One of my primary goals for 2008 is to become a better maanger. Historically I’ve tended to either:
- not delegate at all
- delegate without providing much instruction or coaching, then take the project over when they didn’t magically read my mind and guess what I needed
- give it to someone and not manage it at all – completely abdicate responsibility
Obviously, I have a lot of work to do. The one thing that my freelancers and team members have said that was positive was that they enjoy working with me on a personal level. I’m a fairly easy guy to get along with, and they like that I’m not stuffy and overbearing and “manager-y”. Which is nice to know.
But in order to become a more effective businessperson, I’m going to need to learn how to develop my management acumen considerably.
I’m only about three weeks into things, but I feel like I’ve started to make a tiny bit of progress. Specifically, the following are some subtle changes I’ve made in my management style that I’m hoping will pay dividends in the long run.
- Learn to rely on others – Historically I’ve been able to produce a large amount of work (something in the order of 200+ site designs a year plus interface work on the application-level) without killing myself. Unfortunately, not delegating more has meant the product doesn’t always get the love it should. So this year I’ve made a conscious decision to offload all (or close to all) of the one-off design projects that come in. The philosophy is to figure out how to make it work. If I convince myself that taking a project on or re-doing it myself isn’t an option, I’ll be forced to teach others how to do what I do.
- Learn to communicate what’s in my stupid head – In order to make the above work, I have to become a much better communicator. My training is in marketing – I managed to get to my position through self-teaching and tons of practice, and got to a point where clients and our internal team generally thought my way of doing things was preferable. Great for the ego, but as a result I’m not very good at articulating the finer points of design. I have a hard time explaining why we do something or why something looks better. This historically has been very frustrating for people who’ve worked for me, particularly when they come from a classical training background. To improve this, I’ve started to put together some “best practices” documents that outline specific ways of doing things. Some are broad (like the benefits of using grid systems and how to create them), while others are more specific (why you should never use the standard Photoshop drop-shadow settings and what to do instead). I’ve also started trying to make sure I outline everything I can think of in terms of project specifics so there’s as little ambiguity as possible.
- Develop my team – One of the best things my favorite managers ever did for me was get me thinking about what I want to do with my life, where I want to take my career, what skills I want to develop. As I start relying on people more and more, it’s important to me to keep them thinking about what’s ahead and (as much as I’m able) help them develop the skills they need to be successful in their career. For one of my guys that means spending regular time talking about how to develop a successful company. For another, it’s thinking about how to leverage his skills in video and delegate himself so we can tackle more projects at a time.
Like I said, I’m about three weeks into this new initiative, and I know I’ve got a long way to go. I’m excited to see what happens in the coming months.
What about you? Do you manage people? What strategies and skills have you found helpful in motivating your team and being effective as a manger? I’d love to hear them.