One of the most rewarding parts of my job is to coach the art of effective management. Often employees are promoted to be a manager because they've been good in their previous position. In other words, the skills that allowed someone to succeed--to get promoted and to assume a leadership role--are not typically the same set of skills they will need to succeed in management. This presents an interesting challenge for companies because their first-time managers--whose continued success is the lifeblood of the company's future--are often not prepared for the new role they are assuming.
Therefore, coaching management, beyond being fun and rewarding, is absolutely essential to creating a corporate environment that achieves sustained, profitable growth. From two to 4,000 employees, I have led the day-to-day operations at TransPerfect, and the company has been fortunate enough to maintain sustained, profitable growth for 24 straight years.
One of the first things you want to do as manager is establish your culture as a meritocracy. As the old saying goes: in order to manage it, you need to measure it. Measurement may appear obvious in sales-oriented roles, but it is important to make a system of measurement that defines success in each and every role and functional area of the company.
My experience at TransPerfect has also made me understand how incredibly valuable embracing a player-coach management model can be to the business. It is particularly effective because leaders must "walk the walk" before they "talk the talk" so to speak.
For example, in sales, virtually all of our managers are also quota-carrying business development professionals, that are not only responsible for their team's individual and collective numbers, but also their own. They often started in sales from scratch, with no existing customers, were given specific and measurable revenue targets, met them, and achieved a leadership role by demonstrating their own ability to be successful.
This exemplifies the meritocracy concept, and gives our managers a better chance at success because when they lead, they are automatically leading by example. But again, it's not enough. They must also learn basic management techniques and apply them to their own style, their own market, and, as a global company, their own culture, in order to be successful.
Intraprenuership is a word coined by one of my NYU professors that gets used a lot at TransPerfect. Senior managers strive to create a scalable platform by which managers at all levels are empowered to "build their own business" within the firm. Choosing the correct people, giving them the resources and processes they need to succeed through investing in training and development, and then empowering them to build their own business within the firm, is a winning formula that TransPerfect strives to execute on daily. We recently hosted our annual sales conferences in Miami and Barcelona, and in each, we brought together over 250 team members from around the world to share their experiences with colleagues, learn from veteran professionals in our organization, and chart our individual and team goals.
In nearly every one of these meetings since the company's inception, I've delivered a presentation that has come to be known simply as "Management 101" or just "101" for short. The principles often appear to be commonsense, but I can't tell you how many hundreds of people have come to thank me years later, and let me know how much this talk affected their career. It's inspiring and humbling for me, regardless of how big TransPerfect gets, to continue to play a role in the career development of the next generation of company leaders.
The initial inspiration for this session was a discussion of the Peter Principle. The basic premise (in very simplistic terms) that Laurence J. Peter formulated was that when candidates are selected for a position based on their performance in their current role, rather than on their abilities relevant to the intended role, eventually that employee will be promoted to a job in which they cannot perform effectively and will have risen "to the level of their incompetence." Management 101 challenges young managers to fight the ever-present Peter Principle by stressing the need for continued learning, continued adapting to change, and continued investment not only in yourself, but also in those you manage. At TransPerfect, senior managers are often judged by how many people they've supervised who have gone on to do incredible things within the organization.
Given the heartfelt feedback I have received over the years, I thought I would take page out of my own playbook, and challenge myself to "give back" by sharing some of the key points of Management 101 that have helped TransPerfect to develop what I truly believe is the greatest managerial team on the planet. Here's Slide 1.
1. The Most Important Characteristic of Management
There are many definitions of management out there. My favorite is "Management is helping someone achieve more than they otherwise would on their own." The more people you can help, and the higher the achievement they attain, the better you are doing.
What is the most important quality of a great manager? You can probably name 10 to 20 right off the top of your head. Leads by example, listens, commands respect, ethical, gives feedback often, etc.
These are all important qualities, and we could name many more all day. However, in my experience, there's one that--if you master it truly--will get you past a thousand mistakes.
My most important quality in a manager is:
You must take a personal and vested interest in the success of your people.
A few key points about this:
- You must communicate this to your team members, directly and indirectly, on- and off- hours, in and out of the office.
- It needs to come across not only in your words, but also in your deeds. Action speaks louder than words.
- This is not something you can fake. If you are only in it for yourself, they will know.
In the business world, there are few greater and more meaningful responsibilities than managing other people. You truly hold someone else's career in your hands and this responsibility should not be taken lightly. You are charged with overseeing their future, for better or for worse. People don't quit a company, they quit a boss. To an employee on your team, you are the company. Their experiences and interaction with you will largely define success or failure in their job.