Follow the Leader: Practical Steps to be a Role-Model Manager for Your Team

What are some effective ways for managers to lead their teams by example?

18 Nov 2020 Articles Performance management Best practices Future of work

Every manager wants a team that is enthusiastic, passionate about their work and self-motivated to achieve collective goals for the organisation. While employers invest in various tools and resources to improve employee effectiveness and performance, it is important to recognise that one of the best enablers to cultivating a ‘dream team’ are managers themselves.

Managers play a unique role in any organisation. As the layer that usually has direct regular access to the senior management, they can quickly catch hold of the bigger vision and mission of the organisation and translate these into actionable goals for their teams. They are also the individuals close to the ground with a good understanding of the challenges faced by employees that they supervise.  One of ways that managers can inspire their teams to achieve greater work effectiveness is to be ‘role-model managers’. 

The Role-Model Manager

Role models are individuals whose behaviours and successes are attractive to others and thus readily followed. In the workplace, values are ‘caught’ and not ‘taught’. A role-model manager is integral to the transformational leadership model; one who exhibits positive behaviours, attitudes and traits that their teams will then naturally emulate. Such managers are valuable assets particularly when the organisation is undergoing a period of change and transition. 

However, being a role model is a learnt behaviour that takes time to develop and may not be an entrenched part of the work culture in some organisations. These are some practical role modelling steps that managers can use with their teams. 

Respect diversity of thought

When employees feel valued and have a sense of belonging at work, this is likely to increase productivity, retention and overall performance. Managers should ensure that the employees they supervise feel like part of a team. As a manager, consider the following: 

  • Do you include team members in decision-making?
  • Do you acknowledge employees’ contributions at work?
  • Do you encourage team members to have friendships at work?

One practical step that managers can take to role model an inclusive culture is to welcome diverse opinions. For example, invite employees to regularly participate in discussions and exchange ideas by structuring a brainstorming session to gather inputs and suggestions at the start of each project. As employees recognise that these discussions provide rich insights, they will organically begin to reach out to each other to bounce off ideas and collaborate more frequently. 

Proactively request and follow up on feedback 

Receiving feedback is one of the most valuable ways for employees to identify areas of strength, gaps in performance and blindspots that they may not have recognised on their own. However, while we are open to receiving praise, it can be challenging to receive constructive advice. Role-model managers overcome this resistance by requesting feedback on their own performance. By being receptive to feedback themselves, these managers show their teams how feedback can be heard and acted on in a constructive manner to sharpen one’s work performance. Over time, this practice reduces conflict and resistance and creates a culture of open and transparent feedback that flows both ways between managers and team members. 

Be accountable 

One of the most desired traits in employees is taking ownership of their work deliverables and striving independently to achieve outcomes. How then can managers foster a greater sense of responsibility in their teams? Behavioural change expert Peter Bregman describes accountability as being responsible for an outcome rather than just a set of tasks, that requires initiative with thoughtful, strategic follow-through . In addition to setting and communicating clear measurable goals that employees can work towards, managers should also find ways to demonstrate accountability. One approach is to hold a team-wide review to identify the wins and the mistakes at the end of each project. This signals to employees that identifying errors is a necessary part of the learning process at work, making them more receptive to the concept of accountability at work. 

Be honest with yourself

Recognising personal strengths and weaknesses and understanding how our actions impact others is important, regardless of one’s role in the organisation. As a manager, being able to role model self-awareness in this manner can help build a strong team that leans into their strengths, is aware of how to mitigate their weaknesses and communicate well with internal and external stakeholders. 

In a changing business environment where an organisation is undergoing adversity, challenges and even growth, the ability of managers to be positive role models is an invaluable asset. While policies and practices are carefully crafted and put in place, it is the manager’s ability to model the expected behaviours and traits and inspire others to follow suit, that will ultimately make these initiatives successful. 

The Fair and Progressive Employment Index (FPEI) is a free, online self - assessment tool that allows employers to evaluate organisational workplace culture and benchmark their practices against industry peers. The FPEI offers insights and recommendations on how employers can leverage their workforce for better business and employee results.


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