I used to be a young manager. I was really lucky because I had old managers (well, older!) that took me under their wings and gave me guidance and advice.
Now I am an “older” manager. I want to give back. As a business coach, I often have the opportunity to work with younger managers. Lately, that has happened a lot.
I love their enthusiasm. That relentless pursuit of what they need to do to be that great leader…or in some cases, to keep everything from crashing down around them.
In our discussions, I often hear misconceptions, myths or downright lies from Satan or some other well intentioned soul. The result is usually a young manager scared to death to make mistakes, embarrassed to ask for help, and blind to the upcoming barriers and blockades that will spring up in their path to success.
Here is some advice to refute the recent myths, misconceptions and lies:
#1 Always look for trusted advisers to bounce ideas off of, provide expertise in your areas of weakness, and to provide insight and guidance from an objective perspective. (No matter how much experience you have!)
It is a myth that if you need help from anyone, you don’t know what you are doing. Young business owners are still the go to manager for their business. People look to them for direction and answers yet many times they are navigating these waters for the first time themselves.
They want help, but feel that if they are the manager, president, or founder, they are just supposed to know. In reading Howard Schultz’s Onward where the Starbuck’s founder had to re-assume the role of ceo after a 7 year hiatus, I was delighted to see the support he sought to help him make this move. He hired outside consultants, sought peer feedback from other industries, and carefully chose a couple from within to help him plan his re-entry to operational management and to craft a revitalization of the company’s vision and plans. His company is 28 years old. He has experience. He was smart enough to know he still needed help!
#2 Gather information, data, opinions to assess in making business decisions.
Experienced managers have learned what questions to ask and what data to ask for in order to make wise, informed decisions. With the right information, most people can make most decisions. You don’t need 20 years experience and an MBA to make decisions.
A client of mine was having trouble making decisions in his business. He would come to our meetings and say “What should I do about this or that?” I would ask him questions. He wouldn’t know the answer to the questions and was frustrated. If I had all of this experience, why didn’t I just know.
A recent example:
The company had signed several contracts for advertising space that was not nearly close to completion. Yet, we were changing the direction of the company. The question was, “Should I try to get out of these contracts? And can I?”
I told him to have one of his staff members read the contracts and let him know if the contracts could be canceled. We also needed the cancellation terms. His employee sent a quick summary of the cancellation clauses of the 3 contracts. I then asked him to calculate the cost of the full contract vs. the cost of what has been used to date plus the cancellation fees. He did a nice spreadsheet, and even subtracted the cancellation costs, to show the cost or savings under cancellation.
He sent it to me and asked now if I knew what to do. Obviously, he hadn’t even looked at it. I asked him to look at the information and tell me. It was a no brainer to keep one contract and cancel the other two.
He realized that with the right information, he could make the decisions needed for the company. And it is okay to ask employees to provide the information!
#3 As a manager, you have to look at and use the work you ask others to do.
I know to many small business owners that are wearing so many hats, and moving so quickly to keep all the plates spinning, that they ask for stuff and then just forget about it.
By the time they get back to the project or decision, the data is old or the work is obsolete. Employees get frustrated.
I agree that employees are getting paid so they should do what is requested, however, it is only human nature for us humans to move toward what is really needed and used. Unfortunately, this keeps our staff moving towards the crisis and actually creating much of the chaos. The thinking of “I’ll just wait til they need the information to gather it.” and “Usually they never look at it. I’m not starting until I am positive they need it.”
By the time the information is crucial, the employee is in a firefighting situation trying to gather information at the last minute. Usually, for a small business, everyone is dragged into the crisis, trying to get the information or fulfill the client needs, etc., without adequate time to do a quality job.
If you need information, ask for it. Look at it. Ask questions if it doesn’t make sense. Then use it. If you don’t have time, now that the information is available, whatever the task is can probably be more easily delegated.
Management Advice to Share
This is just three points of advice for young managers running their own business or department. I want to give back to you, as so much was provided to me when I was younger.
This isn’t even the tip of the iceberg….what are your questions. If you will share with us your questions or common myths you have heard, we will try to answer back, or maybe even write future blog posts from them.
Crossroads Professional Coaching provides leadership coaching to small business owners. Contact us today and discuss how coaching will help you! For frequent leadership advice sign-up to receive ongoing posts in your email.