There’s quite a bit of discourse regarding management. From Forbes and the Harvard Business Review to TED and the countless how-to books out there, various resources are advising us on how to become a better manager. While there are many experts providing great advice, I don’t actually look to a Forbes columnist to tell me how to deal with a management issue. In times of lacking inspiration, I tend to recall the great managers I’ve had in the past.
The best managers I had were also the best mentors. They had qualities that could not be easily summed up in a “top 10 list of successful management skills.” Below are some of my standout management moments and my best attempt at characterizing their intangible mentorship abilities.
At an analyst level, I was often at my desk completing regular and ad-hoc tasks, writing reports, editing documents, and completing other detailed work that tied me to my desk. My manager was the opposite – he was often running around, coordinating project components with stakeholders or attending meetings. To facilitate a more dynamic work experience for me, my manager gave me tasks that required me to leave my desk and collaborate with new people. In doing so, he inspired me to create more variety in my workplace life and extend myself to projects away from the desk.
Showcase their team
In working on a subproject, we needed direction from a key stakeholder. Although, my manager was clearly in a more authoritative position, he told me to set up and lead the meeting while he took a seat back. It was a great compliment showing that he trusted me to take the reigns on an initiative. However, his underlying goal was to promote my contributing presence on the team to the stakeholder and others. His management style followed the mantra of recognizing his team in front of the client and stepping in to support when needed.
Have your interests in mind
When I was deciding on whether or not to go back to school for my masters, feedback from my managers was very important. The prospect of leaving the team elicited a strong sense of guilt because my managers and coworkers were all very supportive and enabled me to succeed. When I told my upper manager that I was thinking of graduate school, she told me that she had faced a similar decision when she was my age – choosing between graduate school and getting married. She was very quick to tell me her personal story and the lessons she learned from it, imparting guidance as a mentor and less so as a project manager concerned with filling positions.
I like to remember these experiences because I hope to become a great manager/mentor someday. I think successful management is less about fulfilling a checklist of qualifications and more about how managers inspire the best in their team. There are various ways to approach this depending on the team dynamics. From my perspective as younger professional, I think great management comes hand-in-hand with great mentorship.
One of the takeaways from positive experiences with my managers was that the more they invested in me, the more I wanted to pay it forward to them and to the project. Supportive managers lead to a supportive culture of teamwork.
Do you have great management stories?
What’s a memorable management quality do you think is important?