What does it really mean to be a manager? By one definition, it means holding your direct reports accountable, making sure they meet their goals and deadlines and keeping the trains running on time.
But that’s an awfully mechanical way to look at it. Your team members are key to your success—and you’re key to theirs. You have individual relationships with all of them, and when you invest in these relationships, you not only build trust, but you can help them improve their performance, too.
One specific way to do this is to be mindful of the challenges your team faces on any given day. They’re probably similar to the challenges you face: stress, pressure to deliver and a sense of not having enough time. But as a manager, you may have access to more resources, information and institutional support, and your employees may feel stalled, trapped or unable to bring about the changes that would make a difference for them.
So it’s essential that you help your team navigate challenges and setbacks—and reframing is one of the most powerful tools at your disposal. When you help employees to reframe mistakes and failures as learning opportunities, and bring perspective and context to challenging moments, you’re already making progress. Sometimes it’s as simple as reminding a team member to take a deep breath and remember that it— whatever it is—isn’t the end of the world. That doesn’t mean being blindly positive or glossing over significant errors in judgment. It means looking at the big picture and reminding your employees that many of the most successful people—perhaps yourself included—have failed and struggled on the way to success.
Your employees look to you for guidance and support. When you make yourself available and receptive to conversations about setbacks and challenges, you can help them see the bigger picture and stay positive. Your ability to help employees reframe situations will strengthen your relationships and help people stay on track.
Here are some simple steps you can take to help your team members put their work and their roadblocks in perspective.
1. Focus on strengths
In your next one-on-one meeting with a team member, start the conversation with a discussion of the employee’s strengths and potential. Even if the conversation touches on weaknesses and challenges, beginning from a place of positivity will elevate the conversation and help your colleague feel a sense of confidence and possibility.
2. Stay positive
Maintaining a positive outlook isn’t naive—it’s an essential part of problem-solving and seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, especially when others can’t. When your team members see you staying positive even as challenges arise, the effects are contagious. And research shows positive thinking can help us be more productive.
3. “Secure your own oxygen mask first”
Being a manager means fielding questions, comments and complaints from your direct reports. At times it may feel like your exclusive role is solving other people’s problems. That’s just one more reason why it’s so important to prioritize your own well-being. Whether it’s taking a walk, getting enough sleep or eating well, when you put yourself at the top of your to-do list you’ll be better able to be the kind of manager who helps others navigate their own challenges.