In the last few years, I had the fortune to manage some of the best teams a new manager could ask for. To say thank you (and to break the ice with my writing challenge), here is a short list of the most meaningful things I learnt from them
Be authentic and open. No matter how junior of a manger you are, you have something to give to your time. If nothing else, your time, your trust and your attention. Make the effort to really listen to the whole team (managers and interns alike), help when you can, and guide them brainstorming solutions when you cannot. A manager of any level that really cares for his or her team will gain trust and therefore be able to really learn and make an impact. The best managers I have met all did this no matter their level (have seen senior manager applying this, as well as analysts suddenly in charge of managing interns).
Small gestures make a difference. One of the greatest way I have seen to make the team feel united and cared for, were the small things one of manager in my team used to do randomly but often. Funny messages, silly songs, five minutes coffee break to listen to who seemed to be having a bad day …
Give positive feedback frequently. Everyone loves knowing they have done a good job, especially after a big step or something they were nervous of doing. Check in before big presentation to cheerlead the newbies, send a quick message after a big meeting. It can light up a room. Be authentic and specific. A fake ‘good job’ is just that, fake. The ah! moment for me here was to see the impact of my own team cheering each other up. It made me realize that even our colleagues, stakeholders, and bosses love positive feedback, we don’t need to limit ourselves only to people we manage.
As a new manager, don’t be intimidated by employees that have a lot more knowledge and experience than yourself. Having a team that runs smoothly, having technical experts, or managing someone that is career wise 20 years your senior, is the best way to learn. Leverage what they know, bounce ideas with them, ask for their input as their equals. Being the manager doesn’t make you above them. It means learning from them how best your skills can help them being even greater at what they do. Also, great opportunity for reverse mentoring!
Share the praise equally between star performers and the quieter ‘heart and soul’ of the team. Chances are, that in any diverse team, there will be start performer and top talents that are clearly visible, and people that work more in the background, supporting the team and lifting everyone around them to their best, without being in the spotlight themselves. They both deserve recognition, visibility and kudos. No one is ever ‘clearly’ a star that they can do without their manager support, and the team itself wouldn’t exist without the people that glue it together. Check yourself for unconscious bias and value any contribution.