I’ve taken on the professional goal in 2016 of becoming a better “people manager.”
One of the activities in my plan is to interview peer-nominated “People Manager All-Stars.”
“Don’t ever think there’s a finish line.”
In every interview I’ve done, there’s a “money line,” where the interviewee shares the absolute core nugget. Rick did it off the bat.
It’s almost like the “Never Stop Marketing” version of people management.
Once you are leading a team or leading people, you are never done, he says.
“You need to make it part of your process. You can NEVER check it off the list.”
People change. Situations change. The world changes. So, as a result, there’s an evolving benchmark of what people expect from you. You will change in your own eyes. So you can never be complacent about being a good leader or a good people manager.
Rick, who’s spent a long time working in the CPG industry, said there are two things which are critical.
The first is (and yes, it’s obvious in both theory and reality, but sometimes difficult to remember in practice) is that “people are different.”
He offers that as you get to know someone, you will have opportunities to ask questions upon questions so that you understand them better. However, there will be a moment, a time in which you ask THE question which gets to their absolute Core (think City Slickers for those of you who remember it. YouTube for those who don’t).
You want to find the CORE that truly reveals who the person is. What makes them absolutely positively tick.
The sooner you find it (and we all have it), the better off you as a people manager are AND the better off the individual is…as you’ll be in a position to help him/her thrive.
Ideally, you want to look for this CORE issue during the interview process.
Push people on career inflection points. What happened? Why? What’s your biggest regret?
As Rick says, “what’s the one question I can ask this person to reveal who they are?"
Keep asking until you figure it out. By NOT probing, you are doing yourself a disservice and doing them a disservice.
No one wins when there’s a bad hire. (I’ve learned the hard way on this one).
And the second thing…VULNERABILITY.
Rick told a powerful story about a previous boss, a former army officer.
In Rick’s words:
“We had an energetic debate -- a bit out of character for both of us, as it was really intense, with raised voices and sharp words. Upon reflection that night, I felt I had “stepped over the line” -- after all, he was my boss. So, the next day I sought him out to apologize.
When I entered his office, he told me “I’ve been looking for you” and I thought I was in “trouble.”
But the fact was he was looking for me to apologize to me because he felt he may have “stepped over the line.” Which then led to us hugging it out.
Then the real kicker was, 16 years later when we were catching up on stuff, he remembered the episode as vividly as I had.”
So the experience was less about him or me being wrong. And more about each of us reflecting on what had happened and how that impacted the relationship. A bit rare, I think, for boss/subordinate, especially for an ex-Army officer.”
We saw in part 2 of this series…everyone has vulnerabilities. Show yours as a leader first. It’s actually a sign of strength.
- The journey is never over
- Figure out the CORE of each individual
- Show your vulnerability
Rick shared a best practice from one of his companies that I think makes a lot of sense and dovetails with my next goal (Clarity in Communication)—see chart below borrowed from the G2C2 framework.
He said that every memo begins with “THIS document serves THIS PURPOSE” as the opening line, so people can more easily understand the context of the memo/email.