How to inspire your team to be nearly as good at their jobs as you are
Congratulations! You are a manager now. You’ve shown you’ve got what it takes to do master your job so now you get to manage other people doing that job. This is great because you know everything about doing your job and you’re excited to be making sure people do the job just as well as you. The only downside is you’re new to this management lark and people are strangely unreceptive to proper leadership so this guide is for you to make the transition and be effective in your new role.
- Make sure you change everything that comes in front of you. This shows leadership and demonstrates adding value. It doesn’t matter how much effort people have put into doing something or how much rework it is. Some people may complain that the value added is minimal or that you’re making additional work without tangible benefit but leadership is about taking charge right?
- Nothing is more motivating than having your manager stood behind you correcting you as you go. If you can manage to intersperse your observations with theatrical sighs or tutting then it will be clear just how amazing you are at the job of the person you’re managing. This will inspire them. Find the time to hover and inspire via commentary. You may find people find other places to work than their desks. Insist on presence in the office during core hours so they are available when you need to guide them.
- The hippy element in society wants you to be dishing out praise to people. But, we all know this doesn’t work. People aren’t going to grow unless you are direct about what they’ve got wrong. Praise is a grudging admission that they’ve done ok. It doesn’t help people grow. Radical candour is making sure people know they can do their job better. Maybe one day they’ll do it as well as you.
- Attention to detail is important. See point one. Being on top of things is making sure things are done exactly as you would’ve done them. After all you’ve reached the pinnacle of your job — that’s why they made you a manager.
- Deadlines get things done. Yet your people don’t have the skills to manage them. Luckily you do. Don’t be afraid of setting deadlines for people. Good employees want you to challenge them. And it will help you identify the dross sooner rather than later. Good people will find a way to make your deadlines work. Left to their own devices people will come back with totally impractical plans which will make you look bad.
- Being a manager is being in control of the big picture. As such you need to be there when things come up to make sure they’re done. Your team value your ability to interrupt the work they’re doing to ensure that the right stuff gets done. In particular making sure the desires of senior management are carried out. They can always pick up what they were working on later. And, you’re providing leadership that makes sure senior people are happy. This will help your career.
- There are going to be people who struggle with doing things to your standard (let’s be honest it’s going to be almost everyone). They may even go off and use their initiative to get things done. This would be ok if they were as good as their job as you are. Sadly, they’re not. Make sure you have regular status updates with these people to ensure they stay on track. Course correct early. They’ll come to appreciate how on top of things you are. Process is your friend here. Measure everything centrally. People will find the weekly status meetings motivating because they can see how far they have to go compared to their peers. It’s better to have one 40 or 50 person meeting to go through this, even if it lasts a few hours rather than scheduling 40 or 50 individual meetings to discuss. Your time is valuable and you need it to be on top of things.
- Decision making is a key part of your job. In fact it’s such a key part that you need to be involved in all decisions. Decisions happening without you is a recipe for things being done the wrong way. It’s better to slow people down than to let other people make decisions quickly. You may be tempted to delegate to speed things up — don’t. In particular, know when to change a decision. Don’t be afraid to change direction frequently. Decisions shouldn’t be a straitjacket. Change is a super power. Make it your super power. The negative normans will whine about change being disruptive. In reality they need to become more agile. The dinosaurs went extinct for a reason.
- Your ideal world is where anyone is able to tackle any task. If you have people that aren’t fungible then they’re going to hold you back. You won’t be agile or able to pivot quickly. The good news is that they can learn if you throw them in at the deep end. Don’t be afraid of changing what people are working on. After all it’s about supporting the business and everyone can get behind that.
- Hold people accountable. If things aren’t going well then it can’t be down to you. After all you’ve already demonstrated you’re great at these people’s jobs. Therefore the problem has to lie with other people. Making a few examples of people will show people how serious you are about maintaining your standards and having people operate against them. By the same token you are accountable for the job being done the way you would do it. So you’re not holding people to any standard that you aren’t holding yourself to.
There you have it. Ten simple steps to making a team you can be proud of.
If you’ve read this far and this is resonating with you in a positive way — I’d like to go on record as saying I kind of hate you. You are everything that made me want to quit my job and stopped me from doing my best work. Doing any of the above strips people of their ability to learn and grow and will create an environment where people are constantly anxious and unwilling to take ownership of things. It creates an environment where people hide information or misreport things. It creates an environment where people would rather be wrong and do what they’re told than solve problems.
I’ll finish on a warning. If you decide to go down the micromanagers’ path then you’re sowing the seeds of your own downfall. The more you do it the more people will find ways of working around you. In response you’ll try and exert more and more control on them. It’s a vicious spiral. Good management is not about control — it’s about providing enough freedom for people to grow. Given freedom and aligned outcomes — human beings will frequently astound you by going beyond your abilities. You’ll learn so much from this if you just learn to stop holding on so tightly. If you’re a new manager one of the biggest inflection points you have to face is understanding this change. I’ve seen people become successful by following this guide — but the wreckage they left behind them was immense. And micromanagement is hard work because you have to be everywhere and people will resist being managed this way. Micromanagers can’t go on holiday and things fall apart when they’re not about because they’ve made themselves the centre of everything.
EDIT: for those triggered by this, please read The Micromanagee’s Handbook