What do they need?

First-time managers and experienced managers - “What's your role?” It’s to manage the people that work with you, for you, and to deliver your business objectives, KPIs and goals. As you step into your job, especially as a first-time manager, your ability and your competencies are, initially, more in line with you as a Rockstar individual contributor. We know that when you step into the job, you know you don’t know it all - you are very conscious of that fact!  You are at the point where you need direction on how to succeed.  You need that direction to come from your leader. As you are in the job longer you need less direction and more coaching.  And on it goes until you are the expert in your role and you can help others.

So too, as a new manager, you need to provide leadership to your team based on how each person is currently functioning in their role and what they need, to get better.  Are they new to the role and need more direction, at least until they “get it”?  Have they been in the role a while and they know it and perform it well?  Are they the expert in the role and can you lead them purely with objectives and let them figure out the “how”?  Are they the kind of person who can lead from within the team - helping others learn the role as well as they know it?  You need to be able to figure this out starting day one.  What do they need to be successful and how best to get it to them?

This is them in a role

The reason this is important is that by leading at the level of the person’s current capabilities in the job, you give them what they need to succeed or exceed goals and objectives.  In this way you help them learn in a non-threatening, considerate way. You coach them. You also understand that this is not the whole person.  You are seeing them in a “role”.  You make no assumptions as to their other capabilities. In this way you meet them where they are at the time and from that place where they need help.  Who knows, they may feel comfortable enough with you that they may surprise you by bringing more of themselves to the role and go above and beyond!

Figuring it out

My experience with this came when I built a new team inside a Digital Media Agency.  The team function did not exist previous to my arrival.  The team was new to the company and new to the roles they held. Inevitably there were some who had done similar roles for longer times. The team had a strong desire, to learn and produce more in order to be given more and bigger work!  We were on a mission.  For me, managing this team was a challenge as I learned how each person worked and what they needed - and who they could learn from best. From that level of understanding I found some needed direction from me.  Some were fully competent and wanted to just do what they were doing.  And others wanted to grow and stretch and help with the business. Everyone felt comfortable and supported and we were powerful - if I do say so myself!

Potential downside

That brings me to what happens when you don't support your team according to their needs to perform best in their roles - when you might miss their intention to their best job. When your style of management doesn’t fit what the person needs there is a large chance that you will become frustrated with them. “What is it they don’t understand”, you might hear yourself say. Your team members may become frustrated with you and stop asking for help as talking to you won’t be helpful. They won't be able to learn. And they, in turn, individually and as your team, won’t be able to perform at the level necessary to achieve the results for which you are accountable.

Getting it right

Getting in tune with and learning where your people are in their abilities to execute their jobs will show them that you care enough to be actively trying to understand what they need.  They will feel more engaged with you!  They may even think that you are a bit of an inspiration for them - someone leading the way for them to be successful.  This would be a great result for you.  You might even develop strong loyalty, engagement, performance and connection with your team for your efforts!  How rewarding would that be!?