Often, managers who are good at Relating (asking, listening, coaching, including, and encouraging) shy away from Requiring activities (insisting on excellence, confronting poor or marginal performers, or just telling an employee what is expected or needed). We see this pattern among the managers who have completed the free assessment at www.ManagingPeopleBetter.com.

If asking for what you want or talking with employees about a performance shortcoming conjures images of a root canal, the following five mindsets will make asserting and insisting easier:

Requiring isn’t mean; it’s nice and necessary.

Ogres march around barking orders at employees. Good managers are firm but kind about what they expect from their staff. Employees look to you for guidance. They need to know details on the deliverables you want, deadlines, budgets, and any other important parameters. If they are off-track, they want feedback on their work so they can improve and grow in their careers.

Conflicts happen; look at them as opportunities to strengthen relationships.

Because disagreements can feel icky, some managers actively avoid conflict. But dealing with conflict is part of your job. You cannot excel in managing without coaching, pushing, stretching, and insisting on excellence. And these activities sometimes lead to temporarily raw feelings. At times, team members will lock horns on an issue, and you must mediate the discussion, to draw out each person’s perspectives and help them work toward a solution. Effective mediation creates understanding between parties, and this paves the way for stronger relationships.

Good managers may not always know the right course of action.

Some managers have a hard time “insisting” on specific employee actions when they are uncertain about the “right course” for the ship. Good managers recognize that they can’t know everything or be right all the time. But they still need to make decisions and set a direction for employees. When you are unsure about the way to proceed, seek input and involve employees in the decision-making. When workers can help shape the course of action, they tend to be more motivated and engaged. Once you have their input, make your decision without apology. You can course-correct later if new information suggests a need to do so.

Providing constructive feedback helps employees grow.

Failure to confront a career-limiting behavior is like failure to provide first-aid to someone who is hurt. For each employee you manage, create a list of things that would help each individual grow as a contributor in your group and in your company. Your list might include behaviors that need modification or additional skills the worker needs. Pick one or two of the most important items on your list and start the process of helping your employees grow more. It’s a win/win—they can grow and your group can contribute more. Though it might feel uncomfortable at first, think of it as EMT training. You are saving careers and enhancing quality of life.

Using the word “I” instead of “we” makes your instructions clearer.

“We” may seem like a good team word, but too often, it’s a cop-out for managers. When you want something from one of your employees, you need to use “I” and it is perfectly ok to do so. “I need,” “I need you to…,” and “I expect you to …” are all good things to say to give employees adequate direction.

Your job as a manager is to help employees achieve business goals and do outstanding work. Sure, there can be some great camaraderie in the process. But at the end of the day, you will be measured on your team’s performance. To direct their efforts and help them deliver their best work, you need to be equally adept at Relating and Requiring skills. Are you? Find out for free at www.ManagingPeopleBetter.com.

Peter E. Friedes
Retired CEO, Hewitt Associates. Co-founder, Managing People Better, LLC—a management research firm/think tank. Avid competitive golfer (when my back cooperates).Connect with Peter on his Lead Change or Twitter profiles.
Peter E. Friedes

Latest posts by Peter E. Friedes (see all)

Peter E. Friedes