Succeeding Through The Success Of Others

I recently learned from a friend who works at Google that a key performance metric for managers at Google is the progress of their reports.  I know first hand how this management style can bring value to a company.  Having worked at both “lean startups” as well as established Fortune 100 companies, I can tell you that (not surprisingly) this is a management technique that you’d more likely find in the former not the latter.

I also believe that this is a critical contributor to the rapid growth of many startups, as it enables companies to maximize the ability for all team members to contribute, and ensures that the team stays motivated and engaged.

Quite simply, the key to accelerated growth is to hire the most qualified candidate, then strip away everything that gets in the way of their success.  This includes office politics!

We often hear about the challenges with pivoting.  Whether its as an owner of a start-up (the innovator’s dilemma) that’s experiencing dramatic growth, or as an employee moving from an individual contributor role to that of a manager, making the transition can be challenging.

Early in my career, I made a common mistake of first time managers …  I micromanaged everything.  We were in a situation where we needed revenue immediately, and couldn’t afford any delays nor mistakes.

I quickly learned that an environment where every decision requires my input is not scalable.  I was spending more time doing the employees job, rather than ensuring that they had the resources necessary to do their job. While my attentive actions ensured our immediate success, they weren’t setting my team up for future success.

As a manager, my job is to empower (not enable) my reports to achieve their very best, by identifying areas of concern for the organization, and then providing my team with objectives so clearly defined that I can step aside and let them develop and implement the solution.  My primary day to day role is to make sure that the objectives are clearly understood by all team members, to keep the team focused on those goals, to assist in removing roadblocks, to answer questions, and to ensure that the team gets the recognition they deserve for the work that they perform.

And most importantly, I’m there to ensure that my team is able to achieve their own personal goals.  It’s naive to think that all employees want to stay in their position forever.   Many have aspirations for growth beyond their current role, and that needs to be encouraged and fostered.  With my teams, I meet with each of them at least twice a year to discuss their personal goals.  Then together we blend those goals with their day to day tasks, ensuring that they have an ascension plan and are still able to do their job. Some may want to work in our European division.  Some may want to become managers themselves.  Others may just want to stay where they are.  Whatever their goal, part of my role is to ensure that the opportunity exists for them to achieve it.

When I look back at my career, the managers who took this approach had the most impact on my career – and for that I am grateful.