My job as a manager
November 13, 2011
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When you think about it, management is really a necessary evil. Oh, sure, I happen to weirdly like it and have been accused of having a talent for it, but it’s really unfortunate that we need as much management as we do.
Just think about it. When your team or company is small enough, you don’t really need managers. Each person in the room knows that they need to simply get “stuff” done in order to make the team or company work. If they’re good enough at that, your company grows, and that’s when you need managers.
Why do you need managers? Coordination and resources. My job as a manager isn’t to be the almighty powerful lord of my domain (even though sometimes it’s just fun to act like that to see how quickly my team calls me on it. The best teams take less than 10 seconds.). My job as a manager is to be a resource and the coordinator for my team so that they can get the real “stuff” done. In other words, the power is actually theirs, not mine.
What does this look like (you KNOW I’m going to do a bulleted list, don’t you?)? So glad you asked!
- Understand what they do. It’s pretty darn tough to act as a coordinator and resource when you haven’t the foggiest notion what they do all day. I’m not saying you need to be a pain and look over their shoulders constantly, but you need to have a grasp of what their day-to-day jobs look like and what short-term (and long-term) goals they’re working towards.
- Get out of the way. In trying to get things coordinated and achieve your mandates, it’s very easy to get in your own way (and in the way of your team). When push comes to shove, you have to chat with them and then, well, trust them to do their jobs. Yes, your butt is on the line for their work, but that’s why you get paid the big bucks, right? If you put yourself in the way by demanding constant meetings, updates, etc. (basically, being a micromanage-y PITA), “stuff” just won’t get done.
- Give them what they need. One of your most important jobs as a manager is to give your team the resources that they need. Basically, your job is to smooth the path in order to make their jobs as easy as possible. Sometimes that takes the form of covering for one of them during a family emergency, or dealing with political BS, or bringing in caffeine or a V8 after a late night. Basically, you’re never, ever “too good” to do something that helps one of them get their job done.
- “But Jenn,” you whine, “I’m not a secretary.” No, you’re not. And if you’re blessed enough to have the god or goddess that an admin is, maybe your job will look less “menial” because you don’t have to do as much detailed coordination. But if you don’t have one, suck it up and do the work.
- Show appreciation publicly. If you want to make sure your team is demoralized, go ahead and do a private, “Good girl, now get back in your box,” when one of them truly goes above and beyond. Send an email to your VP, or announce it on the wiki, or use a formal feedback channel to let your company know just how amazing she was. She might act embarrassed (and there are those employees who don’t want public kudos, so get to know her or check with her first before your stand on the rooftops and shout, but note that “Oh no, you don’t have to do that,” isn’t a refusal), but there is a very wide chasm between public appreciation and private, and employees are aware of that.
- Show appreciation and disappointment privately. Standing on the rooftops isn’t appropriate for every employee action, so giving a constant stream of feedback is incredibly important. Don’t ever wait for review time to tell him that he has done well or poorly. Each day is an opportunity to say, “Nice one with the foo case,” or “In the future, can you make sure that you say goodbye before you hang up the phone?”
I’m sure I’ve missed what a lot of you do, but this is how I see my job? What have I missed? What can you add that will make me (and others) a better manager?