5 December 2017

The Steep Learning Curve of the New Manager

various citrusWhen Joanna jumped into a supervisory role for the first time, she treated her direct reports in a way that would have been perfect if all her direct reports were exactly like her. One of them was, so Joanna’s managerial style was a great fit for this person and they did really well together. But with the 4 others on her team?  Not so much.

You’re more successful as a manager if you target your management style to the person you’re managing. Or at least understand that not everyone’s like you.

For example, some people like to have lots of check-ins with their manager along the way when working on a long-term project.  But for other people, frequent required check-ins can feel like they’re being micromanaged.  So . . . ask your direct reports how they like to be managed.  Do they like to have regular check-ins on long term projects?  If they do, then do it.  If they don’t, then don’t.  Or if they don’t, but you do, tell them up front that you need regular updates (and be specific: how often, and what level of detail). Tell them it might feel to them like being micromanaged but that’s not really what’s going on. Explain why you need it in terms that assure them that you trust in their work, but you need to be able to give your manager detailed project updates (or whatever it is).

Some people thrive on understanding how their job fits into the bigger picture of the organization’s work.  When someone understands that their data needs to be submitted in time for the visit from the Federal Compliance Officer or the Bank will be fined a lot of money — that can motivate someone to get their data submitted on time.  But for another person, the only thing that makes a difference is being told that their pattern of consistently turning in their data late or not at all will lead directly to their being fired — to be told in no uncertain terms that that behavior is a deal breaker.  YOU might never have needed to hear that as an employee.  You might have understood what was at stake from the get-go.  Or you would have understood it when you found out about the Compliance Officer’s visit.  So to you as a manager, telling them that keeping their job depends on their getting their data in on time might seem unnecessarily harsh and threatening.  But for some people it has to be that clear for them to get the message.

There are many, many ways the people you manage can be different from you.

You have to manage the actual team you have, which may include people very, very different from you.  In fact, with more organizations working with global teams, teams with members spanning 4 generations, teams with people with different native languages, and teams diverse in other ways, it’s inevitable that most people moving into greater levels of leadership will manage diverse teams.

Those of you readers who have managed well, how did you get to know the people you supervise?  Were there any great questions you’ve asked them along the way that helped you manage them better?

Here are some questions that can be helpful for the manager to ask the employee (letting them know you will consider everything they tell you, but that you are not promising to do what they ask.)

  • How do you like to be managed?
  • What’s the best way to give you constructive feedback?
  • If I’m concerned about some aspect of your performance, how should I bring it up with you?
  • How are you generally with deadlines and how can I support you in meeting deadlines?
  • What’s happening with the X project, and what kind of support do you need to meet the deadline?

Becoming an effective manager is a learning process, not a skillset to master once and have for a lifetime, like riding a bike. Allow yourself to be helped in your learning process by asking your direct reports what works for them. You’ll learn more about who you’re working with, and that’s always useful.

*Photo by Edgar Castrejon on Unsplash