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12 Tips for Middle Managers in College


1. Recognise a learning moment when things go pear shaped. A good manager knows that it is part of the job to keep staff motivated. As you would not let a student founder it is not helpful to leave a colleague in the same spot when a 'tough love' message is needed. People need to know what is expected of them, helped to find a way to do it for themselves and have tools to help them do that. As a manager that is part of your role.

2. If you have moved recently from peer to manager have a conversation about ground rules. This helps get clarity about each other's expectations in and out of the role you are going to. This gives you both a chance to be equals in managing the relationship even though your roles will be different. This helps uncover assumptions on both parts.

3. Walk the talk. Demonstrate in your behaviour what you expect from your staff. It is the one-thing employees most often comment upon when their leaders want them to exhibit behaviours they don't do themselves.

4. Don't fudge the message. If you have something important to tell someone about what you would like him or her to do, or change, be clear and give the reason why. If you pad out your request with a lot of indirect language the other person can easily miss what it is you want to happen. If this is not your area of strength ask for some coaching.

5. Practice looking for good stuff (ratio of good news to bad). There is a lot of new research about the impact of appreciation on the brain. We need to look for good things happening. Everything you say has an impact. People need to feel valued. Correcting problems becomes a lot easier and you are more likely to bring people with you if they feel you see what works before you talk about what needs to be better.

6. Never forget you choose your attitude. Every morning when you get up and choose something to wear you make that decision. Our attitude is our choice and we can change it if we want to. It is a liberating thought to remember that. We are influenced but in the end we decide. There are loads of tools to help with this if this is a hard one.

7. Help people to be accountable not dependent. If you give someone a task, with the reason why, check what they need to do the job, and how you will both monitor progress then hold them accountable for the outcome. Leave the door open for further support but if you rescue them and take it back you do not help them.

8. Intention and impact should be the same but often are not. What we want to say and how we want it to be heard is about intent and impact. Often our intention may be positive but the impact of the message is heard in quite another way. Check understanding and don't assume so you can be more likely to get the alignment you desire.

9. Try not to say 'they told me to tell you this'. Sometimes new managers feel they have to distance themselves from 'management' as if they weren't part of it. As a manager you carry forward strategic messages of the whole College. You may not agree with everything that is decided once you are in the role of manager you are supporting the bigger structure and not just your own area. Find a way to create the right balance of authenticity and responsibility.

10. Beware of red herrings. If you known you are easily hooked by someone throwing in a red herring to distract you from the core issue, recognise when your emotions are being hijacked, or attention drawn away from where you need to be, and gently bring the person back to the focus of the conversation.

11. Make their day - little things count. Have you ever had that glow of good feeling when something small you have done for someone has been really well received? Look for opportunities in or out of work. Do it with an open heart without expectations. Try to make another' person's day, once a day. We can always make a difference often without a lot of extra effort.

12. Be clear in what kind of outcome you are aiming for when you have a conversation about a tough subject. If you have to tackle a tough subject take some time to be clear about what you would like as an outcome. This strongly influences the tactics and strategies you will use. As diverse as aims are so are the approaches. Be aware of the person's aim too and work to collaborate to get to a mutually beneficial result.

Bonus point: believe your staff know more than they know and take the time to build your coaching skills to help them to their best thinking.

People will surprise you if you regularly give them uninterrupted high quality listening rather than jumping in with the answer to fix their problem. Use open questions to draw out their thinking. This is active, positive support that demonstrates respect and builds their own resourcefulness.

Karyn Prentice 2010