By Kelly Fumiko Weiss
In this blog post you will…
It’s no secret that managers make or break a job. If you have a good manager, the company could be burning down around you and you’ll probably stay and ride it out. If you have a terrible manager, you could be in the best job in the world that meets all your goals and desires, and have to quit to save your sanity. Perhaps these statements are a little hyperbolic, but that’s what it feels like, right?
Over the course of the last 20 years, I’ve had every kind of manager under the sun. Good ones. Bad ones. Nearly invisible ones. People older than me. People younger than me. People who love managing people, and some who absolutely hate it.
What I’ve noticed though is that unlike most things in life - where the bad is what sticks with you more than anything else - what sticks out the most to me when I think about the managers I’ve had are the lessons I’ve learned from the good ones. The great ones. The Managers that I’ve loved. The ones that affirm your life and your job and make you want to be a better person. I rarely think about the bad Managers I’ve had. But I think about the good ones all the time.
Not all advice is equal. Maybe the advice I’m about to share won’t resonate with you the way it did with me. But I hope, regardless, it will give you faith that caring about people enough to share your wisdom with them can literally change their lives.
So, here are the top five nuggets that I’ve kept with me from various managers over the years. (It almost feels wrong to share these out; like these little nuggets that feel like they are just for me. But it also feels wrong to keep them.)
Top 5 lessons I’ve learned from Managers I’ve loved
#1 - The hardest part about management is delegating work to people when you know you could do the work better
We’ve all been there, right? You watch someone doing work and you think, “I could do that so much better.” Sometimes it’s true. Sometimes it’s just hubris and human nature. But when you are a manager, it happens all the time. That’s because it’s part of our job as managers to LET PEOPLE LEARN. Our teams have to try, and make mistakes, and try again. People don’t get better at what they do from being told exactly what to do, or having their work highly edited, or from you doing their jobs for them. People learn by doing. Our job is to advise, guide, and when needed train. Our job is not to rob them of the opportunity to figure it all out.
Still, let’s face it. It can still be painful. Things may take longer. Or have to go through more drafts. Or may not turn out the way you would have done it. But that’s okay. You just have to remember that’s part of your job as a manager. And your team will thank you for it.
#2 - You don’t have to point out the asshole in the room
This one needs a little context. When I was younger, and I saw people being treated poorly or differently, I would call it out in the moment. I would get defensive and all my instincts to be a protector and advocate would come bursting out. But I didn’t always choose my moments well. And sometimes I made things worse by letting my emotions show too much. I also didn’t have faith that people higher up than me were noticing. I didn’t have faith that something was being done about it.
That’s when I had to learn that talking to my manager 1:1 about what was going on was far better than calling it out in the room. Checking in on my coworkers 1:1 was more caring than exacerbating the situation. And I learned that HR matters are far more delicate than you might think.
As I’ve advanced in my career, I’ve also learned that from a management perspective, pointing out publicly or even in a small group setting, that someone is being a jerk is feeding into office gossip and contributing to a toxic work environment. We all need to vent to our coworkers. But it must be done in a safe space and should be less about the person who’s being a jerk, and more about finding support for how the jerk is making you feel.
#3 - Compiling your questions and going over them all at once is better than constantly pinging someone throughout the day
I had an amazing manager who I really trusted and wanted his opinion on everything. I also wanted to prove myself to him and show him that I was working hard. He took me aside one day and told me that the constant pings were really hard for him. It was distracting and counterproductive. He said it very kindly and constructively, and presented a solution for a collaborative doc where I could list things out and we could go over them together at a set time each week. If something was truly urgent, then I could book 15 minutes on his calendar.
I was so grateful to him for sharing what he needed, and letting me know how my actions were impacting him. And now it’s something I think about every day. We live in a world with collaborative tools that ping us ALL THE TIME. In the spirit of this advice, my workaround has been to have set times on each day to check all of my pings. So I don’t feel like I’m constantly being distracted as people reach out to me. And for people I manage, I have set 1:1s that they know they can rely on so they have time and space to talk to me.
This advice has continued to resonate with me on multiple levels - being vulnerable, advocating for yourself, presenting a problem WITH a solution, and giving feedback with care.
#4 - Emotions are contagious. And some people (like me) are more contagious than others
I never really thought about how my moods were affecting people around me, until my boss took me aside and let me know that when I’m in a good mood, everyone is in a good mood. And when I’m in a bad mood, everyone is in a bad mood. He said that energy matters. And he gave me a book on the topic of “energy leadership” for me to learn from.
I loved that he was helping me to be more self aware AND giving me resources to learn more about energy in the workplace.
Over the years, I have noticed that he is right. When you are in a group meeting, there are some people that you don’t notice as much. You can’t tell what kind of day they are having and you may even not pay too much attention to them in the room. Then there are others that fill up the whole space and, even if they aren’t talking, radiate how they are feeling.
Learning this about myself has been key to my growth in the workplace. I now take it on as a huge responsibility to manage how I present myself to my team. That doesn’t mean I fake who I am or what I’m feeling. If I’m having a bad day, I let people know upfront so they understand that my energy isn’t to do with them. But for the most part, I try to smile, lead with kindness, and try to have my personal energy help the situations I’m in, not hurt them. I will forever be grateful for this level of self-awareness.
#5 - The most important thing leaders can do is maintain a clear head
We often buy into the idea that we must work all hours of the day to be good at our jobs, to be good workers, to prove ourselves, to hustle, to succeed. But at the end of the day, leaders need to have their full faculties to make the best decisions. So, if I’m exhausted or overwhelmed, overworked or disjointed, I’m not going to be a good leader. This means that we must learn to step away. To take breaks. To take days off. To lead by example and understand our own headspace and put our best self forward. Therefore, the best thing I can do as a leader is make sure my head is clear. And if that means working fewer hours or stepping away when I need to, then so be it.
These are the best pieces of advice I have ever received. As you can see, they are very personal to me, but I hope some or all of them resonated with you.
Moreover, at Allize, we would love to help you train the next generation of managers. We have training programs that give managers practical and actionable advice on how to manage people 1:1 and in teams, all with a people-first, human-centered approach. Our management training can be done in a 1:1 setting, group setting, or enterprise wide. We can focus on first-time managers, or help existing managers shore up their best practices. The most important part is to make sure that your company knows that you value quality managers, and that you are doing your part to make sure that your managers have the training and tools they need to succeed in supporting your employees and creating a quality work environment.
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