KNOWING WHEN YOU ARE READY TO MANAGE.
I find this is a deep problem in the start-up community. But before we talk about management of employees, let’s talk about the operations of a business. It’s my belief that that #1 operational goal of a company is to create stability and reliability in its processes and business model. Bills are paid on-time, payroll run on-time, clients pay on-time, work done on-time, etc. Keep the process running reliably, and your business will prosper.
People, conversely, are your #1 variables. They’re always throwing wrenches into the gears of this steady engine – getting sick, taking time off, being way better than you calculated. Their productivity is always growing and ebbing so that they never quite fit the models created.
So when you’re looking to manage people you’re really saying “I’m attempting to take on the hardest thing to do in the business – harder than the work itself.” Once you understand that, and accept it, you’re in the right mindset to manage.
There’s a lot to go into being a good manager, and managing personality types, but I won’t get into that here. I’m going to describe the core points that I think a manager needs.
1.) Have a plan for your people and yourself
You’re managing a team – it’s your job to know what you want from that team, communicate it, and then constantly challenge the team. Too few managers do this. People hire when they feel overwhelmed with work, and not until it’s too late that they realize that hiring actually CAUSES more work upfront, not less. Training, communicating, creating plans and progress milestones – all work! If you’re going to get the most out of people, have a plan before you hire and execute on that plan. And then always have a back-up plan.
2.) Periodical check-ins.
Odds are, you’ve hired smart people. But they’re not automatons – you need to check in personally and frequently to make sure things are on track. Most experts recommend 1x a week initially. I’m ambivalent on that – I think the situation dictates the needs. If you don’t like checking in with other people’s work, I don’t blame you.
It’s easy to communicate bad news to yourself. It’s hard to convey that to someone else and hold them accountable. More often than not, green Managers will avoid conflict or correct the work themselves. I had both done to me personally by several managers in my previously life. Here’s a secret – most employees know when they’re messing up. They’re just lost on how to ask for help. Well, at least that’s how it was for me (and probably for you, right?)
4.) It’s not personal
When you go from employee to manager, you have to change your relationship with your team. It is difficult and I have a hard time doing it myself. I don’t like the idea of hierarchy – there’s a lot of efficiencies found in a flat organization – but every business has a boss, and every team has a manager. If you’re not willing to alter your work relationships (which can be deep and wonderful and the best ones in your life) in order to manage, please do not manage. You will ultimately hurt everyone around you.
If you feel like you can plan, communicate, and have the emotional fortitude on meting out bad news (and praise) along with keeping a professional barrier, you’re in the right mindset to manage. It’s a difficult transition and one that does not appeal to most people. Most people don’t want the hassle, and there’s unfortunately a lot of people who choose to manage because that’s the only way to get a raise/bonus or move up the corporate ladder. Yikes. For the few who want to provide leadership and guidance for a living, this is my bare-bones assessment of what is required.