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The Management Code: 4-Steps To Better Management

Being a great manager requires you to be externally focused on the humans on your team.

I tend to be very internally focused and hyper-fixated on my work. #AuDHD

Therefore, I know I’m not a great manager. While I can lead with the best of them, inspire my team, and create a clear vision for the future, management has always been a challenge for me, personally.

That said, despite not being able to be an effective manager, I understand, very well, how management works. I coach managers and my entire book was written to help new managers ease into the role of leader by explaining the human aspect of their role.

Today, I want to help simplify the art of management.

Here’s the simple guide to management in 4 simple — but not simplistic or necessarily easy — steps.

Step 1: Start with the people

You cannot manage people you do not understand. If you do not understand each person’s strengths, weaknesses, ambitions, career goals, triggers, and rocket fuel, you will never achieve your full potential as a manager. You will constantly fall into the trap of assuming everyone is like you.

Great managers see each person as an individual and cater their approach and the responsibilities assigned to have the greatest chance of success. When you know what people are out to accomplish, you can more easily see when what you need aligns with what they want.

This doesn’t have to happen all at once but it does need to be at the forefront of your mind for any person you wish to manage.

Step 2: Set Clear Expectations

This one can seem so obvious but more often than not, expectations are vague at best, and unspoken at worst. For fear of being confrontational, many managers avoid saying what it is that they actually expect. Once they walk away, everyone feels more uncertain.

As a manager, you need to bring certainty and clarity to the role.

Tell people what (reasonable) outcomes you expect. It should be something specific and measureable. If possible, it should be measured in a binary yes or no outcome e.g. “did this get done?”

Make sure to document these expectations for both accountability, but also so that people have a clear set of tasks or responsibilities to check themselves against.

If you can, try to play to people’s strengths, when you assign responsibilities. People generally prefer succeeding or doing work that comes easily to them, as opposed to being setup to struggle.

Step 3: Trust

This one is so tough for managers but…just let go of the reigns.

Trust that if you’ve done the first two steps correctly, that you can give people the autonomy to thrive without being nagged or questioned constantly.

Give people the ability to surprise you, but also the safety to fail.

In some cases, you’ll trust someone to do something, and they will fail. You might be quick to judge them, correct them, or call them out. You could do that, just know that it probably won’t help that person grow or improve. It’ll just make them more reluctant to fail in the future, or take risks, or might even cause them to hide from accountability.

Instead, take the opportunity to be curious, get to know them better,m understand where the breakdown occurred. By taking a coaching approach, you can ensure that you future results are always better than your present results.

Here’s a better way…

Step 4: Support Individually

Each individual is different with how often they need an accountability check-in, or coaching, or some time to brainstorm or vent. Yet, managers are often trying to standardize everything they do, including how they manage people. That’s why it doesn’t work for so many managers.

A better approach comes from following the step above.

If you understand each person, set clear expectations, and then trust them, you’ll be ready to ask them what type of support they want, rather than assuming you already know. This allows you to set check-ins at agreed upon intervals to listen, ask questions, coach, or provide any other support required and invited. When you allow it to be on their terms, you further confirm your trust in them.

Knowing someone’s strengths and weaknesses, triggers and rocket fuel, means you can adjust your management style to align with their natural patterns.

You might have someone like me, with ADHD, who invites what might feel like micromanagement to someone else. But I have a limited working memory, so I forget things all the time. I love getting a check-in from my business partner because most of the time, I’d completely forgotten about it.

By contrast, other team members may need a lot of autonomy, or they may want high-touch coaching, or something else.

The Management Code

Isn’t it weird that we go to a job and there’s someone else there who is just paid to tell us what to do? That’s what a lot of management feels like. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

A manager is a vitally important role. These are the folx who keep things moving in the right direction, and who can help team members get the resources and support they need. A great manager often gets out of the way more often than they get involved. A great manager cares more than they command. In the end, it’s simple:

  1. Get to know your team
  2. Set clear expectations
  3. Trust the team
  4. Provide support according to each individual’s needs

This is the management code.

Write it down. Memorize it. Apply it.

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