I've had my share of jobs, and I've had my share of managers. Some were okay, most were not okay, and only a special few were so amazing that they still stick with me today. The most valuable thing I have learned from all of them was the ability to manage up: sometimes it took a while, but I usually got there once I understood them.
What's so tricky about management is that it's not something you can really pick up a book about. Sure there are a few out there, but the only way to learn, try, fail, and succeed as a manager is by actually becoming one. I had the pleasure of being a manager, first with Interns, then with a direct report, and eventually the leader of a team, for a few years, and it definitely wasn't easy. But it's one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.
That being said, we all have managers that just suck at managing. For whatever reason, (they played the politics and got promoted, or this is their first rodeo) this human is now in charge of you. And they are awful. It's what makes most good employees quit. It's what makes employees dream about starting their own marketing freelance business ((hint, hint))
Here's a list of the type of managers that I don't want to be - and yes, I've had ALL of these bosses - usually they are a combo of the below but they are always super fun. If you are managing employees and are puzzled as to why you may have turnover, take a hard look at this list, and then yourself:
1) The Micro-Manager
While there's no one boss I had that completely represents this persona, micromanaging is my personal topper of pet peeves for management. The constant checkins, required approvals, desire for complete control all essentially paralyze your employee eventually. From what I've seen, this is usually a result of insecurity with one's own position, so a desire to control others typically results. It also demonstrates a clear lack of trust, which is impossible to build any (professional or personal) relationship on. A competent employee who sees their work being butchered by you over and over again without any kind of constructive feedback will eventually stop trying.
So think about this when you are re-doing that employee's work for the 3rd time: how is this helping them grow? Conversely, how is their work making your job easier? If you can't see any positive traits of this employee (which can rarely be the case), then maybe it's time to consider moving on.
2) The Insecure Child
In a sense, we all get insecure about our work from time to time. Especially when we are the boss and our decisions must be smart, backed up, and final. But there's a fine line between occasional self-doubt and constantly leaning on team members for reassurance and support. Doubt permeates your team to second-guess their own work, in addition to require them to inflate the ego of whomever's in charge.
Try to keep your concerns professional and project-based. Pay attention to the work being done by your team, and if you see a hole, address it. But don't be the one needing constant reassurance from them that you are a big deal, that you are important to the company, that you are the greatest thing to ever happen to them, etc. etc.
3) The Jock
This one is all politics. They knew the right people, went to the right school, has the right dad, and boom. Here he is, telling you what to do. While there may not necessarily be anything wrong with them (they can be quite nice: after all, being popular is something they are quite good at) it can be very difficult for them to command respect among their ranks, especially if they didn't forge their own way, understanding the work that their own team had to put in to get where they are today.
So this is a tough one. While it's great to play the game, a little bit of humility goes a long way here. Open up to your team and ask how they do certain aspects of their job: ask them to walk you through their process or give a demo on what they do everyday. Not only does this establish a sincere interest in their jobs (and, them), but may educate you before you go about telling them to execute a certain strategy. This is also a great place to ask your team for ideas: a good team will definitely have some, and you should be open to experimenting with them.
4) The Hothead
This one is just insane. There's no rhyme or reason to what mood they are in, or what they are going to say. Usually they are a rare blend of all of the above: insecure, right place right time, not trusting, and able to lose it on a dime.
Sure, you can be under pressure, but think about the impact it has on your team when you flip out or make a snippy remark. They feel disrespected and freaked out, and is super tough to motivate after that. If you have a bad moment, take the time to apologize for it. Try to have an open-door policy so if people feel a certain way, they can come and be honest with you instead of fearing for their jobs.
5) The Smart One
Sometimes people just get promoted from being super awesome at their jobs. Great. But then you have people that are super good at their jobs with no real interest in what it means to be a manager. For engineers, this means they would prefer writing code all day than meeting individually with each team member to manage them and their career growth.
That's perfectly fine, but know when you are doing your team a disservice. If you are not interested in a higher role, be upfront about it. If they want to reward you, ask for a higher salary or more vacation days. If you've already taken a role, try to be upfront with your supervisor on what's not working: it's not fair to them or your employees if you aren't fully invested in the job.
The Bottom Line
Your people are your people. Take the time to understand, appreciate and respect them. If they do good work for you, acknowledge it. Do whatever you can to elevate them to the next level. The more you give them opportunities to shine, the more you build loyalty with your team.
And by the way, if you need help managing the kids these days, or have a lonely marketing intern doing all the work, I can help with that, too.
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