Managing your management style

StephanieBrownIn an article that first appeared in Encore, Stephanie Brown says the advertising industry often leaves people ill-equipped when it comes to managing staff, especially when they’re promoted into management roles.

Managing people is hard. In fact, I actually think it’s the hardest job in the world. With no disrespect intended, I often joke that if my job didn’t involve other people to manage, it would be a walk in the park. I could get about my day’s work in a nice, linear fashion, happily checking off my to-do list as I go. I’m a process-orientated person. I get a kick out of getting things done.

But alas, there came a time where a fledgling suit arrived, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to be taken under my wing. And was I ready? No. The advertising industry is long hours and deadlines, lots of pressure, a bit of partying, and a mentality of ‘well, I earned my stripes through the hard slog, so you should too’. No-one really teaches you how to manage other people. New account managers and account directors are thrown into the lion’s den and can only hope they make it out alive. New managers often flounder, unsure of what they should be doing to help their team.

I don’t claim that this is any sort of guru self-help, eight-steps-to-success advice. It’s just some of the things I’ve learnt along the way as I’ve worked on getting the best out of my staff and toning down my micromanaging tendencies.

So, here goes:

Plan for everything. Plan what you need to do in a day, in a week, and work with your team to do the same. Understanding what you have on each day and what your team needs to work on will help you understand where you might need to assist them.

Set expectations and regular one-on-one sessions. Be clear about what you expect from people, give them KPIs and hold them accountable for their output. Create a schedule or calendar of areas of focus or training for each team member. Knowing what they need to do to get to the next step will give them goals to work towards.

Enlist the help of others. I’ve (sadly) come to the realisation that I don’t know everything and can’t be good at everything. But there are others I work with that are. They might be better at explaining a technical concept; they might be better at using the wireframing software. Ask them to help out.

Remember that other people aren’t you. Stop expecting everyone to think and act like you. I struggled constantly with understanding “why did they do that?” or “why didn’t they just do that?” Probably because I didn’t tell them they needed to, or just assumed that’s how I think about a task, so other people must think that way as well. One of the most interesting exercises I’ve come across is the Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI). Having an awareness of the differences in the thinking styles in our team really changed the way I approach them.

Throw them in the deep end. But be around with the life buoy to lift them out if they need it. Being process-oriented (or particularly green, for those of you in the HBDI know), often makes me think it is faster to just do something myself. I struggle with delegation and like to know that things are done, but that doesn’t help anyone learn. Give your team the task, let them struggle, or even fail a little bit, and then give them the support to push on through.

Ask them what they think they should do. This pushes people to think about a task before they ask the question. They might be wrong, but they might just be right and hopefully they’ll start to be more comfortable with their own ideas and ability.

Take time out of work-related tasks. Make the effort to get to know more about your staff. Learn what makes them tick. What do they like to do outside of work? What are they into? Hopefully you’ll find something to connect over, and you might just find out that someone unexpected is actually a really fascinating person.

Expand yourself. Push yourself to learn. The only way you’ll help your team grow is if you grow yourself. What are your goals, personal or otherwise? Where do you need to improve? You might just gather some valuable experience that you can pass on.

Stephanie Brown is the operations director at the WiTH Collective.

Issue 18This story first appeared in the weekly edition of Encore available for iPad and Android tablets. Visit encore.com.au for a preview of the app or click below to download.


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