“Trust needs to be won” quipped one of my US counterpart while we were commuting to the office in Bangalore.
The usual question that senior leadership asks is what the challenges that Managers face are. Managers from both the parts of the world seem to have standard answer that they swear when this question is asked. I have observed that Managers in countries who are transitioning the knowledge feel that the people in other country are not quick learners and their team members spend lot of time in transitioning the knowledge.
Interestingly, Managers in countries who are getting the knowledge transitioned feel that the counterparts of their team members do not share enough and critical information to get them up to speed.
The above “trust” factor that I talked about, starts impacting right from the day the transition is initiated. It is very important to make every effort to WIN the trust right from the beginning and to inculcate the same in the teams too. The rest of the blog talks on the similar lines; however, I intend to cover how a senior or seasoned manager needs to perform differently than a new manager.
Well, a senior manager usually has other few managers reporting into him apart from Team/Tech lead(s). Hence, it becomes very important to not just groom individual contributors but other managers as well.
He is typically involved in making larger decisions than that of a regular or a junior manager. His has more involvement with senior leadership like a director or a VP. He is expected to collaborate with other departments/groups from a strategic planning perspective. Also, he has better insights with Finance, Marketing, Facilities, HR and other support functions.
Typically, over the years of management experience, I would expect a senior manager to demonstrate a high level of maturity, ability to take right decisions (most of the times), remain calm and listen (not hear) patiently to different parties especially in the fire-fighting situations/customer escalations, act very diligently and work closely with the team constantly motivating and charging them. Of course, he needs to play a lot of HR role most of the times. The higher the person grows in the management hierarchy, the better he should get connected with the people and understand technology to an extent such that he can take sensible decisions. Off late, I have noticed that most of the good leaders have realized that people management alone is not sufficient. They need to keep themselves updated on the technology to some extent as well, especially in latest developments of IT. I firmly believe that a senior manager needs to be obsessed of creating a world class team/department/group and he needs to ensure that his passion is trickled down the team by constantly demonstrating it.
Let me attempt to put highlights that I think are necessary for senior managers to ensure that they don’t lose the sight of deliverables when it comes to nitty-gritty details –
Connect more with senior leadership to get insights of visible pointers
A senior manager should constantly strive to understand the overall picture at the org or company level by syncing up with senior leadership. He must be aware of the strategic and tactical planning. For instance, if you are working in service oriented orgs, you must know the strategies being leveraged while servicing the customers, sync up with account managers to understand the customer domain, pain points, requirements and road map. Where as while working for Product orgs, a senior manager must sync up with Product Mgmt, Support, Technical Marketing and heads of other departments to understand the integration points with his/her product with theirs. Also, in a Product Mgmt, one needs to be aware of what values drive the introduction of features in a release and if there is a buy-in from appropriate managers.
Mentor your direct reports (who are managing/leading the team members)
This, I am sure is a no-brainer regardless of whether you are new manager refer my blog Thoughts for New Managers or senior managers. However, it becomes almost imperative to mentor and develop your direct reports (who usually, are managers or leads) appropriately since they are the first line managers and have more interaction with their team members more often than a senior manager does. Since some of your direct reports would be managing teams for the first time or might be less experienced in certain scenarios, it becomes your responsibility to mentor them to manage such situations effectively. It is slightly different from how one would mentor an individual contributor v/s a manager. One must understand that the manager may have his/her own style of execution and you need to mentor him accordingly.
Schedule skip level meetings
Often people who report to your direct reports (managers) feel motivated when their boss’s manager talks to them and share vision which is sometimes, broader than what they would’ve heard from their direct managers. In some instances where they are not comfortable sharing their problems/issues (fearing the impact on their appraisals); are also shared when you make them feel comfortable. I find skip level meetings or corridor discussions with my team members very valuable. Many a times, I get more and quick info/updates in the corridor talks than in formal meetings. It also helps me save lot of wasted time in meetings.
Network with heads of other departments/groups/teams and support functions to constantly look out for delivering collaboratively
How many times do you actually walk out of your office and visit offices of other managers or subordinates of other managers? If you have already established relationship with other department heads or support function managers, it becomes easy when you run into a problem, especially where the expertise of resolving it lies within other group. Try out requesting help from an unknown person from other team v/s the one where you have at least a “hello” type of relationship.
Play an important role in budgets and expenses
A senior manager has to lead by example in spending the budgets cautiously. He needs to take hard but credible decisions in leveraging the budgets for the right expenses. He needs to sync up with financial accountants to understand the budget changes and the guidelines to use the budgets effectively. He also needs to be aware of organization processes, especially where it involves procurement and purchases of things within different states/countries.
Ensure that right mix of talent is getting imbibed in the team
Managers can usually guide the team members; however, the actual work is done by the team members. Hence, it is very important to ensure that you play an important role in recruitment as well. Indeed, it does not mean that your direct reports do not play a role in hiring their teams. However, it is critical to understand and sometimes, even mentor your direct reports to evaluate other qualities required for the job. One needs to ensure that the fresh talent that they get into their team/org should be able to demonstrate the DNA of the org with little efforts if not seamlessly.
I intend to elaborate a little more on talent. I think that a senior Manager MUST know the importance of the best talent. Recruiting the best talent never ends. Irrespective of whether you have open positions or not, you need to constantly look out for the best talent. One has to reach out to his/her network, create better branding of the team/org, be a brand ambassador of the org, know the business decently and most importantly, plan how he can help the careers of the best talents to bloom by making them part of his/her org. There should be intentional efforts to create a second tier of the management level as well as second tier of best individual performers.
Recruiting the best talent is just the basic step of creating a good org. The retention of the best talent becomes much more important and crucial since it takes more time/cost/effort to replace the best talent. Best talent must be nurtured, groomed and most importantly be guided/coached very patiently. They must be given enough freedom to experiment their vision, ideas and thoughts.
There are few more things that I’ll explain in later blogs as they seem to be applicable for the Directors or any level from and above a Senior Manager.