An open letter to managers

Being a manager is hard. I’ve never held the title of manager in a corporate work environment, but I’ve had some good managers, and I’ve had some who, had great intentions, but were either looking for areas to improve or just flat out contributed to a toxic environment. Here’s my unsolicited advice to those managers looking to get better: 

Be open to feedback. Ask those you manage for feedback and mean it. Really try to make it a point to implement that feedback. 

It’s okay to say “I don’t know.” You don’t have to be the smartest person in the room, and don’t pretend to be. 

Your job is to listen. In meetings with your team and clients, listen. If you feel the temptation to talk, make the next thing you say be a question, not a comment. Otherwise, you’ll soon find yourself surrounded by people who have nothing to say.

Ask, what do you need for me? Not, here’s what we need from you. 

Ask, what can I help you with? Not, here’s your goal by the end of today. 

You don’t need to be included on every email. You don’t need to go to every meeting. You don’t have to know every detail. Trust people and let them prove you right.

When you coach, talk strategy, not numbers. We know our numbers. We know we need more volume. Let’s talk about prioritization, instead. Teach us how to organize the clutter and focus on what’s important. Teach us how to ask for help and what that looks like. Let us set our own goals around that discussion, then be a resource when we feel like we’re falling short. 

The best managers I’ve had are passively working rather than strutting around the office like they own the place. They’re doing all this work in the background, but you’d never know it. They’re like the duck swimming across a pond - calm on the surface but paddling like madness underneath. Again, easier said than done. It’s not for everyone, but it’s been those kinds of managers who have felt more like my mentors than a boss who I now consider to be some of the greatest leaders I’ve met.