Be a manager who gives a damn.
I find it interesting many of my Millennial peers dislike being managers.
Perhaps because the typical Millennial mindset is generally assumed to be self-involved and every-man-for-himself. And yes, in many ways, having direct reports is a very selfless enterprise. But you also learn a lot about yourself in the process. And if you’re a good manager, you open yourself up to two-way feedback.
Here’s what I feel is important to be in being a successful manager:
Give a Damn
First and foremost, you were trusted to lead this person or team. You are obligated to give a damn: about their successes, their failures, their fears and their biggest dreams far beyond their current role. If you cannot bring yourself to give a damn, you should do them the favor and find them a manager that does. If you are not invested in them, they will not be invested in you or, ultimately, their job. You know that old saying that people don’t leave jobs, they leave managers? This is true. Don’t be that guy. Capisce? Continue on.
2. Admit your own shortcomings
Whenever I get a free half an hour or feel inspired, I draft a newsletter style email to my direct reports. It has links to things I’m reading that are related to leadership, growth or productivity. More often than not, I talk about the things I’m working to improve or areas where I struggle – time management, emotional intelligence or overuse of the B word (busy).
You aren’t expected to be perfect. Don’t try to be. And by showing your team you acknowledge where you fall short, it builds trust and leads by example. Self-awareness is critical in career growth. The most difficult colleagues I’ve had over my career have not been genuinely vindictive or terrible people. They’re simply blindly unaware of their shortcomings. Don’t let your people suffer from their own ignorance.
3. Teach them how to manage up
Sometimes, you have to step in when your team is dealing with significant conflict to mediate or resolve an issue – particularly if your managees are entry-level.
But one of the most difficult things to learn how to do as a professional is manage up, especially if you have a very close-working hierarchy and you have a fresh-from-college coordinator working on a program with a 20-year vet. Pushing your team to manage up – respectfully and in the right scenarios – is vital. Asking questions like, “What are you trying to accomplish? Why is this important to you? What is the conflict you’re facing? How will this help your project improve? What is the best way to communicate your idea with this person?”
If done well, they’ll also learn to manage up with you. Remember what I said about two-way feedback? You want your team to feel comfortable with telling you how to best navigate your working relationship.
4. Always be available
An open door policy is fine – when you’re in the office. But sometimes your team needs you beyond the 9-to-5. Maybe your direct report needs to call and vent for 15 minutes after they’ve stayed late at the office. Maybe they need to hash out their feelings about a colleague conflict via email. Sometimes, a quick text to sort out priorities on Sunday night is needed to be ready for a busy week. On occasion I’ll buy my direct reports breakfast or a quick beer after work to get a pulse on how they’re doing overall, outside of the crazy of the office.
Whatever it may be, figure out what communication works for you and your team and dedicate time to it. Of course, there’s a line – and we all need vacations sometimes – but if you expect a lot of output from your team in the office, expect to go the extra mile to support them in the process.
5. Help them think long-term
Hopefully, you help build a team that stays on board until their first social security check rolls in. But it doesn’t always work out that way. And that’s okay. I make sure to remember to table the immediate future of my managees – their daily tasks, client responsibilities – and talk to them about who they are as people. One of my direct reports has a superstar personality and fiery passion – the other has amazing patience and tact in all situations. Both of those skill sets will elevate their professional successes even if they decided tomorrow to quit sports marketing and jump into a new career.
Recognize those skills. Point them out.
6. Give a Damn
I can’t reiterate this enough. Tell them you care about their success. Then, actually care about their success. There’s no more gratifying feeling in the world.