best-self manager

How to Become a Best-Self Manager

By David Mizne

At 15Five, we follow a philosophy called Best-Self Management. It focuses on managing people and teams to unlock their highest potential versus only managing behaviors, outcomes, and performance. Through this leadership framework, we aim to help leaders turn their managers into Best-Self Managers.

A Best-Self Manager supports both the professional and emotional wellbeing of their people, inspires performance without forcing it, and leverages the unique strengths of employees. These types of managers are essential to an organization’s success because employees are more intrinsically motivated to go above and beyond and push the company’s mission forward. 

Below are six evidence-based tactics from 15Five’s Best-Self Academy that managers can use to lead productive and engaged employees.

1. Don’t cancel employee one-on-ones

Most managers support several team members to achieve their individual and team objectives while being individual contributors in their own right. With razor-thin bandwidth, it’s tempting to cancel one-on-one meetings to free up time. But in reality, canceling these meetings actually reduces managerial bandwidth. 

If you’re choosing to focus on meeting that deadline at the expense of your employee one-on-one, more issues will arise. If your employee needs urgent feedback, they may reach out to you through a less-effective medium of communication, if at all. Or if they decide to move forward without adequate guidance, that may cause a problem that has to be cleaned up later—leading to more wasted time.

In his book, Positive Leadership: Strategies for Extraordinary Performance, Kim Cameron emphasizes that managers can help their people stay productive by engaging in regular, growth-focused one-on-ones. Quick interactions are not a substitute for intentional meetings with structure.

2. Skip the small talk and genuinely ask how the other is doing 

Additionally, when you cancel a one-on-one, you’re sending the message that the employee is not a priority and not worth taking the time to provide performance feedback, which can deteriorate the relationship and team morale. 

When you do conduct these meetings, be sure to always start them on the right footing. Make time to talk about how someone’s day or week is going before diving into work conversations. This advice may sound obvious and trite, but part of being a Best-Self Manager means caring about another person’s wellbeing and feelings, in and outside of work.

3. Recognize progress and accomplishments—both big and small

According to The Progress Principle, engagement and even excitement are mainly driven by making progress, even if that’s a small win. Because of the lengthiness of some projects, if you waited to celebrate the big stuff employees could go weeks or months without any recognition.

Recognize outcomes and the effort that went into achieving them, rather than a person’s talent and intelligence. And don’t forget to celebrate small wins. This allows for a more regular cadence of recognition which inspires creative productivity. 

4. Share and invite feedback

The process of feedback shouldn’t be a one-way street. Our Best-Self Feedback model stresses a balanced approach to humanize feedback and facilitate continuous development with an emphasis on psychological safety and the Growth Mindset

Here are the four types of feedback that should be shared regularly with employees:

Observations
Try to share feedback objectively without getting hung up on your own bias. Share observations early to avoid your employee feeling judged later, and explain why you’re sharing the feedback and what your intention is. (Hint: It should make the other person happier, stronger, and/or more self-aware—even if it’s constructive.)

Redirection
This is what people tend to think about when they hear the term feedback—suggesting a new mindset or behavior. This approach should only be used after sharing observations. Then you can coach your employee towards their desired outcome. 

Encouragement
This is all about offering support and building their confidence. Be optimistic with positive observations about what’s possible. Being unrealistically encouraging can be damaging to one’s self esteem.

Recognition
Acknowledge a positive outcome or behavior. This feedback should be about the work, not the person. Recognition becomes especially meaningful when you understand the other person’s motivations and strengths. 

5. Encourage employees to proactively ask for help

Some people are afraid to ask for help because they fear it shows weakness, but as a Best-Self Manager, you can make it easier by empowering your employees to ask for it.

“We asked a thousand leaders to list marble-earning behaviors—what do your team members do that earns your trust? The most common answer: asking for help. When it comes to people who do not habitually ask for help, the leaders we polled explained that they would not delegate important work to them because the leaders did not trust that they would raise their hands and ask for help,” according to research professor, Brené Brown.

We know that employees are driven by career advancement and that to advance, they have to keep learning, acquiring new skills, and taking on projects that they haven’t done before. They may think that asking for help will be a detriment to gaining their manager’s trust, but according to Brown, the opposite is true. 

6. Turn words into actions

Finally, you’ll want to turn all of these conversations into agreements, next steps, and action items. Double check that expectations are clear and continually update agreements when necessary.

Prioritize the most important contributions that someone should focus on and help each team member understand why the task is significant. Then, set a clear expectation that the employee should focus 90% of their time on accomplishing those priorities. 

You can become a Best-Self Manager by being present with your employees during one-on-ones and acting as the ultimate resource for them. And with our Best-Self Academy, you can learn how to provide feedback, align your team, and guide them along their career trajectory. Equipped with these tactics, your brief conversations with employees could be the most impactful practice you do as a manager.

David Mizne 15Five

David Mizne produces the Best-Self Management podcast and is a senior manager at 15Five, people & performance software that includes continuous feedback, OKR tracking, 1-on-1s, 360° reviews, the Best-Self Academy, and Transformational Services. David’s articles have also appeared on The Next Web, HR Daily Advisor, and The Economist.

Image credit: Shutterstock


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