For the last six years, Google has snagged the coveted number one spot on Fortune’s “Best Companies to Work For” list, but even with free food, gyms, laundry services and every other perk you can think of, the highest rated company in the world can’t seem to escape one problem: bad managers. One Glassdoor review for Google even says:
“People are promoted into management positions not because they actually know how to lead/manage, but because there is no other path to grow into. So, there [are] horrible managers [but] no value system to actually do anything about that.”
Google isn’t alone: 3 out of 4 employees say their manager is the worst and most stressful part of their job, and 65% say they’d take a new manager over a pay raise. A study from Gallup shows that companies fail to choose the candidate with the right talent for the job 82% of the time.
The world needs fewer managers and more good managers. As a marketing executive at Box and other high growth startups, I’ve worked under amazing leaders and with incredible teams. Here are my top five tips for being a better manager:
- Hire for potential, not experience
A huge mistake managers make when hiring is focusing too much on “shiny objects”—people with packed resumes and the “right” number of years of experience in similar roles. This is hard to do at startups, and it may not be the best practice when you hastily make decisions based only on words in a resume or optics of the person interviewing (i.e. appearance, way of speaking, charisma level, etc.). Often, you won’t bother to give face time to other candidates who – although they might have less or even “too much” experience – are better fits for the role.
Jen Grant (CMO at Looker and former SVP of Marketing at Box) was great at hiring for potential. She met candidates and learned about their attitudes and core skills like creativity, messaging and analytical capabilities, then made the hire knowing that the individual could thrive — and eventually grow into a “shiny object”!
Actually, most of Box’s early marketing team led in areas they had never managed before; it’s what differentiated us in the space and made us one of the best marketing teams in the Valley.
- Support personal development
Get to know your team inside and outside of work, and support them in their personal and work goals. I don’t mean you should step over crazy boundaries, like asking a new hire on her first day about her private life, but start with questions like, “What are your current values and priorities outside of work?” This can really help foster a culture of open communication where your employees are comfortable sharing information and looking to you for guidance.
I learned early at Box that not every employee wants to overachieve; some might want to go to business school or focus on personal health, and a good part of their energy is spent on those goals. Support their development by offering your advice, introducing them to relevant people in your network and/or giving them flexibility in their work schedules.
- Cascade important information and bubble up thematic problems
Chris Yeh, Head of Product at Box, brought a new degree of transparency to the company. The day after every e-staff meeting, he would set up an all-hands with his own team to go over every strategic agenda item discussed, both good and bad. He would also go around and ask each employee to highlight anything they felt was distracting or bothering them, then notified upper management of the themes that arose from those discussions.
Cascading and bubbling up information keeps your team in the loop so they feel like they’re important players connected with strategic decisions in the company. Chris’s employees always felt like the executive team understood problem areas, and that they could contribute by providing solutions. No surprises both ways!
- Build trust, don’t micromanage
Micromanagement breeds fear and politics and crushes creativity and spirit. It also negatively signals your abilities as a leader — if you can’t delegate, you can’t scale.
Great managers won’t spend their review process nitpicking and redoing every detail in a piece of content or design. A good manage knows there’s a difference between collaboration and micromanaging to the point of taking over. Try encouraging a healthy review process that incorporates constructive feedback only on general approaches or ideas. You don’t need to approve every comma.
When you micromanage, your employees feel like you don’t trust them and get frustrated that they don’t get to own anything themselves (just take it from the guy on this e-card). My team actually created better content just by learning from their own mistakes and feeling empowered enough to push back on things. In the 2.5 years I was at the company, no one quit the marketing team.
- Recognize the grinders
It’s easy for us to recognize someone with visible outcomes, like a great PR story, a big deal or an awesome event. It’s much harder to recognize the grinders, like the engineer proactively reviewing every line of code or the person on the finance team working during holidays to ensure the business is running smoothly.
For instance, HR is a team that frequently grinds but is not often broadly appreciated. Once, when our sales team won a big deal, a rep hurriedly sent an email to the company calling out teams that contributed their efforts to the win. While the recognition was awesome, he forgot to mention the recruiter who worked tirelessly to get his team support. While everyone was excited about the sales opportunity, the HR team felt left out.
When employees feel like their work is appreciated — with specific call outs instead of a generic “great job!” — they feel happy. After all, we want every employee to love their job and we want every manager to make that happen!
What do you think of these managing tips? I’d love to know advice you have to share about how to be a better manager too! And check out cool services like PlatoHQ.com that help find your new managers mentors to help them scale!
Former Marketing Executive at Box