Excerpt from Part 1.
One of the most rewarding parts of my job (as Co-CEO of TransPerfect) 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.
Given the heartfelt feedback I have received over the years, I thought I would take a 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 Part 2.
In Part 1, we discussed the most important aspect of being a successful manager: Taking a personal and vested interest in your team member’s success. You cannot fake this; and it must come across daily in both your words and your deeds. We are all human and, like in life, we will all make mistakes when it comes to management. There is no silver bullet, but taking this concept to heart, and adopting this philosophy will get you give the best shot at moving past any challenges and achieving greater and greater success in your career as a manager.
What’s The Only Thing That Makes People Mad in Life?
I love asking this question during managerial training sessions. I get a great range of answers. Perhaps before you read a few lines down, you can stop and think about the last time you were really mad about something yourself. Whether it was a significant other, a friend, a family member, a co-worker, someone you manage, or a boss…
You can probably boil it down to this:
A Mismanagement of Expectations
One illustrative example I use in training is that I tell the story how in my off time, I sometimes like to gamble. Whether I’m in Vegas, the Caribbean, or a major European city, I actually find playing table games in a casino a relaxing pastime.
So let’s imagine I’m playing in Las Vegas and I happen to lose money—and only later I find out that the casino was actually rigged. I’d probably be hopping mad. Why? Because I expected a fair game. I wouldn’t mind losing—I know you take your chances when you gamble—but I expected a fair shake.
Conversely, if on the way into the casino, there were bright, flashing neon signs everywhere saying: “Warning, this casino cheats!” – “Most of our games are scams!” – “If you come in here, you will very likely lose!” How would I feel then? Probably not so bad. I knew they cheated, and I played anyway.
Of course, this is a dramatic and unrealistic example, but it makes a critical point for managers to understand: always do exactly what you say you are going to do in management.
And above all:
Don’t Write Any Checks Your Career Can’t Cash
As a manager, I don’t care whether you are talking about promotion, a raise, a bonus for a project that required working crazy hours, telling someone they can attend a tradeshow, or having a Friday pizza party. Do not ever promise anything that you may not be able to deliver. And, constantly work to manage expectations and stay on the same page as your team.
So, how do you bring this commonsense comment out of the theoretical, and apply to the real world of being a successful manager in business?
Have a Mutually-Agreed on Plan for Success
If I worked at your company and was auditing it, I should be able to walk the floor and ask each person who works for you what the next step in their career is, and what they need to do to achieve it. And I should be able get decent and, hopefully, even specific answers.
“If I accomplish X, Y, and Z, over the next 6 months, I will get promoted in the next raise cycle and, based on my goals and growth, receive additional direct reports to help grow the business and my career alike,” would be great answer to get. If your people wouldn’t be able to answer this with some specifics, it’s probably time to sit down and have a discussion that defines goals, time frames, and rewards with as much specificity as possible. People should “begin with the end in mind” and it’s your job as a manager to help them connect the dots. (Also, if you work for someone and you don’t have this, don’t stew about it, there’s no rule that says you can’t help your boss be better manager. Have a meeting, and ask for goals.)
People Are Different, Manage Them With That Reality in Mind
Since we’re on the casino theme, I’ll stay with it. As a young entrepreneur years ago, I once found myself playing blackjack between Pete Rose and Brett Farve—long after the Rose controversy—and he and I were talking management and how to get the best achievement out of your team. He said an interesting thing to me about motivating people to help them achieve the best performance possible. He paused in his tobacco chewing, and said, “Phil, at the end of the day, there’s only three things you can do to a baseball player: You can kick him in the ass; you can pat him on the back; or you can leave him alone. The real trick is, knowing which to do.”
This comment stuck with me as I crafted my career and built TransPerfect in the early days. Many people want to manage everyone “the same” – because they think is innately a “fair” concept. But the truth is, people are not the same, they are not motivated by the same things, and while managing them “the same” sounds like a nice utopian answer—it will not produce optimum results.
As a manager you need to understand your individual team members’ definition of success, and craft career paths that make their success intersect with driving success for the company.
One Definition of Success for People: Progression.
The people you manage are not robots. If they were, robots would have replaced them already. You need to know what makes them tick. You should understand what success or progression is from their perspective. They could include:
- increased financial rewards
- managerial growth and greater responsibility
- access to more training to develop knowledge and skills
- intangibles (a title change, the corner office, etc.)
Once you know this, you need to support them by designing a career path that helps them achieve their goals, and makes these goals intertwined with results that drive the organization’s success.
Don’t be afraid to adjust your style to the individual. You can then coach them appropriately, and help them develop the underlying business fundamentals to make good business decisions. But please remember the old saying: If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. So get a plan down for mutual success for each person on your team—put it in writing and share it so there’s no mismanagement of expectations. Don’t write any checks you can’t cash—if your team hits the goals you’ve agreed on, make sure you live up to your end of the bargain.