Managing your group for success

This is going to be a fairly short little post, but after a couple discussions recently with some other people, it is still amazing to me how many managers don’t know how to manage a team properly.  The experiences I have been hearing about all resonated with me based on my own past.

First off, let me say that as professionals in our fields, we all recognize the times where it is crunch time.. go time.. the time to put your head down, focus on your work to completion.. no matter what it takes.  Those are the make or break opportunities in our own fields, the ones that get us the big deals.. the ones that impress big clients.. the ones that meet a critical deadline.  As a manager, you hope to have team members who recognize these times and do the right thing without you having to ask.  That is what helps create a great team.. and one that truly will gel over time with these experiences.  Now.. as a manager, don’t confuse this with always expecting your team to work long hours, weekends and holidays.. on a regular basis.  If your team is ALWAYS overworked, working long hours, weekends or constantly taking on random tasks…there is a systemic problem in your organization.  You will succeed in the short term with some wins.. but fail in the long-term.  You will fail to deliver long-term sustainable results.  You will fail to retain quality employees.  You will fail to recruit new good candidates as word spreads.  You, as a manager.. will have failed.  You failed yourself, your team and your company.

As a manager you also need to manage the tasks coming in to your team appropriately.  Being the manager that never says no to upper management does not make you successful.  If it is putting your teams ability to succeed at risk, you are failing.  There are two areas I see this happen.  The first is in sheer volume.  (see first rant above)  If you are taking on more work than your team can handle, and expecting them to “suck it up”, you will fail.  The second way this occurs is with managers who don’t know what the capabilities of their team really are.  Some managers take on ANY task and expect good people to just make it work.

If you truly give someone a task that is out of their skill set, hoping they will grow with the task, you may have just set them up to fail.  If you can provide proper education, training or assistance, it could be for the better.  If you don’t enable their success, you just asked them to fail.  The problem is, many managers will have good people who they just expect to succeed.  Nobody can do EVERYTHING well.  There are limits.  Take a solid project manager and try to make them do customer account management across multiple large customers with big projects.  While at surface level.. it is someone tracking and delivering goods on a timeline.. they are two different disciplines.

Lastly, if you are hiring a manager for a group from outside the company into an organization, have a transition plan for the newly hired manager.  Please take the time to think about how this person will succeed or fail.  What is your plan to ramp up this individual on your products?  Do they come in as an individual contributor before taking on a management role?  How do you expect this to impact the team?  Was there someone on the team that may have felt they should have received a promotion and that management slot?  If so, have you talked to the team to let them know why you went the path you did?  Have you clearly laid out a career path for your employees that will help them meet their goals and not feel slighted by this new hire?  How do you plan on educating the rest of the organization on the new hire’s role in the organization.  Educate the current team on the reasons you hired the new person.. what is their background, skill set, etc.  By all means, if you can make them part of the interview loop.. do so.

Anyway.. just a quick little rant. I’ve had too many discussion with people lately who are bringing up similar stories.  Lucky for me these are really not part of my current organization.. but clearly I have had these things happen to me in the past through direct contact or close ties and the great stories that inevitably follow.

Work should and can be fun,  you just need to be set up to succeed.  If your manager is not helping to enable your success, you should be concerned.

One final tip for managers: You will go MUCH farther and do MUCH better by setting your team up to succeed with flying colors time and time again… vs. the manager that is trying to make him/her self look good to upper management.  Do the right thing for YOUR employees;  Their success will drive long-term sustainable wins for your customers, your company and your employees.   Your management team will surely recognize the solid team you have built and maintained. That is what will drive YOUR success.