Managing people is an incredibly important role – an importance that I worry some managers overlook. I talk quite a bit about All Of The Ways managers can be better, but here they are maybe summarized to three.
Or, at worst, here are three more.
1.) Let them take pride in their work.
If there is something they see as particularly important to their job, and if that something does not directly conflict with or challenge any other priority, then let them do it.
There is a special place in hell for the manager that strips his team of their own pride – deprives them even of their intrinsic motivation – let alone offer them extrinsic feedback.
Having worked alongside a few of these monsters (who are really only “managers” by title), I am convinced that they do it – however inadvertently – because they themselves have never put their hearts into a project – or it’s been so long since they have that they’ve long forgotten what that looked like. At best, they do it because they’ve prioritized their own interests above the team’s. But still, it takes a real oversight or ignorance of workmanship pride to withhold it from others.
In practice, it looks a little like asking them to cut corners they’re not comfortable cutting, shipping something before letting them know, rejecting a heartfelt request or recommendation on insufficient basis, or otherwise leaving them with their name signed to something they wanted done better – as much for your sake as theirs.
I’m not talking about permitting obsessive perfectionism – certainly draw reasonable lines in the sand. But if you are lucky enough to have great people, for god’s sake, let them have pride in doing a great job.
2.) Let them take the shot.
The film Jarhead is a 2005 drama based on U.S. Marine snipper Anthony Swofford’s 2003 memoir about his pre-Desert Storm experiences in Saudi Arabia and his experiences fighting in Kuwait. The climax (spoiler alert!) features Swofford and his partner – his spotter – setting up for their first snipper shot after months of grueling training, only to be interrupted and called off at the very last moment – to make way for an air raid.
The two beg to follow through on their task, pleading “We have permission to take the shot… Requesting permission to take the shot, sir.” Their pleas are denied and instead, they watch as their target – and the whole surrounding area – is bombed. At which point Swoffor’s spotter pretty much falls apart and has a complete breakdown.
Because “the sniper dies for that one. perfect. shot.” And if, when the time comes to take it, he’s denied, he still dies a little anyway. But in a different way.
Good managers respect their team – and their work – enough to let them finish the job. Especially if team members have given everything – even more than what was asked of them – to get there. Good managers have a sufficient, basic comprehension of human beings and individual psychology. (And it really does not take much.)
Because I mean, really. Even Kanye understands the value of letting someone finish.
You wanna be worse than Kanye? No. You don’t. So let a bro finish the job.
3.) Let them off the hook.
Good people are a rarity. And good people, if you’re lucky enough to work with them, should be protected.
Everyone has the right to feel ownership over a product, and when it comes to celebrating success, it’s everyone’s. When it comes time to take bullet, though, that’s solely on the manager. Managers should be front of the line in taking the blame, for so many obvious reasons, and any manager who throws their team under the bus should be diplomatically but swiftly relieved of their duties.
And that’s it.
I believe that a good manager either loves the product or loves his people. (The very rare great ones love both.)
I still think loving either one will still satisfy both of these rules.