relationship, sometimes they might walk in to the door just to be understood and not particularly for your advice or suggestions. Unless it is quite obvious that they came to you for your advice or suggestions, don’t offer it up. Listen to them calmly and neither agree or disagree to what they have to say. Offering up instant solutions might jeopardize your relationship with your direct reports and may close down paths of free speech and also make you seem disinterested.
Understand individual exclusivity
Your direct reports are effective as a team because they are unique in their own ways. Some maybe creative free thinkers, some maybe by the books and some may be goal oriented. A good attribute to your leadership competency is the ability to treat individual direct reports specific to their uniqueness. You will also be able to create a unique rapport with each of them while at it!
Show concern without being a shrink
If you have successfully built good relationships with your direct reports, they are going to feel free enough to come to talk to you about anything that is a bother to them. However, some of these situations maybe directly contradictory to your leadership competencies.
Here are some tips and tactics to help handle the situation without a chaos:
- Nobody likes a tattletale, but unfortunately in the managerial position you sit on, you will be on the receiving end of many of complains about some other direct report. Unless, it directly affects your organizations ethics or integrity, make sure you don’t add on to their complaints by agreeing, disagreeing or giving your opinions. Instead, encourage them to talk to the other person and to work it out between themselves. If this said tattletale is perpetual with their not so admirable characteristic, ask them to jot down their problems and also the solutions to those problems; that way you don’t have to waste too much time on it and eventually, they would probably get the hint.
- In a fast pace corporate environment, people often get demotivated at their jobs. An important attribution to your leadership competency is to have the ability to motivate these direct reports again while they are in a gloomy head space. Assign them with challenging tasks or tasks that might excite them.
- Your direct reports will showcase the most human emotions from time to time, but anger is probably going to affect the organization the most. Let them vent out to you, however, don’t say anything apart from acknowledging their emotion. If it persists, encourage them to talk to you outside the office setting as a peer. You could also suggest them to seek counseling or any other form of assistance you might have in your organization.
There are going to be other unforeseen problems in the lives and work lives of your direct reports. With the managerial seat, a great deal of responsibility comes your way. Understand them and get into your conflict resolution mode with utmost tact and without losing sight of your chair as a leader.