This is Kommon People — the newsletter from Kommon which highlights stories about people, organisations, technology and business to help you be a better manager. If you like it and want more like it in your inbox, consider subscribing.
Before we get started, one of the reasons we started Kommon was because 80% of the managers we spoke to told us that their company's management training hadn't helped. We thought there must be a better way to support new managers in the role.
Well, we posted this recently which got a lot of views, so we’re guessing this is still the case...
For more of this content you can follow us on erm…. LinkedIn...
Onto our regular programming.
Last week we tackled giving feedback. This week we move onto questions about another key skill for new managers - setting goals.
At worst, goals date quickly, are irrelevant to personal progress and performance, and motivated more by HR processes than helping employees develop.
At best, they ensure your team members deliver valuable work which helps them achieve their career aspirations, stay motivated and succeed.
We look into how you can give your teams the latter experience.
When we speak to managers, we often find that they learn the most from their peers.
Not their bosses, who can be a bit distant from the challenges they face. Or external trainers, who really don’t understand the context they’re working in. But their fellow managers.
Discussing the role with each other can be one of the most effective ways to learn. And the best part? Assuming you work in a company big enough to have new managers in the same position as yourself, it doesn’t cost anything (except a bit of time) to organise. It’s one of the most straightforward ways we know to learn more and get more comfortable as a new manager.
But how should you organise one of these sessions?
Well, fortunately this week, Ryan Lockard, a Senior Director at the publisher Elsevier, wrote a piece on how his team does them. It’s not complicated. In groups of 3-4 (ideally plus a facilitator), they go through the following steps:
It doesn’t have to take more than 45 mins, maybe once a month, but it creates great opportunities for learning from your colleagues about some of the problems you’re likely to face.
If you give it a try, we’d love to know how you get on.
‘Managing up’ is another one of those awful HR phrases which makes what is a vital part of being a successful manager sound like a chore. Like exercise or healthy eating, we all know we probably should be ‘managing up’ more, but we also know it seems difficult and we don’t know where to start.
So what is it? It’s essentially talking to your boss so you’re both clear on how you can help each other most effectively.
See, when you put it like that, it doesn’t sound so bad. But if you’re not doing this already, where to start?
Uma Chingunde is the Vice President of Engineering at Render, a cloud infrastructure company. Her blog post on the first 90 days as a manager is excellent, but particularly this part on managing up. It succinctly captures what you need to do, and has a great tip on how to think about what to tell your boss:
On the how of managing up, in my experience this boils down to proactive communicating of your team’s work and state and things you are working on with your manager. It is summarizing the most important things they need to know about, asking for help on the things they can help unblock you on, and preferably having opinions on solutions vs only presenting problems. Treat your time with your manager as a finite resource and help them help you with the most critical parts of your role.
A good question to ask yourself to help frame this, if you were out for a few weeks and your manager is managing your team in the interim, would they be surprised at what they find about your team.
We particularly like this last question. It’s a great way to start thinking about what to update your boss on.
This week Microsoft released its latest report on remote/hybrid work. It’s full of buzzwords like ‘The Great Disruption’ and humblebrags about just how many people are using their products. But given the data they have access to, it also contains some interesting insights on how teams have been functioning and we wanted to highlight a couple of areas.
We’ve spoken before about how the main challenge of remote work during the pandemic has been dissolving boundaries between work and life, and the impact on mental health.
Buried in the Microsoft report is the astonishing stat that compared with February 2020, the average Teams user is sending 42 percent more chats after hours in February 2021. Not only that, but 50 percent of people respond to Teams chats within five minutes or less. This is evidence of an extraordinary amount of ‘always-on’, after hours work which can only negatively impact work-life balance.
We know that individuals struggle to set these boundaries. If your team doesn’t need to be communicating after hours, consider taking the lead and establishing firmer guidance that it’s not necessary, and people should switch off.
Another interesting finding was the degree to which our interactions in our companies have shrunk down to our immediate teams, as shown by an analysis of billions of emails and Teams interactions.
As we all know, building broad networks in an organisation beyond your immediate team can be invaluable for professional development, and also for operational efficiency. These are often the relationships that are cultivated informally in-person - ad-hoc meetings, watercooler chats, company socials - and which have been lost over the past year.
If you think this applies to your team, consider making an effort to introduce some of your team members to others in your wider company. Apps like Donut for Slack can do this for you by pairing people up, but it may just be easier to set up a few meetings yourself.
Maybe set yourself a target to arrange a meeting with someone new in your company for each of your team members every month or fortnight. Or better still, ask them if there’s anyone they’d like to get to know better and try and make it happen. We bet they’d learn a bunch.