Recently I’ve found myself thinking more and more about the things that are important to me as a leader and a manager. I decided to write these down and it’s been a really useful exercise; both in trying to summarise the things that are actually important to me as a manager, and why I think this way. I’d encourage other managers to try and do something similar!
These guiding principles are things that I know that if I do well and stick to, I’m probably doing a good job. If I start to see any of these things slip, I need to do some course correcting.
I keep myself to three simple, but important, rules as a manager.
The time I spend with the people I manage is important. 1:1s form a critical part of my relationship with my team, so I do my best to never move them unless it’s avoidable (i.e. illness/holidays), or the other person asks me to. 1:1s aren’t about me; the time is for the person I’m talking to to let me know how they’re feeling, how they’re getting on, and to talk about their development. I’ve had managers in the past who have constantly rearranged or failed to show up for our scheduled 1:1s, and it’s a surefire way for someone to lose respect and trust in you.
Respond to any pay, holiday and expenses requests or questions quickly. They’re understandably important to people, so deal with them as soon as you can. I make sure that I’m checking my inbox or messages at least once a day for these things.
There are few things more important than spending time with the people I’m at work to manage, so I make sure I’m available for them when they need me. This means that at times I need to deprioritise things, and make sure people know that they shouldn’t wait until a 1:1 to bring anything urgent up. I make sure that my calendar and my Slack status is up to date with the location I’m working from every day so people know how to contact me if they need anything (whether that’s virtually, or in person).
I’ll do what I commit to, and set clear expectations if I can’t. It sounds so simple, but actually doing what you say you will goes a long way. It took me a while to find a way of working that meant I tracked my actions well to make sure I don’t drop anything (see my previous post on managing my time), but simply following through on actions helps build trust, and people start to know they can rely on you when needed.
Trust is very important to me. I want the people I work with to trust me, and I want to be able to trust them, but I’m realistic enough to know that it takes time to build that relationship. 1:1s are critical to building and maintaining trust, hence why keeping to them makes up one of my three golden rules.
My role as a manager is to be an enabler; to support and coach people to reach their own conclusions, and trust that they’ll make the right decisions along the way. This in itself helps build mutual trust, and although it’s inevitable people will make bad decisions and make mistakes, they’ll be able to do so knowing that I’ve got their backs if anything does go wrong 💪
Yep, that old cliche. I believe feedback is the best and quickest way we can all learn and develop. It’s part of my job to give the people I work with feedback; and I want it in return. Yes it can be awkward, yes it can be uncomfortable, but when feedback is considered and thoughtful, it can be incredibly powerful.
I’m committed to being transparent. I want the people I manage to feel comfortable to ask me anything, and know that I’ll give them an honest answer. Sometimes I won’t be allowed to share something, but I’ll tell you straight up if that’s the case. My best managers have always (over)shared with me and I’ve performed better as a direct result; and this is where the trust thing comes in 🔒
I make mistakes like everyone else. This principle reminds me that it’s ok to get things wrong. By sharing my mistakes with the people I manage, I can help them learn from those mistakes and at the same time remember that we’re all only human. I find it inspiring when I see my managers and peers admit to something that they could have done better, and it’s great to see those lessons and stories making the whole team stronger.
Three golden rules, plus an emphasis on trust, transparency, feedback and owning your mistakes. There’s way more I would have liked to have written down, but this felt like a good enough summary for now. I’d love to hear some of the principles that are important to other managers and leaders reading this - please get in touch and let me know yours!