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The Black Box of Management

[ 0 ] May 20, 2013 |

Many designers, editors and other individual contributors in the creative department aspire to be on the management team. This aspiration is sometimes founded in a genuine desire to shape policy, develop talent and move the department forward. For others, they desire a pay increase, fancy title and maybe even an office. But regardless of why a team member aspires to be a manager, few are clear on what their managers do all day.

Good managers and less-good managers equally struggle with transparency. We often think our direct reports are uninterested in what we are doing, or that what we do is not interesting or important enough to share (let’s be honest, there can be a lot of admin, politics and red tape in management roles). But regardless of what we think, our direct reports are interested and sharing more increases employee satisfaction.

Probably 95% of what you do as a manager is able to be shared with your team—maybe not everything about each item, but at a high level you can explain your to-do list and weekly goals. If your team has a weekly stand-up to discuss priorities, don’t just listen but share yours as well; yours will be different in kind and that’s OK, because what you are doing is supporting them by advancing the department and navigating the politics of the company.

In addition to sharing your short-term priorities, be open with your annual goals. If your performance goals are individualized (e.g., MBOs—Management by Objective), publicize them. I used to post mine on my office door, along with the MBOs of each manager on the team. This allowed each team member to learn our priorities and see how each managers goals rolled up to mine which aligned to the department strategic plan and my manager’s goals for his areas of responsibility (note: our remote team was provided with print-outs as well, so regardless of location each team member had the same access).

Whether you have this type of process in place or not, you likely have a vision for your department’s evolution or maybe a more formalized strategic plan. Share these things with your team in a formal manner. And most importantly, update them on progress on a regular basis, perhaps quarterly, as a quick way to lose support is to share the vision once and never address again.

The benefits of increased transparency are significant:

  1. Better Understanding of Management Responsibilities
    There are many reasons people want to become managers, and providing your team with more transparency into your daily activities, as well as your annual goals, will better inform them as to the full scope of your responsibilities which will either pique their interest and perhaps offer you an opportunity to assign team members “stretch opportunities,” or it will avoid a potential career misstep by some who learns they are not interested in pursuing a management role.
  2. Accountability of the Manager
    By publicizing your short-term and long-term initiatives and goals, you are more likely to deliver against those goals. Nothing can be swept aside without explanation—priorities changes and that’s important to explain to your team. It’s also really important to ensure your goals are achievable—whatever you think you can accomplish, keep at least one thing off the list or 20%, whichever is greater. You can always add more on across the year when you have checked a few off the list… follow the famous adage “under promise, over deliver.”
  3. Investment in Strategic Goals
    Evolving your team requires your team’s investment in that evolution. Too often the Cella team sees creative leaders and their management teams working in a vacuum toward evolution goals and then are frustrated when their teams aren’t on board with the changes once they are “unveiled.” Changes should not be unveiled as an “ah-ha”. The vision needs to be laid out, milestones along the way identified and celebrated, and then the roll out occurs as a natural progression of the department’s evolution.

Make your goal to eliminate the black box of management, and invite your team into your world. And encourage the same of the managers on your team.

For information about how Cella can add value to your business through consulting, coaching, and training, please email cella@cellaconsulting.com. This article was written by Cella Vice President and General Manger Jackie Schaffer.


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