I can count many blessings. Among those is the fact that not only do I have a great boss, I have two fantastic managers reporting to me. When you have strong people supporting your efforts, you can sometimes take for granted the fact that development continues for all of us – even those who are already at a pretty advanced level. So, I try to take mental notes from time to time that fall into the category of “You know you’re a Manager when…”
These things may not appear in the leadership “handbook”:
- You can admit that “YES”, you do have favorites, but the reasons better be in direct correlation with performance. Jimmy Johnson, the sainted ex-coach of America’s Team freely admitted that the “rules are different for different players.” Fairness is different than “the same.” Don’t let a policy hound tell you otherwise. The funny thing about favorites is that they are usually disguised as excellent performers with good attitudes – it’s the damnedest thing, but performance and reliability should count for plenty.
- “Happy Hour” with the team has a time limit for you, Cinderella. It usually coincides about the time you pay for the 1st round.
- If you think they are talking about you, you can relax. OF COURSE they are talking about you – you’re the boss, at some point you will not be terribly popular. This is one of the reasons you leave Happy Hour after the 1st round. It’s a part of the tribe mentality – and despite what you might think, you ain’t in the tribe. Don’t take it personal.
- “Be who you are” in your management style. Don’t try to be a hard-ass if it’s not in your DNA; you won’t be good at it, and you’ll seem phony to your direct reports. It happens to all of us when we first get into a leadership role. At the same time you’re learning your new responsibilities, you’re trying to put on your face for the team. Are you a friend? Mentor? Coach? Disciplinarian? Be yourself, act accordingly.
- Time + attention = “Development”; if you can’t determine what a “formal” training and development plan should look like, spend time with your people and give them some dedicated attention. A lot of budgeted (read: expensive) training opportunities may not be available to you, but face time is always an option.
- Here’s one that I recently learned myself…slow down. Yup, actually pasted a stickie on my computer screen that reminds me to “breathe, think about it, then act.” We’re all working managers (pretty funny that needs to be a point of distinction), so we’re juggling alley cats throughout the day. In the world of recruiting, we all live with our hair on fire, so it’s not uncommon for things to occasionally get missed, mixed up, forgotten, delayed, misplaced or miscommunicated. I had a whopper of my own just last week when I sent sensitive information over email to a distribution group that still included the subject of the sensitive information.
Which leads me to my final nugget…
- Forgive yourself. You will make mistakes. As a matter of fact, you’ll make several – something about being “human.” Own it, learn from it, then forgive yourself and move on. I’m still having to remind myself of this tidbit, no one will be harder on you than you. Covering it, rationalizing it, dodging responsibility all lead to bigger problems. Humility is a lesson we all need occasionally, it’s good for the soul.
Saying that, I’d still double check that email first…
John Whitaker (“Whit”) is a SVP and Chief People Officer at Sage Dental and the founder of HRHardball.com (2008). He specializes in building and developing strong recruiting teams who are unafraid of “kicking the ant pile.” Like most Texans, he loves to tell a story (especially those that include an armadillo or a poker game) and cutting through the chaff…don’t take it personal.