What are you doing outside of work that makes you a better manager?

Today’s blog is a bit more personal than others, but I feel that for me to be an effective manager this message is an important part of my philosophies. I cannot be an effective manager unless I’m healthy and happy at work, if I show up sick or downtrodden the staff knows and responds accordingly. They could stop communicating or avoid contact with me, which is never productive from a management point of view.

This problem is amplified for a lot of technical teams as staying healthy often fall short to long hours of programing and computing fixes. For years, I have heard of the runners high while working out, but to be honest I’m not a runner, and the few times I have tried were not effective. Then, about 20 years ago my brother introduced me to mountain biking.

Between that introduction and a friend at work wanting me to get them into mountain biking, and offering to get me interested in road biking in exchange, I now put between 70-100 miles a week on a bike. I know biking is not for everyone, and I realize those numbers sound huge to people that do not ride. Furthermore, if you told me that I would be biking this much just 5 years ago I would have laughed it off as a dream.

But here is the truth about bike riding for me. On my ride days (3-4 a week, usually before work and weekends), I feel energized, happy and ready to tackle any problem at work. If I slack, and that happens, I quickly begin to feel the weight of work and life piling up on me. I finally found that riders high, and for me it lasts for a couple of days. And when I am performing at my best, my staff gets the best of me, which I should always be working towards to provide them. Here are some things you could be doing to get your mind straight and be better for the team that relies on you.

 

Forget you can’t, get that bike and ride it to work, or anywhere, once a week:

This is how I started. I never thought I could ride to my work. It’s steep and up a mountain, and it took me 3 weekend rides to find the path I should take. Just finding the path help build me up to that ride to work for the first time. Now I do it weekly as part of my regime.

 

Meditate:

My wife is an amazing body professional; massage therapist, chef, and person. I scoffed at this until she had to drag me to a class. I now close my door every other day for 10-15 minutes. If you think you can’t, you can. I guarantee you will get more done after clearing your mind.

 

Reward your staff with a fun day:

After a hard project, take your team leads to a great movie, or something goofy like miniature golf. Help clear their minds from the last test, and clear the path for the next project. It’s also great for team cohesion and trust. Take this week to show your team you care by making yourself, and them, better.

Trust And Verify

If your like me, you have a strong faith that your team is out there producing an experience or product that represents the values you have set forth for your organization. If not, read my earlier blogs regarding hiring good people and getting out of their way, but lets assume you have gotten this far. Now what?

It’s time to do another sometimes-difficult task. It’s time to find your defendable metrics that help you support your staff and verify something. Not that your employees are great, but that the values they are approaching their jobs with are in alignment with bettering your product. These can be two very different things.

Metrics help you understand the nuts and bolts, but no captain can simply look at the numbers from the bridge and understand how she is sailing, it requires a feeling or understanding that others may not have to get safely to harbor. Your team may be great, but if they are not showing it in the right ways to the end users you’re loosing the battle. You can rely on how many jobs are taken off of the board, but if you do the peril is loosing touch with metrics that give you a better understanding about how your staff is doing. Try a couple of these things:

 

Pick up the phone:

Call 20-30% of the end users that came off of the job board last month. Ask how it went, was there any follow up? Did you get exactly what you wanted, or just close? Did they feel the person was just there to clean up a job board posting, or genuinely cared about the job.

 

Better yet, get out of your own chair:

Your asking them to get out there, their will never be a better substitute for face-to-face interactions when getting good or bad news, so get out there yourself. You will get very different answers than on the phone than you will when you’re sharing a lunch or just a sit down with a coworker.

 

While you’re out there, attend that office party:

Stop complaining when at the office party you hear “Hey, can I ask you an I.T. question, it will only take a minute”. Listen to the questions and comments at the office parties; I have received some great ideas on bettering our product from these socials. Invite those questions, don’t avoid them.

 

Some of these things are hard for technical people to do, often they feel that they work better isolated or in small teams, but insist that your team follow up, and invite them to join you for the social events as they get to hear what your hearing. Do these things and I promise you will hear a better, unvarnished truth about your department.

This Independence Day, give your employees independence.

It’s the most common theme in my blogs; hire or make great employees, do everything you can to empower them, and then get out of their way. Managing effective, motived people never requires babysitting. Getting some managers to stop parenting employees is almost impossible, but critical for team cohesion and extended growth.

How do we empower employees to be effective and motivated?

 

Engage your employees to train others:

Have them train other employees throughout the organization. Perfect for technology transfer, perfect for showing what your department is working on, great for showing your employees how much you trust them with sharing what they know.

 

Also get them to train other I.T. people:

Communication between technology people can be difficult, don’t let it be. Encourage or even mandate cross training of your staffers whenever possible. It strengthens teams and inspires cooperation.

 

Distribute special projects to ensure success:

Know the strengths and weaknesses of your team; distribute projects to the people that can get them done. Doing so will lift the entire team with successes. Conversely, don’t overburden one team member with every project, it will drag them down and demoralize other members. Find and utilize every team member’s strengths.

 

Cut down on the meetings:

Short, effective meetings with your staff are better for all parties. They will feel like your wasting their time to have meetings that could have been handled impromptu. Getting out of their way means just that; get them out of all of those meetings.

 

Be and actual leader:

If you want them to follow you, make decisions. Be consistent. Be fair. Engage their ideas and give credit when due.

 

If you feel like your being a helicopter parent to some of your technical staff, you are. Stop doing it, empower them to be better and give them a nourishing path. Sometimes you will need to be a mentor, don’t be a parent, and ensure it is only done long enough to get them back to experiencing gratifying productivity.

Photo courtesy of IMCreator