I know I still have plenty to learn about managing people, but after close to four years in this job I've learned a lot. And I realized I've talked around this topic, but never wrote a whole post about it. Decided it was time... For those of you who intend to go into management, or who are new to it, here are some of the most important things I've learned about being a manager:
- You need to individualize how you work with people. Some people like more guidance on projects, and others will want to make a task their own. After a period of getting to know each other, and knowing how people work, it's best to let someone work to their strengths. We can't all be good at everything, so letting people shine is more effective and makes people happy to come to work.
- You need to trust the people who work for and with you. If you can't trust the people you've hired, why did you hire them in the first place? Don't get me wrong, "trust but verify" is an important part of my management style, but people who feel trusted will also be happy to come to work.
- Trust is a two way street. You've got to keep your promises and admit your mistakes. If you have to say "no" to a proposal, tell people why. On a rare occasion, when you're in a management position, you'll be constrained by those above you, but you can at least say that: "We can't do that right now, and I've been told not to explain this just yet. As soon as I can, though, I'll explain this."
- You need to check in regularly. Having meetings just to have meetings may sound like a waste of time, and it can be, but everyone who works for me gets a certain amount of guaranteed, individual time with me. Sometimes we have an agenda, sometimes we just chat. Part of it is that I have a glass office, and regular meetings will dispel any "oh, Jane's in the boss' office! What did they do wrong?" Another part of it is that sometimes people will have ideas that they want to share, but not in front of coworkers. Sure, we have monthly staff meetings as well, but one-on-one time, especially for people with whom I don't normally overlap on the schedule, is crucial.
- Be their umbrella and their foundation. A big part of my job is making it easier for my staff to do their jobs. When the circulation desk computer started to crap out, I was relentlessly cheerful and cheerfully relentless with IT. When the budget gets tight, I make sure to protect the things my staff needs. I require professional development and, when the opportunity comes up, happily give good references - even for current employees - when they apply for jobs that will make better use of their skills and knowledge. Strategic vision and guidance is what head cheese in charge library administrators are supposed to do, and helping the staff succeed is one crucial way to achieve that.
So how about you? For those of you in management positions, what other advice do you have? For those of you who are managed, what do you like to see?