Can You Be a ‘Soft’ Manager and Still Get Work Done?

Team Management

Being a good leader and having your team finish their work in time does not mean you have to come across as obnoxious or demanding. If anything, the more understanding and relatable you are, the more your team members are bound to respect you and resonate with you. 

To be an effective leader, it is very important to know how to strike the perfect balance between being gentle, yet firm. 

If you are outright harsh and fond of giving orders and exercising an authoritative demeaner, chances are that your team members will get fed up of you even before they finish the tasks that you have so assertively told them to complete within the hour. 

On the other hand, if you are empathetic, flexible, and can communicate smoothly to your team, they would naturally be more inclined to listen to you. 

However, being too soft isn’t going to help your case either. 

You don’t want to be so lenient that that your team takes advantage of you, or walks all over you. 

This brings us to the question: how do you embody the right amount of both qualities? 

1. Learn the art of communication 

Hate your team member’s idea? Instead of belittling her with a barrage of harsh criticism, you can portray your thoughts in a friendly manner—one that isn’t condescending. It will get the message across, without making them feel bad. Be receptive to new ideas (even if you think yours is the best!). Choose your words carefully. Don’t raise your voice. Be mindful of your tone—be sure it is not patronizing! 

2. Don’t emphasize your superiority 

A good leader does not remind their team all the time that they are in the lead. Don’t worry, your team is already aware of that. Instead of thinking yourself as being superior to your team, try to not create strong hierarchies. Sit down with your team during brainstorming sessions, have lunch with them once in a while, help them out with their tasks whenever you see them struggling. Break the barrier that exists between you and them—enhance your approachability.  

3. Don’t forget to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ 

Being a manager does not mean that you throw your manners outside the window. When you have to appoint a new task to a team member, instead of saying “you need to get this done by 5 p.m. sharp”, try saying “can you please get this done by 5 p.m.?” Similarly, it would also be nice to thank them after they finish their tasks. Sure, it’s their job, but a little kindness goes a long way—and will manifest in their motivation levels. 

4. Ask for feedback on your leadership style 

This will not only help you become aware of areas that you did not realize needed improvement, but will also make your team members feel that their opinion matters. After receiving input, work on implementing their suggestions wherever necessary. When your team members actually see you striving to make a change according to their input and preferred style of leadership, that will motivate them to be more open to implementing feedback from you on their own behaviors as well.  

5. Have an open-door policy 

If you have a separate office, don’t keep it closed off to your team members. Unless you are super busy, don’t take appointments from your team members if they want to come visit you. It will be helpful to have an open-door policy, whereby your members can drop in whenever they like—whether it is to discuss a task or any personal issue.  

6. Smile! 

This one’s pretty simple. Greet your team members with a smile. If you are passing by them, a quick smile their way wouldn’t hurt. After all, you don’t want to come across as that moody manager who always appears to be in a sour mood! 

7. Don’t exhibit your tension 

If you working under a time-crunch and are under a lot of pressure, don’t let it negatively reflect in your demeanor. Keep your cool. Otherwise, seeing you stressed might stress out your team members too—and you don’t want that. Always be mindful of how you project yourself in front of your team. 

8. Be respectful to those around you 

Regardless of how overworked you are, or how superior your position is, you have to be respectful to all your team members. Like they say: to gain respect, you have to earn respect. It works both ways. Even if you have an authoritative leadership style, this is something you have got to do.  

Follow these 8 steps, to come significantly closer to becoming a manager who embodies the right mix of ‘softness’ and ‘firmness’–consequently resulting in generating optimum results from your team.