Are you actively managing your leaders?
Training them, working with them to hone their leadership skills? Helping them to figure out the road to great leadership?
Or do you just let your team of managers get on with it because you are hands-off?
If you are a hands-off manager of managers, even if that is the style of management you liked at that level, you are leaving opportunity on the table.
Despite what you might hear, no one is born a perfect leader. Some do have more intrinsic leadership skill than others, but everyone needs to develop and hone their leadership and management. So leaving your new managers to figure out how to navigate a new role as a team lead, a general manager or even a VP is a recipe for many bumps along the road or worse.
But having an attitude of ‘my door is open, come to me for help’ doesn’t work either. Remember: they feel the need to prove themselves to you, and will try their best to not bother you.
It’s time to round the square peg so you and your team of managers all up-level, learn how to effectively lead in the way that works for them, but with your guidance as someone who was there before. And hint: using team meetings which focus on exception reporting won’t achieve this growth and development.
In today’s Leading Women in Tech podcast I’m diving into how to help your managers remain autonomous, keep their new found confidence as a leader, but boost them up quickly and effectively so that you, your managers, their teams, and the entire business division benefits. It’s time to stop leaving the benefits of great management and leadership at every level of your organisation on the table, simply because you had to figure this out yourself. And instead, let’s use your emotional intelligence to help your managers become great leaders in their own right.
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Want to read instead of listen? Here’s the transcript:
Hello, it’s Toni here, from tonicollis.com, and welcome back to Leading Women in Tech. Let’s start with a little update, just a brief one, because it’s been a roughly quiet week around here. But I do have some exciting news, all client celebrations, and if you know me at all, you know I love to celebrate. When we celebrate, we focus on the good stuff, it ups our energy, it helps us focus on what’s going well. The human brain is so good at focusing on the negatives, but when we focus on the positives, life goes so much easier for us. Yes, it is true. So I am celebrating around here. I have four clients currently interviewing, and whenever they get invited for interview, I view that as a excuse to celebrate, where they and me celebrate because, hey, what then happens is entirely down to practice, yes, but also a piece of luck.
So on some level, just celebrating, getting their interview is just awesome. Two of those four clients are actually just using interviews as practice, which I absolutely adore doing. I believe that practice is such an important thing to do whenever we’re doing something that’s a little bit tricky. So definitely if that’s you, by the way, practice, practice, practice. And the other really exciting client-win that I have is that I have a client who has… She’s going to be working with me for about a month. We spent the first couple of weeks getting really clear and focused on what she really wanted. She had all these ideas, different directions she wanted to go in with her career, some now, some in the future. We spent a couple of weeks getting really clear and focused, and this is something I wish people did more of because when you get super focused, that’s when you can actually take action.
I know, my goodness me, this worked out amazingly for her. She realized that what she really wanted was a seat at the table, at the executive table, in her current company, bearing in mind, she’s not even a VP, she’s a senior manager, but she’s not a VP. That was one of the stepping stones along the road. She asked for that seat at the table and she’s got it within a month of working together. I am so damn proud of her. There’s still more work to do, do not get me wrong. But my goodness me, when things like that happen, you know that life is going well. So lots of celebrating around here. And I also love that feeling as we fall into September, I’m recording this about six days ahead of when you get to hear it. As September is starting, I feel like it’s a chance of renewal and we set targets and goals for the rest of the year. And so it’s so nice to see so many of my clients are really coming through on what really matters to them.
Okay, but let’s crack on with today’s episode. Today we are talking about the third part on emotional intelligence, emotional awareness, EQ, whatever you want to call it. And this one is about coaching routines that they lead better and coaching your managers so that they’re more self sufficient. Managing others to manage others, okay? Because when we all start our leadership journey, imagine if you had just got your first person you managing, maybe that is you, in which case, this is still a great episode to listen to by the way, because you’ll be learning stuff about what you can apply now and in the future. But if you are in a position where you either up-leveled and you are now managing a team of managers, maybe you did this a while ago, and this is something that you’ve been doing for a while, but still bear with me here.
Remember how it felt that first time you first started managing, you probably have fairly fixed beliefs on whether you needed to be very hands on, very hands off. I certainly, when I started managing, I had had too many micromanagers. And so my attitude was, “I’m completely hands off. Here’s what you need to do. Go off, do it, come back to me when you’re done.” Because I’d had such bad experience in micromanagement. And I thought that I created a really open door policy, I was convinced that I had created such a good empathetic setting that people would come to me when they were stuck. They didn’t. So I then had to go the other way and I had to bring in meetings and I had to set these up and they all worked out quite well. One of the things I developed quite quickly was the power of one-to-one meetings where I really removed the feelings of having to show up perfect, that quite often happens in team meetings. So it all worked out.
But remember how you felt, how did you feel when you first started managing your team and ask yourself, “Would you have done a better job if you’d been supported by your manager in learning how to do that?” Because even if you’ve had leadership and management training, and yes, I’d had that when I started managing, most people don’t get that until they start managing. But if I’d had some guidance from somebody above me as to what worked rather than, “Yeah, you should have team meetings every… because that’s what we do round here.” Which was definitely the way things were presented to me, “This is just what we do.” Rather than why and how and what works and what doesn’t work? And the fact that you needed to treat individuals as individuals and that there’s not one size fits all.
And part of the problem being that a lot of organizations treat everybody as well, one size fits all. This is the way I operate, therefore, this is the way the world operates. And that means that you’re leaving engineers to, well, get on with things and figure out for themselves. And so it’s a really good idea to put yourself back in those shoes of how you felt early on in your career, as you start managing managers, as you start leading other leaders. This is really, really important for you to turn on that emotional intelligence and get into their head, become empathetic, okay? Really big deal. In the same way that you had to figure out how to lead, your way, the first time, you need to help others figure out how to lead effectively. That depends on two things. It depends on who your managers are managing, the individuals right down the bottom of the line. And it also depends on the personality of the manager. It doesn’t depend on you. The only thing that depends on you is a strategy you’re setting.
And on some level, they’re competent, that’s almost irrelevant. Well, you’re going to be coaching them in. And yes, as a leader of leaders, as a manager of managers, you need to start coaching. That’s when you start leading, not just managing. You’re going to be coaching them in how to develop tactics that work for both them and the individuals, not just a team. You want to give some specific guidance as to what to be looking for. You want to help develop their own emotional intelligence, their own self-awareness that I talked about in the last episode, and the one before that. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you need to go and listen to both episode 11 and episode 12 of Leading Women in Tech. Go and listen to those right now, pause this, go listen to those, because this episode really requires the skills that I was talking about in those other two episodes.
In the whole of September, I’m really focusing on how to improve self-awareness, emotional intelligence, so you can understand those around you. And it is something that you’ll be constantly working on. Once you realize the power of developing emotional intelligence, you’ll realize that you are never done doing it. We always have work to do, we always need to develop further. And by working on that, we build relationships, we build better rapport. And this needs to be done both by you, but also by your other managers. So if you have managers reporting to you and you’re developing your self-awareness, it’s now time to coach them in this too. You need to coach them in how they’re leading their direct reports, what they do to build relationships so that there’s trust, so that there’s rapport, there isn’t a toxic work environment. How do they delegate work? Do they delegate through outcomes or through tasks?
To do that, to have those conversations with your managers, you need to develop rapport with them. So how do you do that? How are you making sure that you can have powerful one-to-one conversations where they don’t feel judged? I’ve seen so many organizations have senior management check in with senior management by having basically exception-reporting meetings, and everybody gets around a table, virtual sometimes, especially in this day and age, get round a table and you say, “Nothing to see here. My project’s going fine. I’m executing everything great.” And it all about making sure that you and not the point of attention. Because when you’re the point of attention, when the meeting focus is on you, it’s because something is going wrong. The problem with those meetings is, by the time something is going wrong, there are so many things that could have been done to improve it.
And you completely miss the opportunity to improve productivity. Because remember, as a leader, your goal is to do more with less. You always want to be doing more with less, and you want your teams to be doing more with less. If all you do to check in with your leaders and your managers is say, “What’s going on? Exceptions, please.” You are not building the opportunity to help them optimize, to help them develop, to help them enjoy their work more, to help their teams enjoy their work, be more productive, have better downtime, be more powerful in what they do. And you also are not tackling your managers in how to have difficult conversations with problematic colleagues. You instead, only find out about it when it’s got to such a situation, you’re potentially talking about firing. I have seen so many people let go from jobs and I’m thinking actually, that’s a failure of management when they actually dig into what’s going on here.
Management should have seen that coming six months ago and they did nothing about it. And when you remember that turnover is one of the most costly things in an organization, it costs somewhere between 50% and 200% of a full-time equivalent costing, there’s an annual cost, right? So if somebody’s on a 100K salary, to replace them cost between 50K and 200K, probably more than that because the salary isn’t the full-time equivalent. You get my point. It’s a really expensive thing. So even if you’re firing them because they’re under-performing, wouldn’t it been better if six months ago you could have done something which meant they became a star performer rather than under-performer. Because at the end of the day, all of us are motivated. If you’ve ever applied for a job, you have motivation, right? We can all be motivated, but we have to help our managers motivate those around us.
And motivation, if you’ve listened to any of my previous stuff, you know that motivation, isn’t about the stick, it isn’t just about the carrot, it’s about helping them understand what they’re bringing to the table. But here’s your greatest challenge as a leader coaching managers, what worked for you won’t necessarily work for them, and won’t now work for you. This is one of the big things. Every time you up-level your career, you need to develop a new toolkit. What you did to get to where you now are, is no longer what is needed. You need to now operate at the next level up. The classic here is the technical work. As you level up, you need to do less technical work, less of the hands on, and indeed, the managers who keep doing the technical work, because a lot of us think that that’s how we use… Well, we have this perception of managers who don’t do technical work is completely unhelpful. So we think technical work is how we bring value to the job.
But when you do that, you’re actually doing a disservice to your team because you’re probably not as good at it anymore as you used to be. And your job is managing others, not doing the technical work anymore. So that’s the classic one, A, somebody who thinks they only bring value to a job if they continue doing the thing that got them their degree, right? But actually it applies to every single thing in your job. What got you to where you are today will not get you any further. So remember that, you need to be coaching people and what worked for you then, potentially, but also coaching them on what will work for them, which won’t be the same things. At the same time as figuring out for yourself what now works for you. By the way, if you want help with that, then do remember that I only have four spots on my coaching program between now and Christmas. So go check out tonicollis.com/workwithme, or you can just book a discovery call. I will put both those links in the show notes. But definitely, if you want some help figuring out how to operate at the right level, then come and have a chat with me.
Okay. But this is also why you need to focus on your emotional intelligence because your self-awareness piece and your understanding of how other people operate, and now you’ve been working on that because we talked about it in the last two episodes, you will now get a better understanding when you create meaningful conversations with your managers. You’ll start to see where their blind spots are, where their self-awareness needs to improve, whether empathy needs to be improved, so they can become better managers.
So first things first, I want you to stop having the large meetings that are just updates or reception reportings. That does not need to be done in a meeting. If there’s a problem, create a process for explaining problems, get rid of that meeting. Basically, everybody hates them. Do create a culture of, “Here’s what’s going on in my team.” Scrum type meetings, don’t generally work, but a 15 minute stand up of, “This is going on in my team, and this is why it’s important for the rest of the business.” Instead of, “Nothing to see here, my project’s going splendidly.” Those are useless. But, “Here’s what’s going on in my team, and here’s why it’s important to the business.” Are useful meetings. But those meetings are not the place to be coaching your team. You can, if you’re really good, you can coach a team, but you probably need to practice one-on-one first.
So instead, I want you to generate meaningful one-on-ones. Start weekly if this is new to you and gradually relax into monthly, once you feel someone has this and they are coping quite well. Then what you want to be looking at, there’s quite a few things here, so I’m just going to list them out. Write these down, grab yourself a notebook, pause the episode, come back with a notebook. You want to be looking for things such as, are they having difficult conversations, are they identifying where they need to be having difficult conversations, and are they having them? Do they have the skillset to have them? If you would like me to do an episode on difficult conversations and challenging people, by all means I would be delighted, so let me know, drop me an email to email@example.com, and I do genuinely read every email that comes in. So do drop me an email if you would like something like that.
The second question to ask yourself is, how are they managing the project? Are they managing by exception, are they managing in a way that works with the individuals involved? Do they end up picking up all the technical work when staff effort falls through the cracks? How are they dealing with productivity fluctuations? How are they dealing with staff being more or less productive? How are they dealing with deadlines, changing, scope creep? When you can get them to talk about how are they dealing with things going wrong, if they are the person that just always picks up the slack, you know there’s work to be doing, because a manager that always picks up the slack is going to burn out. They are the ultimate backstop, yes, but that’s not actually sustainable solution.
So dig into what goes on when things goes wrong, are they looking at developing their team skills? Do they take work off team members, because it takes too long, instead of looking at the longer-term benefits of training somebody up, even though it’s slower than if I did this myself? We’ve all been there, right? “I’ll just do this because it’s quicker than delegating it.” That doesn’t work for a manager and new managers really struggle with this. They’re just like, “I’ll do it. I’ll get it done because it’s quicker.” You need to be educating your managers in when that’s appropriate, because sometimes it is, and when it’s not. You also need to be educating your managers on recognizing toxic behavior and going full circle to those difficult conversations, so you can tackle it. Because remember, toxic behavior is just a productivity killer, including for the toxic person, by the way.
The next one is helping them navigate management, especially virtual management. Time-zone barriers, if you have them, actually encourage them to talk about the problems they have at getting people onto a call, if everybody’s working remote right now, and it’s new. Get them to talk about whether or not all their staff are happy working remote. Get them to talk about are they valuing people always being on? This is a classic because we quite often start out in our careers thinking, “I need to always be on Slack. I need to always be on email. If I’m not there for five minutes, it looks terrible. If I don’t respond immediately, it looks terrible.” And if you’ve been around him long enough, you know that that is a productivity killer.
If you have managers with that attitude who believe that their team needs to respond to them within 10, 15, 30 minutes, rather than saying, “You know what, you’re doing deep work, I do not want you on Slack for the next two hours, at least.” You need to figure out how to make sure that your managers are having those conversations with their teams and that the value comes from deep work, not from the simple shallow work that feels really easy, such as checking emails all the time. That gives us a quick emotional boost, but honestly kills productivity.
And then you want to make sure that they’re treating people as individuals. There is no one size fits all in management, as I hope you now know. So have conversation with your managers, are they turning up with the attitude of, “This person needs this kind of support. This person needs this kind of support. This person loves being in the office. This person hates being in the office.” One size does not fit all, okay? And when you can help your managers see that and genuinely embrace it and realize that they have their own cloud of view, the classic is that, “You must be in the office three times a week.” And, “You mustn’t spend too long at lunch.” Those are the classic things, right? Just because that’s how you operate does not make that good for the team. Just because you’re a morning person doesn’t mean that everybody you work with is the morning person. Have that conversation with your managers.
And all of this is going to help build their empathy and their self-awareness. How are they working with their team members? How do their reactions impact their team members? Do they have realistic or unrealistic expectations? Have they forgotten how long it takes to do something and therefore set unrealistic expectations? This, by the way is also a great way to manage up, right? All the stuff I’ve just been talking about is actually something that one of my clients right now is doing to manage up her boss, who is a VP, he’s just not seeing how to manage the team. So she is actually coaching him, he doesn’t necessarily know that, in how to do all this stuff.
Remember, your job is always to do more with less at every level of your job, right? And that means you need your teams, and the managers leading those teams, operating on that principle. How to do more with less, and more with less is a long-term holistic view. You need to help your team-lead see how to do that, and it isn’t just about working harder. When we do that, great things happen.
So in summary, I want you to remember that just because you are now a leader of leaders, your work isn’t done. Although you are going to be focusing more and more on strategic direction, and I really want you to do that by the way, your managers need you to guide them in their development. That is now part of your job as you manage managers and lead leaders. What got you to where you are, it doesn’t get you to the next level. And what got your team to where they are, won’t get them to the next level either. Don’t be the boss who leaves their team to figure it out, even if that’s what happened to you. You and your business organization will benefit if you invest time on developing those below you and they aren’t going to do that efficiently without your assistance. At all times, I want you to be using your newly identified, emotional intelligence, situational awareness, and self-awareness. The stuff that we’ve been talking about for the last couple of episodes, this will make you better at understanding what your leaders are struggling with and help them through the situation.
And don’t forget, if you want some support as you up-level your leadership of leaders in your career, then I’d love to help. I have just four spots available in my coaching program between now and Christmas, 2020. Some starting straight away, some starting in November, December time, and then my prices are going up in January. So if you’ve been thinking about this, now is the time to take action and lock yourself in at my current price because I love to give all my continuing clients a stable price. The prices don’t go up if you continue with me. So if you were thinking about starting at some point, even if you wanted to start a bit later in the year, now is the time, get on my waiting list in November, December, even if you don’t want to start straight away and lock in at my current price. And you can spend that time between now and when you’re going to start, prepping, maybe getting the money together, if that’s what’s holding you back. If that’s interesting to you, head over to tonicollis.com/workwithtoni. And of course, you can always just drop me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org if you are a bit hesitant and have any questions.
Okay. But let’s finish up with a Leadership Mindset Moment, in case you’re new around here, a Leadership Mindset Moment is an actionable tip to help you adjust how you act or think to make it easier to take action and up-level on the topic of today’s podcast. So here’s what I want you to do, before each one-on-one, I want you to take a moment, this is a Leadership Mindset Moment after all, just a moment, one or two minutes is typical here, to remind yourself of where your manager is right now. So you’ve organized this meeting with your manager, you’re about to walk into the one-to-one, you’re about to launch the Zoom call. I want you to just take two minutes to pause and think about them. Get into your head about them. Don’t just come off one call and go straight on to the other. I want you to be 100% focused on them. Have they had any training in leadership and management? What did they say they were struggling with last time? Do you know anything about their experience before they became a manager and how this is likely to impact their desired leadership style?
So I mentioned earlier about how I, with micromanagement, that I was the exact opposite. Do you know anything about how they responded to management before they got to their current role and how that’s likely to play out? I want you to use your newly awakened, emotional awareness, emotional intelligence, situational awareness to get into their head. This makes you a better leader. Use it, develop it further. Every time you do this work, your emotional intelligence is improving by the way, this is why this work is never done. Because when we stop doing our own emotional intelligence work, it sort of just turns off and degrades. It’s like a muscle that needs continuously exercising. If you just lie in bed for a week, your muscles atrophy, the same thing is true with your emotional intelligence. And so by doing this, you are going to do a better job, but you’re also going to exercise that emotional intelligence muscle.
So just take two or three minutes before each meeting to really focus on the individual that you’re about to have a one-on-one with. For example, this is actually something I do with all of my client calls. Before I jump on a client call, gets a bit squeezed sometimes when I’m running late, but I always try and take at least one minute to really focus on the client I’m about to speak to, get into where they were last time I spoke to them, the last time they sent me a message in Basecamp, which is what I used to keep in touch with my clients between calls, how they’re thinking, how they’re feeling. I’d say that when I turn on my camera, I’m 100% focused on them and their needs. I’m not distracted by the thing that I was just doing, or the previous client I was just talking to, or the cat that just did something crazy. Yeah, that happens around here. Focus on them. This will really help you identify their assumptions quickly because part of your job, as a leader of leaders, is challenging their assumptions, coaching them to see fallacies and help them see what’s holding them back. But to do that, you need to be so focused. So take this mindset moment to focus on them for one or two minutes before you step into that meeting.
And that’s it, it’s really that simple. A lot of Leadership Mindset Moment is really about pausing and giving yourself space. And you feel like, “Oh my gosh, I don’t have time. I’ve got to rush from this thing, to that thing, to the other thing.” Believe me, when you pause, your meetings are more effective and they can actually be a lot shorter. I love it when my clients come to me and say, “Yeah, I’ve stopped my hour long meetings being an hour, they’re 20 minutes. We get more done, everybody’s happier, we get more from it, and we actually have shorter days because of it.” That to me is awesome. Why wouldn’t you want that? So take these moments to really focus.
That’s all for today’s podcast. Don’t forget, you can get all the show notes and links over at tonicollis.com/episode13 or in your favorite podcast player. And if you love this, please do share today’s podcast episode with anyone you think would enjoy a listen. And don’t forget to leave a review in iTunes or Stitcher for your chance to win a one-on-one coaching session with me in October. Until next time, remember, stay on your tech leadership game, follow your dreams, because the world really does need that uniqueness that you bring as a leading woman.