Depending on your role, you might be doing some of your most important work as a manager supporting your team or your job might not seem very consequential at all. Russia’s appalling invasion of Ukraine has already led to unimaginable suffering, and will lead to much more. Our thoughts are with everyone impacted by these awful events, and we hope your family, friends, and colleagues are safe.
In this context, sitting down to write a management newsletter right now feels unworthy and small. But we know some of you may be feeling the same, and wondering how to lead your team through times like this. So we’ve fallen back on what we know and written a piece collecting some of the best advice on this topic.
These situations are far more complex than can be addressed in a blog post, and not all these suggestions will be applicable to all companies, but hopefully there’s points in here that will resonate and enable you to better support your people.
Beyond that, we also know that the task of managing a team doesn’t stop. So we’ve still included some helpful advice on some of our more usual topics. If you’re designing career frameworks, people processes, or looking for a new way to think about management, you’ll also find that here.
Career development frameworks can be powerful tools to help your team progress. But they’re also not easy to get right.
If you’re a manager who’s been frustrated by a bad framework, you might have said (approximately) one of these two things:
‘This is useless. It’s way too broad and doesn’t give me enough information to know how to progress my team and get them promoted.’
‘This is useless. It’s way too specific. My team is going to follow this as a check-box exercise but it’s not actually going to build the skills they need to get promoted.’
This is the tension at the heart of all career frameworks.
How do you give your bright, creative, independently-minded team enough guidance on how to advance at your company without stifling exactly that initiative and drive which is also key to their progression?
Jacob Kaplan-Moss has an excellent take on the recent ‘Ask a Manager’ story, which you may have seen. In short, a company interviewed someone, hired them, but when he showed up for the first day, it was a different person.
When asked what he would hypothetically have done to alter hiring processes to prevent this outcome, Kaplan-Moss says he wouldn’t do anything. He concludes that all the solutions would make the experience so much worse for the vast majority of candidates that they wouldn’t be worth pursuing just to counter the (admittedly embarrassing but extremely unlikely) case in question.
It’s a short piece and a great reminder that when designing processes that affect your people, some niche outcomes aren’t worth solving for if they make the experience so much worse for everyone else.
One of the periodic complaints about new manager training is that the material can feel stale and abstract, and is easily forgotten.
We’re big fans of any attempt to present learning for managers in new ways which might resonate with different audiences.
It’s by Angela Riggs, a QE Manager at insurtech company The Zebra. She reflects that becoming a new manager is in many ways like getting started with a skincare routine, and makes several comparisons about first steps, building habits, evolving practices, and learning more.
If that sounds like an analogy that could resonate with you, her piece is likely to be an accessible, interesting way for you to think about your management practices.