How to Be the Assertive Manager
Your Employees Want to Produce Results For:

Management Skill Training Tips for Effective Communication

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As a manager, by definition you are in the middle. You're the glue. A manager who doesn't manage is worse than no manager at all. Your employees need you to lead and manage or get out of their way.

Did you know that exceptional managers are the main reason good employees stay where they are, and bad managers are the main reason good employees leave? Author Marcus Buckingham tells us people don't quit their jobs - they quit bad managers. They quit managers who don't recognize their contributions. They quit managers who ignore slacker coworkers. They quit managers who don't provide clear direction. In other words, they quit managers who don't manage and lead assertively.

That's why your words are so important. As a manager your words matter more to your employees than anyone else's. However, if you're like most leaders (and like me), you've delayed hot button conversations because you didn't know what to say or you didn't want to rock the boat. And (like me) you've probably also initiated hot button conversations with reckless abandon and later regretted your words.

Here are some management skill training tips to help you be the assertive manager your employees want to produce results for.

1. Establish your role from the beginning
Don't: be afraid to be the boss. When you take charge, don't assume everyone will automatically fall into their roles.
Why not: In the beginning, employees aren't sure about your authority, and neither are you. It's easier to set the tone up front than to change the tone afterward.
Do: conduct a new supervisor interview and put your best foot forward. Take the initiative to set boundaries and define roles from the outset.
PowerPhrases/What to Say: "I need your help, support and feedback on my new role as your manager." "Now that I'm your manager, our roles will change. Do you have concerns about that?"
Poison Phrases/ What not to say: "We're all friends here. It will work out fine."

2. Hold people accountable for expected results
Don't: indulge slackers.              
Why not: It's unfair to the good performers who are doing their jobs - and often picking up the slack. It encourages slacking from everyone.
Do: clarify expectations and document and address problems as they arise.
PowerPhrases/What to Say: "Your job requires that you..." instead of, "You are..." "Here's why I need you to meet expectations."
Poison Phrases/What not to say: "Oh well, it'll get done. It always does."

3. Create a system to consistently acknowledge good employee performance
Don't: Leave acknowledgement to chance or dismiss good work as an expected part of the job.              
Why not: Behavior that gets rewarded gets repeated. Behavior that is ignored drops off. If you don't have a system to acknowledge employees, it probably won't happen and you'll lose a performance enhancement opportunity.
Do: set reminders or other systems to ensure you let employees know exactly what they do that you appreciate and how it affects you in a positive way.
PowerPhrases/What to Say: "I love your attention to detail in how you...", "That's important because...", "...was a powerful initiative because..."
Poison Phrases/What not to say: "That's what they get paid for."

4. Be clear in delegation and providing directions
Don't: assume understanding.              
Why not: There are too many variables in every project to assume anything.
Do: specify deadlines, budget, specs, authority and follow-up.
PowerPhrases/What to Say: "I need...by (when) to the following specs...", "Make your own decisions about X but please forward questions to me about Y. "
Poison Phrases/What not to say: "I don't know what I want, but I'll know it when I see it."

5. Tie each employee responsibility into the bigger picture of company mission, vision and department goals
Don't: treat individual tasks as mundane.              
Why not: mundane tasks don't motivate. Activities that are a part of a bigger mission do.
Do: remind employees continually about why you're there and how their achievements help move the mission forward.
PowerPhrases/What to Say: "This list you completed is a good step forward toward our mission of..."
Poison Phrases/What not to say: "So you made a list. Anyone could have done that."

6. Apply prepared assertive management phrases and leadership phrases for every step of the management process including:
• The new supervisor interview
• Building strong managers and leaders
• How to coach employees
• Meeting facilitation
• Announcing change
• Motivation
• Providing positive feedback
• Providing negative feedback
• Performance review phrases
• Termination

This article offers dos, don'ts, PowerPhrases, and Poison Phrases for five management conversations. You'll find phrases that address the entire management process in my books Perfect Phrases for Managers and Supervisors, and How to Say It: Performance Reviews.
These resources will help you find the words you need to be the assertive manager your employees want to produce great results for.


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Meryl Runion and Speak Strong (SpeakStrong) provides Power Phrases (PowerPhrases) and other tools to help you improve communication skills at work and at home. You can read more about her at www.speakstrong.com.

Meryl is the author of six books on communication that have sold over a quarter million copies worldwide, including Speak Strong, PowerPhrases!, How to Use PowerPhrases, Perfect Phrases for Managers and Supervisors, and How to Say It: Performance Reviews. You can reach her at 719-684-2633, or by email:

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