It may seem strange for a manager to encourage their team to develop self-management skills, but it’s actually a win-win situation.
When your team members have strong self-management skills, they feel empowered to own their decisions and take charge of their personal career development. For managers, this means being able to put more energy into building their team members up instead of micromanaging them.
Ready to empower your team? Here’s how to help them develop valuable self-management skills.
Build Your Team’s Confidence in Their Decision-Making
Promoting self-management skills, such as decisiveness and confidence, can help you build stronger, more efficient teams. Traditional organizations rely heavily on managers for approval and decision-making. You can empower your team by putting decisions in the hands of the people closest to the work.
Avoid telling your team members what you as a manager would do. Instead, have people talk through challenges and try to find their own solutions. Inspiring people to trust their own decision-making abilities is powerful. In fact, motivating team members to discover solutions on their own is a key aspect of leadership coaching. If you want to see people level up, you have to show them that you trust their judgment — and keep reminding them until they learn to trust themselves.
Robin Nichols, managing editor at 360Learning, says spreading decision-making throughout the organization keeps their company agile and strong. “We empower our employees to truly own their scope,” says Nichols. “They always know what decisions they can make independently.”
As you work on your team’s confidence levels, be sure to highlight how taking charge of decisions benefits team members as well. When the people closest to the work call the shots, it’s easier to determine the right course of action. Plus, eliminating the need to get manager sign-off on everything speeds up the process, allowing teams with strong self-management skills to work more efficiently.
Let’s say your app developer, Tyrese, isn’t sure if he’s ready to release the latest mobile app update. You trust his judgment, but he comes to you looking for approval. Resist the urge to tell him what to do. Instead, ask him to walk you through his thought process. Remind him that no one knows better than him when a mobile app update is ready. Let Tyrese own the final decision.
Encourage Autonomy in the Workplace
One of the most powerful self-management skills you can help your team develop is the ability to work autonomously. Not only does working independently give your team members more space to do their best work, but it also helps them build confidence in their own project and time management skills.
Promote asynchronous communication so people have more uninterrupted time for deep work. As a manager, you should set an example. If you’re always running to Slack channels with time-sensitive questions, people will feel pressured to be available all the time. Be clear about how often you expect your team to check and respond to messages.
You should also train your team to manage their own calendars. In traditional organizations, scheduling tends to cater to the higher-ups, but if your team mostly works autonomously, individuals should have more control over their schedules. Have your team members choose the time for one-on-ones with managers. Encourage them to block off time on their calendars as needed for deep work time, no-meetings Mondays, etc. Whenever possible, let your team members set project deadlines. Let them decide if team meetings would be beneficial or not.
Flexibility and autonomy are especially valuable for remote teams. “Employees don’t have to chase managers for validation,” says Nichols. “We avoid a lot of the bottlenecks and miscommunication associated with remote work.” When you as a manager advocate for more autonomy for your team members, you give them the space to develop their self-management skills.
Promote Fluidity in Job Duties
When you blur the lines between job roles, you encourage your team members to take the initiative to work on new projects, solve problems, and explore growth opportunities. Self-motivation and eagerness to try new things are valuable self-management skills that help people grow professionally.
Remind your team to focus less on “whose job is this?” and more on “how can we tackle this as a team?” Alex Panagis, founder and CEO of ScaleMath, refers to this as “owning multiple parts of the process.” He encourages his team to do “what it takes to get to the end goal for their position, even if that means stepping slightly outside of the original job.”
Just be careful not to let blurred lines turn into crossed boundaries. Promoting experimentation beyond set job duties is great, but only if it benefits your team members as well. Use your weekly one-on-ones with team members to talk to them about what they feel personally motivated to try out. You should encourage them to experiment while also keeping an eye on their workload so you can protect them from burnout. Remember — the main purpose of building up your team’s self-management skills is to help them as individuals. The benefits to the company are secondary.
Another way to encourage exploration is to talk to your team about stretch assignments — tasks that stretch beyond someone’s current role or comfort zone. Let’s say one of your content writers made a beautiful infographic for an article. For them, a great stretch assignment could be creating new cover photos for your company’s social media profiles.
Removing strict lines between roles enables your team to explore their passions, build confidence, and thrive without needing constant direction from management.
Involve Your Team Members in Professional Development Plans
As a manager, it’s not your place to tell your team members what they should be working toward professionally. You’ll build happier, more engaged teams if you let people guide their own professional development journeys.
Help your team develop by offering learning opportunities. Budget for additional trainings, conferences, learning materials, etc., throughout the year, and let your team submit requests. Nichols says they use their own internal platform to allow team members to request resources, “any employee has the ability to declare a ‘learning need’… we hope to constantly upskill employees and nurture their curiosity for professional development.”
Be sure to use one-on-ones to set goals that cater to each individual’s plan. Your team won’t feel comfortable with self-management unless they’re interested and confident in the work they’re doing. You might think Zahara from marketing would crush it as a customer operations manager because she has such great rapport with clients. But if Zahara is more interested in leveling up her social media marketing skills, her goals should reflect that.
Help Your Team Develop Self-Management Skills
When you make it clear to your team that you encourage independence and initiative, you pave the way for more empowered and self-assured team members who will worry less about validation from managers and more about doing their best work.
Keep in mind that helping your team develop self-management skills doesn’t mean you should abandon them as their manager. On the contrary, you should still be meeting with even your most independent team members on a weekly basis, so you can continually help them improve and grow. But when you put in the effort to strengthen your team members’ perception of their own abilities, you’ll have more effective one-on-ones. Don’t be afraid of people with strong self-management skills. Be excited to work with people who can turn to you for big picture things like career development and company growth.
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