Management is hard. We all know that. Like Atlas, you carry the metaphorical weight of the world on your shoulders. You have chosen to climb that corporate ladder as high as you can, and are most likely already eyeballing the next rung while you juggle meetings and travel and conference calls and staffing issues.
Speaking of staff, it’s been said that to be a great manager you need to have the traits of great leaders. That in order to manage a team successfully you have to be their guide, move them forward towards the goal, motivate and inspire them to be their best, and have that office door open, whether literally or figuratively (in the case of remote staff), so your team has a safe space in which to air complaints or merely bash an idea or two around.
Although one friend liked to say that people ‘failed up’ at his company, and it’s not unheard of that people achieve management roles through attrition or nepotism, one must assume that that’s the exception and not the rule. There’s no question that in order to rise through the ranks, you must be intelligent, creative, driven and dedicated, right? So how come so many senior leaders with all of the above attributes continue to be bad managers?
Five Things To Think About
I don’t have the final answer. But I have been actively in the workforce for 25 years. During that time, I have worked with some phenomenal managers, mentors and senior leaders, and some not so phenomenal. And sadly, if I were being honest, more of the latter variety. So, aside from the everyday leadership skills, below are five things that I think managers in all industries and at all levels should also think about.
1. Build the team you want: Assuming that you have hiring authority, or at least a fairly healthy say in who ends up on your team, please build the team you want. It’s unfair to your team members to hire them, and then belittle what they bring to the table. You knew their respective skill levels, traits, and experience – presumably they went through numerous interviews and not a few hoops to land the job. Work with them if you need change or growth. But don’t blame them if you hired wrong.
2. Your team members don’t have to be best friends: Life is a funny thing. Most of us over the age of 20 get it that everyone doesn’t have to like everyone else. And that’s ok. Professionals can usually set aside personal differences and work towards the greater good of getting the job done and making the company stronger. Most of the time, I don’t want to be besties with the people I work with. They’re my colleagues. I respect them for what they bring to the table, and expect the same in return. But if we’re not having weekly dinners or sharing private jokes I don’t lose sleep. A solid team of respectful, seasoned pros work better together when they’re not living in each other’s pockets.
3. Watch out for favouritism: Don’t get me wrong. I have met wonderful people on the job, and some of them I consider good friends, but that relationship usually evolved after the fact. Having best pals on the job can cause all kinds of conflict. Too much gossip. Discomfort if you need to discipline. Or, the old high school standard, someone becomes the Queen Bee. And whether that person then gets all the insider info – which their team mates have no access to – or simply ‘can do no wrong’ – it’s a dangerous situation for management to have to juggle. Obviously, there’s no way to stop people from becoming close or sharing gossip, but it’s up to management to be acutely aware of these relationships, and ensure that they don’t upset the apple cart or cloud judgement. And if you’re a manager with an obvious close personal relationship with a subordinate staff member, it behooves you to be extra sure that the rest of the team doesn’t feel passed over or unfairly treated because of it.
4. Don’t hoard – share: Good God, you have a team – use them! You’re the one on those conference calls and in those meetings with the C-Suite, and assuming that you are a key player in the executive stream, you have been tasked with achieving goals and/or hitting certain performance benchmarks. But if you hoard all the information you are privvy to – for whatever reason – you won’t hit any of those goals and benchmarks. And it’s not because you have a team of lazy do nothings. It’s because you have a team of human beings, not mind readers! Seriously. This happens all the time. If you’ve built a team of professionals, then trust them to be professionals. Share company information and look ahead projections and allow your team to work with you. Which leads to…
5. You are not a super-hero: Much as you think you are. You’re not. How many managers do I know that actually go to sleep with their smart phones under their pillows…? A lot. Ugh. I would rather poke myself in the eye with a sharp stick. A dull stick even. Stop trying to be your company’s super-hero. I’ll let you in on a little secret – many of those super type A types, who flail around doing it all, are not looked at with admiration. If anything, they’re looked at as a little bit pathetic. Share your work load. Delegate, delegate, delegate. Give credit where credit is due. And let your senior executives know what a great team you have. You will soon be basking in the golden glow of goals achieved and end of year bonuses. And you will have a motivated team who feels respected, responsible, and ridiculously loyal. To YOU!
What do you think? Have you worked with great managers? Not so great? Are you in management yourself and have anything to add, good or bad? I would love to hear your thoughts.