Do you remember the day you became a manager? You were told, “Congratulations, you’re a manager, you start next week! Let us know what you need, and your assistant will have your keys and access card waiting for you.”
Did that amount of support turn you into a respected and effective manager overnight? Probably not. The sad reality is that many new managers do not receive the training, coaching and support they require to excel in their role as people leaders. Learning the ropes for measuring metrics, updating the team schedule, and filing reports on time is administratively important but only part of the managerial picture. Real success comes from mastering the five management superpowers, which are all about navigating human relationships. It does not matter what company you work for, how long you have been a manager, nor what your title is. These management skills are required to build healthier relationships and increase productivity.
In this article, I will illuminate the five managerial superpowers, why they are important and provide tips for implementing each one.
Think of them as slices of a pie. You wouldn’t bring a housewarming pie that is missing a slice or two, would you? Nor would you want to be a manager who is a few slices short of a superpower pie.
Manager Superpower #1: Know the WAY
Who Are You? Before you can do anything well—communicate, solve problems or be a mentor—you must know who you are. Self-awareness is the first part of being an effective and respected manager. By knowing who you are and your default position for approaching situations, you can work through your limitations and double down on effective strategies.
People buy into the leader before they buy into the vision.
– John Maxwell
To know the WAY, ask yourself these questions (and answer them):
- What’s my communication style when I’m calm?
- What’s my communication style when I’m feeling stressed?
- What’s my understanding of emotional intelligence?
- How do my emotions influence others? And in what way?
- What’s my leadership style and does it work? For example, are you an open-door policy person? Do you sit around the table with your team or stand at the front of the table? Do you yell at people in front of others or address individual concerns in private? These are difficult questions to face but answering them shows you the WAY.
Communication skills support all five managerial superpowers so use these communication best practices often:
- Be brief but specific.
- Communicate in a positive manner.
- Express yourself calmly.
- Engage in active listening.
- Acknowledge what the other person says without disagreeing.
Manager Superpower #2: Manage Transitions Effectively
Businessman Robert C. Gallagher once said, “Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.” So true! In a workplace context, managers are expected to manage change and transitions even when (and especially when) team members are resistant to the change. Even good change is stressful, and your team will remember how you supported them through change, for better or for worse.
Tips for managing transitions effectively:
- Understand your own reactions to change. For example, are you overwhelmed by change? Or does it hardly faze you? How flexible and adaptable are you?
- Communicate clearly and often with employees affected by the change.
- Listen to employee concerns about the change.
- Help your team understand why the change is happening and what’s expected of them before, during and after the change.
- Be strategic, anticipate issues and create a plan for handling them.
- Manage your own change-related stress so you don’t inadvertently transfer your stress to your team.
As a manager, the first transition to manage is always your own transition into a new role and team. When you become a manager, there are so many unknowns, especially if you’re new to the organization. What happened with the other manager? How were the relationships with the team? Good? Bad? It is important to remember that you and your new team are making the transition together and you are not all starting at the same place. Some people will be thrilled you are there while others will be unhappy about their previous manager’s departure. It can also be difficult to transition from a team member to the team leader. Using the tips above can help you manage these types of transitions.
Manager Superpower #3: Take Ownership
Employees crave leadership so take ownership of your role and your responsibilities as a leader right away. Employees take cues from you, including your emotions and attitudes, which sets the stage for the team culture. How do you want to influence your team? With positivity, enthusiasm and integrity? Or some other way?
Simple ways to take ownership as a manager:
- Be passionate about your job and enjoy it (or get a new one).
- Learn about your company’s strategic initiatives and share that information with your team. Too many managers avoid sharing relevant information with their team. This is a wasted opportunity as sharing knowledge builds trust which creates strong relationships.
- Set standards for team performance and behaviours and help people achieve them.
- Be or become an effective communicator.
- Balance the needs of your organization with the needs of your team and make this tightrope act visible to your team (within reason).
- Be proactive about your own personal and professional development by working with a coach and/or mentor.
If you don’t take ownership of your role, who will?
Manager Superpower #4: Managing Conflict
Self-aware managers know how they deal with conflict and are open to exploring the results they get. Managing conflict is often difficult because most people don’t like it. But it’s the managerial superpower that makes the difference between a good day and developing an ulcer. How do you deal with conflict and what are your typical results? Does your approach generally help or hinder conflict situations? These questions are essential for managers to consider.
There are five styles of conflict management. While it is tempting to label them as the proverbial good or bad, they can all be right—or wrong—depending on the situation.
The five styles of conflict management:
- Accommodating – You put the other person’s needs before your own.
- Avoiding – You evade the conflict and hope it goes away on its own.
- Compromising – You attempt to find a solution that partially pleases everyone involved.
- Collaborating – You attempt to find a solution that meets everyone’s needs.
- Competing – You stand firm and don’t consider anyone else’s perspective.
Though some of these styles sound harsh and unproductive, an effective manager knows when to use each of them. For example, a competing conflict management style is appropriate when deciding on workplace safety or compliance protocols. There is no room for compromise when it comes to staying on the right side of the law and avoiding a harassment or worker’s compensation lawsuit.
Employees seem to hate the avoidance style of conflict resolution the most because it assaults people’s ingrained idea of fairness. When someone observes you seeing, hearing and saying nothing about something that’s obvious to everyone else, it kills the team spirit. Of course, sometimes, you must resolve things in a way that looks unfair, such as providing accommodations for one team member. This is yet another reason to develop strong communication skills: they help you navigate tricky situations as logically and transparently as possible.
If you’re uncomfortable with conflict, your conflict resolution skills probably need improvement. That’s okay but you must get help as soon as possible because this is such an important (and common) part of management. Always know, your employees are always watching you. Having poor conflict resolution skills is possibly the fastest way to lose the respect of your team.
Remember the responsibility for developing skills ultimately rests on your shoulders. To increase your conflict management skills, find and use all the resources available to you, including books, internal courses and mentors, or outside professional development. I promise that you will have many opportunities to use the conflict management skills you learn!
Manager Superpower #5: Managing People and Personalities
The first four managerial superpowers are about managing yourself and potentially difficult situations. Now it’s time to talk about the final managerial superpower that brings everything together: managing people effectively. If you don’t have this superpower, your other superpowers won’t be as effective as they could be. (Going back to the pie analogy, you need all the slices to make a whole pie.)
Here are my five tips for managing people effectively:
- Know your people – Go beyond names and get to know your team member’s strengths, challenges and career aspirations. When you know your team, you can add value by making connections and helping your people go where they want to go.
- Be a supportive coach – Create opportunities for the team to see you as a sounding board and someone who can facilitate career growth and transitions. Coaching allows you to use your listening and observational skills to help your employees optimize their performance and reach their goals.
- Provide training and development – Develop a team culture that values training and development opportunities by staying positive about continuous learning. Never frame training as a punishment or your team will quickly devalue any training you provide. Work with the Human Resources team to bring relevant opportunities to your team (and if the budget is tight, consider train-the-trainer sessions).
- Be kind – In a world of increased uncertainty, it’s extra important to be kind. When we are stressed or in a hurry, it is easy to forget the niceties that make human interaction meaningful. Kindness also means checking in on people. Is anyone struggling? Are people getting what they need? Skilled managers are kind even when firmness is required.
- Look after yourself – Being a manager is rewarding but nobody ever said it was easy! Self-care is rejuvenating and we can only tend to others if we tend to ourselves. Put your hobbies in your calendar and enjoy them. Disconnect from work regularly. Go for a long walk. Create your own professional development plan and work towards it. Taking care of your mental, physical and spiritual needs enhances your life and helps you be a more effective manager.
Leaders reveal themselves through their behaviour. You do not have to be a manager to be a leader, but to be a respected and effective manager, you must be a great leader. By learning and mastering the five managerial superpowers, you will be the best manager you can be.
To learn these managerial superpowers, consider looking into courses such as Building Trust in the Workplace and Managing Unionized Environments.
About the Author
Filomena Lofranco is an energetic senior executive with more than 20 years of human resource, finance, and leadership experience in the public sector. Through her countless leadership roles, she has steered the planning and execution of various specialized programs and projects. She has been instrumental in staff development and in driving successful results across a wide range of cross functional teams. Filomena has a proven track record for being passionate about promoting and inspiring a workplace culture that supports physical, psychological, and emotional well-being for all staff and stakeholders.
I highly recommend these two books to increase your managerial superpowers:
- Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change by William Bridges and Susan Bridges.
- BrainFishing: A Practice Guide to Questioning Skills by Gary T Furlong and Jim Harrison. (This is the perfect book for anyone who needs to influence people.)
Amaresan, S. (2021, June 9). 5 Conflict Management Styles for Every Personality Type. HubSpot Blog. https://blog.hubspot.com/service/conflict-management-styles
Bridges, W., & Bridges, S. (2017). Managing transitions: making the most of change (4th ed.). Nicholas Brealey Publishing.
Furlong, G. T., & Harrison, J. (2018). BrainFishing: a practice guide to questioning skills. FriesenPress.
Goodreads. (n.d.). Robert C. Gallagher Quotes (Author of The Express). Goodreads. https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/180697.Robert_C_Gallagher