Real tips from a real manager – Know Your Staff
Why is it that if you are great at your job, your company thinks you will automatically be great at managing others who do your job?
Designing a computer system, or coding one, for example, are completely different tasks requiring totally different skills than leading a development project or managing multiple teams of developers.
During my career as a software development person I started leading teams early on and moved fairly rapidly to both an administrative and project management position over single and multiple teams of associates.
As a programmer, I was focused on pumping out the code. As a systems designer, I was focused on identifying the pieces needed to meet the customer’s requirements. As a project leader, I was responsible for getting others to design, code, test and implement a project and as a manager I was responsible for tactical implementation of the company’s strategic goals and the development of people talent.
A while back, I explored the top paying jobs of 2012 and noted that 6 of them involved management positions. Assuming you are going to climb the corporate ladder to that first management rung, you might be interested in hearing a few tips from a retired manager. Here are a few of mine.
Know those you manage.
Knowing each and every one of the people that you manage helps you understand how to assign the work, who might want and benefit from extra training, who might need a mentor and who might be a mentor for someone else. It lets you develop each person and the team to their, the company’s and your benefit.
If you get new associates, meet one on one with them first thing. Get to know them, let them get to know you. This was a tip from my mentoring officer. He believed (and I found it to be true) that you have a window of opportunity to establish the tone of your relationship with new associates. If during that time you open the door to one on one meetings by holding your first one, then you get a head start on knowing who that person is, how they fit in, what their strengths and weaknesses are and what their hopes and dreams might be. Plus, if you got these new associates by being placed in a new area, you will learn a ton about that area and how it works (or doesn’t), what’s been tried (or not) and what approach you might need to take based on the attitudes of the associates in the area.
Don’t close yourself off in an office.
Although nice for those review time conversations, offices are a hindrance the rest of the year. You can’t see, hear and feel what is going on around you. You seem aloof and apart from the teams.
In my first leadership position, my boss thought it would be a great perk for me to have an office. At first I was thrilled, because it was a big space and had a window. I viewed it as a sign of my success. As time and projects wore on however, I found it to be quite impractical. I had to get up and walk to the work area to find out what was going on. Because my presence became somewhat intrusive (more so, at least than sitting among the team), normal conversation tended to stop and I missed out on a lot of important information.
Even if you don’t have an office, it is important to walk around so that you see and are seen by all of your staff members, not just the ones who happen to sit in your path. Expressing an interest in seeing and speaking to your staff about their families, lives, outside activities and projects is a sure way to better understand them and establish a better two way relationship with them.
Jump through hoops to get their input.
It’s hard to get people to talk about their ideas, hopes, criticisms and anger to their managers. Try everything you can to get good input from those you manage. Here are a couple of important considerations.
Make them feel safe, or they just won’t ever open up:
- don’t criticize, belittle or laugh at their ideas
- don’t steal their ideas and use as your own
- stand up for their ideas before your boss and other executives.
Be available and approachable.
Even if you sit by them and walk around to talk with them, you need to make sure you are approachable – in your schedule, in your demeanor and in your tone. Just because you have the time doesn’t mean that your face is welcoming an interaction!
A peer manager I once knew set aside her lunch hour to play board or card games with the staff in the company lunch room. That casual setting made her more approachable.
What changes in behavior would you like to see from the person who manages you? If you have ever managed others, what worked for you?