In most organizations, high-performance individuals are promoted to managers. A great individual contributor is not necessarily a great manager. But if even if they could become one, it is rare for newly promoted managers to get people management training. In this post, I share my management philosophy, based on what I have learning over the last few decades.
Manager or Leader? It is not the same.
The terms management and leadership are incorrectly used interchangeably. They are very different in essence. In fact, few people excel at both. Leadership is about having a vision for a better future and the ability to rally people and resources around it. Management is about sincerely caring for a team, empowering them, and making them productive and successful.
In my experience, the main reason why people want to become a leader or a manager is a desire for career advancement and a higher salary. This is unfortunate, not because there is anything wrong with being career oriented but because that is not the right motivation. A promotion and salary increase should not be goals, but consequences of effective execution, true leadership, and good people management.
The main motivator to be a manager should be a desire to accomplish things through people. The main motivator for being a leader should be a vision of the future so powerful you want to make it real. For more on this, I suggest reading this post on the difference between managers and leaders.
Flip the Org Chart
In many dilbertian organizations, being a manager is an entitlement, a sign of status, an invitation to get better at playing office politics. In the worst cases, managers believe they are a better person than the employees they manage.
It’s time for a new perspective. I invite you to flip the org chart.
What this means, in essence, is that a good manager has an inverted view of the org chart. One where their employees are at the top and they are the support. It is your responsibility as a manager to see your team does the right job and that they grow. Your role is to help them. Their career, and often their family well-being is in your hands. This is a serious responsibility.
So flip the org chart. Be a servant leader who shares power, puts the needs of others first and helps people develop over time and are pushed to higher performance. When you flip the org chart your team is first. Your number one job is to empower and support your team to do their best job.
What do you get for being a great manager?
- Effectiveness – You can get more things done, and done better when you are a great manager.
- Loyalty – In general, people quit managers, not companies. A good manager is probably the most important factor in job satisfaction and career progression.
- Satisfaction – When I look at my career, I feel more proud of the teams I have built and the people that I have helped grow than the products I launched or the programs that I ran.
What makes a great manager?
Daniel Pink believes three elements drive people at work: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. This is a great concept. As a manager, how do you make sure to build these three elements in your team?
My personal philosophy as a manager can be summarized in one sentence that encapsulates what I expect from my manager, the CEO of the company, and also what I strive to provide to every member of my team.
Listen, give clear direction, provide resources and limits, get out of the way and cover their back.
This is better understood if we break it into 5 key concepts:
- Listening and Accessibility. Make people feel valued by listening to their ideas and concerns, asking for their points of view and their feedback. They will feel valued and will give you insights to be more effective. Being accessible is also important. Most managers are busy, yes, but your team is your #1 responsibility. My team knows they can text or call me any day, anytime (if it is urgent and important). Listening is essential to build a plan with consensus.
- Clear Focus and Goal Clarity: Motivate people with a clear picture of the end goal. Provide clear direction as to what are the most important things to achieve, what are the top priorities. More importantly, establish what is not a priority, what can wait, and what should be ignored. Focus is better defined as what not to do. Establish clear goals, expectations, and deadlines at the individual level.
- Resources and Guardrails: Managers provide resources in the form of information, budget, people, and coaching. They remove barriers and obstacles. Don’t tell people how to do their job, instead, explain what are the guardrails: what is not acceptable and what are the rules, to set their creativity free. Let them choose the best path to meet the goals. They probably know better than you do.
- Freedom, Accountability, and Recognition.Once your team has goals and resources, get out of the way. This is the essence of effective delegation. Trust them to get the job done, don’t micromanage, but be available to help. Empower. Authority and responsibility go hand in hand. It is unfair to give one without the other. Trust the team to perform and give them freedom to make decisions. Then hold them accountable for results and support them with positive feedback and sincere appreciation for their efforts.
- Support and Growth. A manager should isolate his or her team members from problems, noise, and politics. Make sure the team knows you have their back and earn their trust. Any good manager takes personal responsibility for the personal growth of their team members, pushes them to achieve more and to grow. One of the hardest things to do as a manager, and one of the most important, is to give team members constructive feedback on the areas they need to improve. Without this clear feedback, it is extremely hard for them to grow and to progress in their career.
In summary, if you are managing people because you have a sincere interest in guiding and empowering people, if you have an inverted org chart mindset, then listen, give clear direction, provide resources and limits, get out of the way and cover their back. You will be a great manager.
This post originally appeared here.
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