Helping Managers become Better Managers, Sydney

What makes a manager a great leader isn’t a checklist of experiences, education, or abilities. Instead, it’s the infamous soft skills – or as we prefer to call them, human skills – that make managers able to truly lead and inspire their teams and companies.

In our 2017 Sydney panel in the Helping Managers Become Better Managers series, we welcomed four experts to talk about what managers need to be successful in their jobs:

Graham Moody, People & Culture Manager at Ansarada
Megan Bromley, Director Employee Experience Team at Domain Group
Sarah Nguyen, a People & Culture Consultant
Amanda Moroney from Navitas

We’ve summarized their top three tips below:

Place an emphasis on emotional intelligence

Being a gifted technical superstar doesn’t necessarily translate to being able to manage people well – in fact, it’s usually a completely different skill set.

“When it comes to people management, we often promote people based on technical ability,” said Nguyen, “but we don’t ask ourselves, does this person have enough emotional intelligence, self-awareness, to lead and inspire a team and to communicate the company’s vision and goals?”

For example, accepting that everyone will have bad days, and that one off day doesn’t define a person or a team. Or thinking about how one’s mood and reactions can affect other people, and either acknowledging that in yourself or being able to observe it happening for others and give feedback to them in a helpful way.

The panelists agreed that the stakes of not perceiving others’ emotional state are high.

“If you don’t have a high level of social awareness or emotional intelligence about how your interactions interact with other people,” said Bromley bluntly, “you’ll probably just continue to come across as a jerk.”

Inspire leadership in all directions

Our panelists spoke about the importance of making sure everyone in the organization is inspired, regardless of title or role. That can take the form of both people management and self-management.

“The traits that enable people to be really good people leaders and people managers can happen at all levels in the organization,” said Bromley.

Those traits include empathy, accountability, trust and selflessness.

Meanwhile at ansarada, Moody said, the company defines leadership as “influence.”

“It doesn’t come with a title,” he says. “Anyone can influence anybody else, if you just practice the right things, like building trust and confidence in people.”

Empathetic listening is powerful

While being able to communicate is important, knowing when not to talk, or when to draw someone into a conversation, is just as important a leadership trait. Before giving someone advice or even knowing how to handle a situation, it’s crucial that managers get a grasp on people’s feelings.

“A lot of times I think we listen about how to reply to somebody, and not how to understand,” said Moroney.

To Moroney, that distinction is what separates management from leadership. While managers and management suggest practices, processes and a transactional relationship, a leader conveys getting to know someone’s whole self.

At ansarada, managers go through exercises to understand people’s personal values. This helps their team connect both on an individual level as well as at a motivational level.

“if you can lead somebody in things that are important to them you’re going to engage them to a higher extent, you’re going to get more commitment from them,” Moody said.

Drop the stoic act and embrace vulnerability

Stoicism may be all the rage in Silicon Valley, yet our panelists are convinced that successful managers can also have outwardly emotional personalities. How else are you otherwise supposed to form human connections with those you share an office with?

So stop viewing vulnerability as a weakness, and instead use it as a means to deepen trust with your direct team members. Humans are flawed creatures, and so hiding managerial imperfections will only make you look less approachable to your team.

“There’s been multiple times in my career where I’ve been vulnerable,” Bromley said. “But then you stop and you look, and as long as the good days outnumber the bad, then you know you’re on the right track.”

For those looking to go deeper on the topic, Nguyen recommended “Daring Greatly,” from Brené Brown, as well as her TEDTalk on the subject.

Note that vulnerability doesn’t always have to be about emotions. Letting coworkers see a corny sense of humor is also a sign of workplace vulnerability, as is publicly admitting to a mistake.

“At the end of the day we’re people,” Nguyen said, “and our vulnerabilities and emotions do come out. You can shy away from it and pretend it didn’t happen, but I think there’s something valuable about embracing the not-so-great things.”