Lessons from the People Manager All-Star Team, Part 2

Jeremy Epstein Business, Leadership, Networking

I’ve embarked on a journey to become a much better people manager.

As part of that, I’m interviewing peer-recommended “best people managers”.  This is Part 2. If you missed Part 1, here it is.
REQUEST: If you know of someone who is a great developer of talent, I’d love the referral and the chance to interview him/her.

First off, let me recommend this podcast that Josh Duncan sent my way. It’s great. Be a Super Boss and also this article on Facebook’s favorite job interview question.

Now, on to the show.

In round 2, I had the chance to chat with Susie Sedlacek, (nominated by Shira Shimoni) and Evan Bernstein(doubly nominated by the husband/wife team of Adam& YaelFaleder)

So what did I learn this time about becoming a great people manager?

A few (new) themes emerged which I might narrow down as:

  1. Nobody’s Perfect
  2. Show your Human Side
  3. Over-invest in the Relationship

Nobody’s Perfect

Susie could not stress enough how important it is to hire right in the first place. However, you can’t always pick your entire team.  Regardless, you want to figure out what each person’s weakness and vulnerability is as soon as you can.

You don’t do this to expose them, you do this to protect them, the organization, and yourself.

“The sooner you find someone’s vulnerability, the sooner you can make sure it’s not exposed….everyone has one

,” she said.

To help identify it, Susie is very upfront about her own vulnerabilities and weaknesses.  That openness and honesty builds immense trust and loyalty.

People feel pressure to be perfect, both in interviews and as bosses. Once you get rid of that, you are getting to the “real” part faster and you’ll get results faster.

The converse is also true though.  Everyone has one thing that they can uniquely add. Your job as a coach is to find it and build on it, so that the weaknesses become irrelevant and you can push them to the background.

Evan echoed this sentiment, albeit in a slightly different way.  When something goes wrong, he says, he always “gives the benefit of the doubt and seeks to find out what is going on.” Always.
Show Your Human Side

Evan is an elementary school principal in Montgomery County, MD.  Not only does he have support staff and teaching staff, he has two other constituencies, the kids and their parents.

He makes sure he is visible to all of them, but not in a pro-forma way.  He’s outside every morning greeting as many of the 750 kids by name as he can. He has gotten on the PA system and done a rap about a school event and even had himself duct-taped to a wall.

His focus on the relationship is complete and total. Which brings us to the next point.
Over-invest in the Relationship

The “diamond” moment in my conversation with Evan came when he said, “to be a good manager, you need high expectations and collaboration, but you can’t get any of that without a relationship.”

So ANY investment you make in that is well worth it.

As Susie said, “every human being has something value, you need understand what motivates them, spend time w/people to get to know them. Try to understand the human being.

“And give people the benefit of the doubt. You never know what is going on in their lives, so taking that time before rushing to judgment will buy you understanding and loyalty.”  Something that Susie echoed as well.

When all is said and done, people want to be heard and understood.

Evan left me with 2 recommendations.

The first? Read Lincoln on Leadership.

The second? Ask these 3 questions of everyone on your team.

  1. tell me something you love about your job that you don’t want to change
  2. tell me something we can do better
  3. tell me something about yourself

Two more great interviews. Thanks to both of them for generously contributing their time and expertise.