I’ve been managing people on and off for 25 years now. It’s hard to tell how I have evolved, but I am sure that I’ve changed some over the years. There are certain principles that I think about as a manager that have stayed with me since the beginning and others I have picked up along the way. (*Definitions are my own)
the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.
A team that is inspired works much harder than one that is just going through the motions. Inspiration comes from a shared mission and vision of the team. It’s the managers job to provide that inspiration. No one else is going to do it.
Personally, I find the best technique is to tie the work into some benefit for the world. How would the world be better if we do an excellent job? Sometimes, this is hard to find, but it is the goal of a manager to find that meaning and communicate to the team.
mutual trust and friendship among people who spend a lot of time together.
The second goal of the manager is to provide a sense of camaraderie amongst the team members. When you like the people you are working with, you will communicate better and align better for priorities and plans. The only one who can provide this sense of teamwork is the manager. Everyone will take their cues from them.
In a Covid-19 world, this has been challenging, but not impossible. I’ve been experimenting all year in different bonding techniques that work over zoom and have experienced decent success.
One part of building teamwork and camaraderie is understanding when you have to let go of a team member who might be poisoning the well. I have had to do this a few times in my career and it was painful every single time.
When a team can function with minimal oversight to plan, prepare, and execute their tasks.
My third goal is to create a team that can function without you. I have seen some managers over the years who have been excellent at this. For myself, I think I have had a mixed record. Some wins and some failures on my part. There are times (like now) when the team is running with little oversight on my part. Other times, I had veered into micromanagement. This is an area I strive to improve.
Over the years, I have been pressured by my own managers to hire “senior people”. I think executives think that people who have been working for many years automatically are “leaders“. In my experience with different designers, I have found this to be completely false. Leaders are leaders early in their careers and bad leaders don’t learn to be good leaders over time. In other words, seniority doesn’t equal self-sufficient.
This has been a controversial part of my approach, but I stand by it. When I hire, I look for leaders at any point in their career, and not assume that seniority automatically brings leadership.
Bottom line, as a manager, you want your team to work with as little oversight as possible. This allows you to take on more responsibility and protects the company from single points of failure.
All forms of feedback including compensation, public and private appreciation, scope of responsibility, and sometimes even criticism.
A goal of the manager is to make sure people feel “seen” by their peers, by the organization, by you, and most importantly by themselves. I have had several people on my team who thought they weren’t worthy of praise. Being seen is one of the most important feelings we have as humans. We need to be understood and acknowledged. As a manager, it is crucial that one of your goals to make sure each and every member of the team feels that, not just the superstars.
Radical candor shouldn’t just be about when someone screws up. You should use the same techniques when someone does something right or even “normal”. Doing your job in a normal way is good. it deserves credit. However, when someone does mess up, you need to acknowledge that it happened. Don’t hide all of the flaws. Acknowledgement works both ways.
See post on the restaurant metaphor. TL;DR Getting the job done.
There are other goals, but the last one I will mention is productivity. As a manager, you have to be thinking about how to be productive within your organization. This is sadly not as important to most managers I have met. As a former business owner, this responsibility and goal is crucial to the success of the company. Each person needs to be helping the company succeed. Managers should not just be asking for more money and more headcount. You have to be striving to be “right-sized” and useful to the overall mission.
The goals of the manager are broad and complex. It’s easy to be a bad manager and it’s hard to achieve all of these goals. Remember though, they are goals. You aren’t going to nail them all. Do your best and take the role seriously. How you do your job matters to your team, to the company, and even to yourself. I have hope that each manager can make the world a little bit better than how they found it.