Even someone who doesn’t manage can have great advice for a manager. Ask me: I’ve been a contributor many times over the years and for all manner of bosses. While I’ve been lucky enough to work for great people, we can all look back at struggles we’ve had in the “managed” department.
Managers, Listen Up
So what advice would someone experienced as a direct report give to a manager?
- Respect your staff’s time. It’s nigh on impossible to engage consistently with staff when faced with countless meetings and projects. But by staying on top of your calendar, you can ensure your timely attendance to meet with your staff. You will show you care about the time they took to prepare by being present. Managers, even if you need to print out your daily schedule and tape it to your tablet or legal pad, do what is necessary to set the bar.
- Build an individual rather than a clone. If you try to coach one of your staff to replicate you in every way, you are stifling areas where they could uniquely improve a project or process. In this way, managing can be like parenting or coaching: the last thing you want is to limit your subject’s accomplishments, especially when the result can improve your team and the company.
- Assume your direct report will grow out of their role. it’s the rare person who decides they want to stay in the exact same role, pay grade, and skill level over the years. Most contributors want to follow this thing called a “career path,” which means they want progress. As much as you may love how your staff performs in their role right now, you can trust that in at least two years a change will be desired. Help it happen.
- Advocate for your staff. As a manager, you may report to a boss who resembles what I described earlier: your title keeps you in a box for when they wish to let you out. But if staff reports to you, they inevitably need their valuable input run up the ladder. It is your duty to carry out that communication. By setting this example for your direct reports, you’re showing them how to take risks that can lead to improvement in many areas.
- Never be done learning. Even the very best managers need refreshers. Look at how flex time and telecommuting has changed the corporate landscape in just a few years! As times change, expectations and best practices will also shift. You’ll stay ahead of the curve if you get yourself to regular management trainings and workshops. Ask HR to help you.
If you are one of the managed, you know what works best for you and who you will work your best for. Your insights into the pain points of contributors are invaluable to your manager. What tips would you offer to today’s managers?