Hello, and welcome back to this next TomCast from GuardSight; we are a tactical cybersecurity-as-a-service organization dedicated to helping businesses protect their data, their assets, and their endpoints.
Today we are going to discuss a topic that continues to gain importance in the workforce, and that topic is effective management. Why a TomCast on effective management? Well, the shift in the types of workforces out there has provided challenges and hurdles and conventional management styles have had to change as a result.
So what makes me qualified to speak on effective management? I have no specific certifications or qualifications in management, only experience and what I have seen in the industry at large. So, as my disclaimer here, what I am going to talk about has worked for me and my teams as well as several I know of, but there is no one-size-fits-all management technique. Why? No two people are alike, learning styles differ greatly, work styles differ greatly, so people cannot be managed all the same way.
Oh, also, to clarify, this is about managing people. Not a specific task like time or schedules, but how one can more effectively manage people that report to them. I have to give a shout out to a gentleman named Mark Horstman; the author of a book called “The Effective Manager”. I highly encourage any manager out there to read that book. Much of what I say here has been derived from lessons learned out of that book and my own personal experiences.
Ok, so on to the discussion. How many of you out there were promoted to a managerial position and were then left to figure it out on your own? By ‘It’ I mean managing. Many people out there start in various industries as worker bees; they go to work each and every day, accomplish their tasks assigned and strive to do the best they can. Eventually their work is noticed and promotions into management occur. What part of their work has trained them how to manage other people?
This occurs more often than not (again, in my own experience). New managers are simply expected to manage their teams from day one, and with the fast pace of business not a lot of time gets put into training managers how to manage effectively. Here is a personal example. I was put into a position of management and had a team under 5 people to manage. I looked at it this way; we’re adults, we know what we’re supposed to accomplish, so I will get involved if the tasks don’t get completed. Otherwise, I’ll remain hands-off, as micro-managing is not something I enjoyed as a worker, so I didn’t want to become someone that did that either.
Any issues with that approach? Unfortunately, there are many. I was blessed to have a team of professionals that did not have a tendency to complain, so I figured everything was going well. The problem with the hands-off approach is that no rapport was built with the team, no trust. There was very little camaraderie. Think of a sports team. What would happen if the coach communicated rarely with the players? Would the players work hard for their coach? If there was no rapport there, how good could the team actually perform?
What I was taught later on was that regular communication was essential. That regular communication was with each team member individually, not just all together. After reading The Effective Manager and employing the ideas laid out within, I saw major positive change within the team in a relatively short period of time. Employees need to know they are heard; they need to know they have a leader or a coach that has their backs in tough situations.
So, this communication, how often should it occur? In my opinion, as often as your schedule can allow. Ideally, without taking experience or skill into account, a person can manage a team of 6-8 people effectively. Again, if there is experience and skill involved, that number can go up, but not exponentially. Setting regular meetings at a minimum of every two weeks (every week is preferable) with each team member works at building that trust and rapport.
One-on-one meetings are best when in person, but again, the workforce has had a huge shift over the past couple of years and many employees are located in remote areas. So, use the collaboration tools at your disposal. Zoom, Teams, Google, WebEx, GoTo meeting, there are a ton of tools out there. Have cameras on for both the employee and the manager; seeing those emotional and physical responses during the conversation helps continue to develop ones’ soft skills and communication abilities.
Now, why so often? What in the world can be discussed when meeting with someone that often? Isn’t that a form of micro-management? These were questions I had when I was first trained how to manage. First, this isn’t micro-management as the one-on-one meetings are not intended to constantly check up on task status or mission objectives. One-on-one meetings are designed for the employee to talk about whatever is on their mind to you, their manager.
When I say whatever is on their mind, I mean just that. It can be work related, personal, an update on the latest movies they are interested in seeing, how their family is coming along, the challenges they may be experiencing with their current workload, anything. Your job as the manager during these one-on-ones is to LISTEN. Take notes. Keep a log of your conversations Why? This shows that you are, indeed, listening and that you have an interest in your employees lives.
As you build that rapport with your employees you will start learning more and more about them as people as well as their individual work styles. The Effective Manager also lays out timelines as far as when it is appropriate to start giving feedback, both positive and negative. Why is this important? Again, think of the trust and rapport you are building with your employees. You wouldn’t want to give negative feedback, for example, when trust has not been built yet. This could cause employees to shut down and stop communicating or sharing information.
Oh, and there are ways to give negative feedback that help to positively course correct an employees’ actions. Negative doesn’t have to mean critical or adversarial. The why doesn’t matter in these situations, simply identifying what happened and how to correct it moving forward is key. Feedback should take less than 5 minutes ideally regardless of type (positive or negative).
A manager has two specific responsibilities. The first is to achieve results. The second is to retain their people. Those two responsibilities don’t sound overly difficult, but I can tell you that accomplishing those two things is much harder when the team doesn’t trust you as a manager. Lead by example, don’t become a boss that leads through “do as I say, not as I do”. Regular communication with the team makes achieving those goals much easier.
Also, true leaders lift up their teams and recognize their accomplishments, then act as a shield for them when adversity strikes. Don’t take credit for what the team has accomplished. Maximize individual strengths and minimize weaknesses. We all have our areas that we are stronger in and weaker in. Effective managers do not place focus on the weaker areas, but emphasize ways to maximize the strengths of employees.
A slight caveat to that is that an employee may have a major strength that they prefer not to use. For example, say you have an employee who is simply gifted at coding. They don’t particularly enjoy it, however. Don’t continue to push coding tasks or responsibilities that involve coding to the employee that doesn’t like to do those things. Granted, sometimes the task simply has to get accomplished and if the only task to be done is coding and the only employee available to do it is the one that doesn’t like doing it, well, that happens. Don’t make it commonplace, however.
We have all been in positions in which we have thought that leadership was disconnected from the main workforce. Effective managers have the ability to change that mindset. They also have the ability to change the company for the better from the ground up. Middle management can be difficult; you want to do the best for your employees, but upper management has a different perspective or direction that prevents you from taking action. Regular communication with both sides (upper management needs to be effective as well, they are managers after all) will minimize these occurrences.
Lastly, as the rapport and trust continues to build with your employees, continue to do whatever you can to recognize their accomplishments and help them progress both professionally and personally. Ask questions about what THEY want to accomplish in their careers. Oftentimes those answers will change over time and that’s ok. Help them achieve their goals as they help you achieve yours. If an employee is deserving of a promotion, put them in for a promotion. Yes, you could possibly lose them as an employee if the promotion makes them a manager or takes them somewhere else, but that’s part of the job. Lift them up!
We here at GuardSight thank you for taking the time to listen to this TomCast. For more information on various cybersecurity tips head on over to our website and check out more TomCasts. Those are located over on www.guardsight.com/tomcast. Or, if you would like more information on what GuardSight can do for you, head on over to www.guardsight.com and contact us. There are several free cybersecurity tools out there that can help you improve your overall security posture. We’d love to hear from you! Thanks!