Lessons from the People Manager All-Star Team

Jeremy Epstein Business, Leadership

Over the past few weeks, I’ve interviewed nearly 6 peer-nominated “all-star people managers” to help me reach my personal and professional developmental goals for 2016.

Since some have asked (and because writing it will make it stick), I’m going to share some of the themes that have emerged.

Hope you find this helpful.
It All Starts With Smart Hiring

Obvious, I know, but every single one of the interviewees talked about making sure you have a rigorous hiring process to screen for the right candidates.

It’s the proverbial “Get the right people on the bus.”

While there were some differences, the idea of a “Growth Mindset” as Carol Dweck advocates came up A LOT.

Lori said “Look for people who are confident, but not cocky. Ambitious with a passion for learning.”

Les said “Look for strong players who are self-motivated. The best people on teams want the feedback. They crave it.”

I’ve seen this myself…the cost of a bad hire is enormous and the difference between a “B” player and an “A” player is not a multiple, it’s an order of magnitude.

Les further stated that you want to find people who have a process that is repeatable, as that is an indication that they really understand their craft.

Even better (as Jim advocated)…involve the whole team in the hiring process, as that will pay dividends down the road, because the team will hold each other accountable, saving you (the coach) from having to do so.
Understand Their Goals and Ambitions

The best way to motivate people is to remember what it was like to be in their shoes, as Jim said. In fact, that came up a lot. Put yourself in their position.

They may not care about your ambitions and goals, but if you understand theirs, you’re in a much better place to help them achieve it…and tap into their intrinsic motivation so they can achieve both team and personal goals.
Remember the Person…Always

Every one of the interviews stressed the importance of knowing the whole person.

“If someone is having a personal challenge, you need to know about it,” said one of them. “Otherwise, you can’t give them the flexibility they need when they need it. And, if you can do that…it will come back 10-fold when you really need them.”

Jeff boiled it down beautifully into his own version of the “4 Questions:”

·       Who do you care about?

·       What do you care about?

·       What do you have to work with?

·       What battle can you not afford to lose?

 

He then went on to challenge me (and all managers) with the following:

•   People want to be recognized for who they are…are you doing that?

•   People want to belong to a community…do you make them feel that way?

•   People ask themselves: do I like myself better when I am around you? Are you leaving them with that feeling?
Candid Feedback…But It Comes In Different Ways

So this one was really interesting for me, probably because it helped extend my toolkit most.

Every one of my interviewees said that you need to give direct feedback often.

Lori nailed it, I thought, when she said, “practice transparency with diplomacy. Make feedback a regular event, not a quarterly or an annual event

In fact, in every conversation, you have the opportunity to give it.

[For a great article on this (and really an overall management style that makes a lot of sense to me, see: Radical Candor.]

What was really helpful was the advice on how to coach people who may have a more difficult time taking the feedback right off the bat.

Two of the interviewees recommended that you engage by asking questions along the lines of “how do you think you are doing?” instead of just beginning the feedback (which works for some people).

Even better…creating a blank report card that you and your direct report fill out separately and then reviewing it together to look for areas of discrepancy.  That provides the grist for the conversation.

For those who don’t mind or “crave it,” just jump right in, but this approach prevents a “one size fits all” angle to feedback and ultimately serves the employee better.
Get Rid of Weak Performers….FAST

When you keep weak performers, you are doing even more damage than you realize.

  1. You are hurting the company. Obviously.
  2. You are hurting that employee, but not giving them an opportunity to achieve fulfillment in their jobs.
  3. You are sending the message that sub-par performance is acceptable.
  4. You are cheating your “A” players of valuable time to make them even stronger…because you are spending too much of your time with (or compensating for) the weak performers.

Promote and Celebrate

Finally, it’s not about you.

In fact, you should go above and beyond to get your people the right visibility…even if it means leaving your team.  In fact, according to Lori, “sometimes you make trade-offs that favor the person at the cost of the organization.

A corollary to this is “remove obstacles for your team.” The more you do this, the more they will be in a successful position where you can celebrate them.

It’s a different mindset from being an individual contributor… your put others first, whenever you can.

As Jim said, ““when the team is winning, you’re in back. When team is losing, you’re in front.”

 

Meet The All-Star People Manager Team

·       Lori Deo (nominated by Adam Schorr, Dawn Kidd)

·       Jim Macchitelli (nominated by Adam Evers)

·       Jeffrey Lang (nominated by Karin Schwartz)

·       Les Russell (nominated by Eric Marterella)

·       Kristen Kavalier (nominated by Sprinklrites)

·       Dan Swift (nominated by Sprinklrites)