Over the course of my career, I’ve come across the full spectrum of managers.
The leadership style of managers—and the one you ultimately settle on yourself—seeps into everything.
While part of leadership is your personality and past experiences, good managers push themselves to learn and evolve. As I sat at my daughter’s swim lesson last weekend, I started thinking about how her teacher uses many of the same approaches of a good public relations manager:
1. Have patience, but keep things challenging.
Everyone learns at a different pace. Some dive into new things full throttle without thinking about the risks, while others take a slow, cautious approach. As a manager, it’s your job to understand individuals’ different work styles and how to get the best out of them.
There are a number of different methods for motivating people. Leadership expert John Baldoni outlines four techniques here
. There is no right way; it’s a process that requires patience in accepting you’ll get things wrong sometimes, as will others. But that’s part of the learning process. These hurdles can help you figure out people’s comfort zones, and find the best way to encourage people to push past them.
2. Get your hair wet.
I swore it wouldn’t happen, but I’m becoming averse to getting my hair wet in the pool—exactly what I used to poke fun at my mom about.
But to encourage your young child to learn to swim and go underwater, one must lead by example. That means getting soaked from head to toe in the hope she’ll gain the confidence to do it alongside me.
You can apply the same theory to management. Being too hands-off as a manager can be dangerous, but it’s not feasible for a manager to get too into the weeds on a daily basis, either. It’s best to pick your spots.
When faced with a major deliverable or the pressure is on for results, call for all hands on deck and take on some of the dirty work yourself. That simple act can stress the importance of teamwork, emphasize the care and diligence some work requires, and even give you a fresh perspective on the situation.
3. Provide direction, but know when to let go.
While it’s good to pitch in sometimes, you don’t want to hoard work or micromanage. That doesn’t do any good for you or your team.
It’s great to provide strategic direction, advice and historical perspective, but for others to succeed and feel a sense of ownership, they must be able to contribute. You can’t teach a person to swim by having her ride on your back the whole time.
Be clear about what you expect from others, and what they can expect from you. This article
offers a good way to help you think about how to get involved without micromanaging.
4. Balance the serious and fun.
It’s extremely important that my daughter learns how to swim, but I want her to love the water. I tried to find an instructor who wasn’t overly rigid.
Similarly, most people at my PR firm work hard. There are plenty of serious moments, but given how much time and energy we all spend at work, it’s important to inject some personality and fun into the process.
I’m not saying you have to deliver sweets to your team every morning (although that can’t hurt) or become best buds with everyone you work with, but it helps to seek out everyone’s lighter side.
It boils down to relationships. Maybe it’s bonding over a funny story about a past work experience, or just getting to know someone better over an informal cup of coffee. Mixing the fun and serious can help keep everyone motivated and avoid burning out.
I try to live by many of these lessons, but continue to grow and learn from everyone around me. Whether you manage one person on a small project or direct a large team, similar lessons apply.
The key to success is to seek feedback on your management skills. Look for opportunities to practice, and keep pushing yourself to evolve.
What else makes someone a successful manager?
Kellie Sheehan is senior strategist at Bliss Integrated Communication. A version of this article originally appeared on the Bliss blog.