3 things to expect from EVERY manager.
I recently chatted to a few graduates who had a few questions about what support and guidance they should expect from their new roles. Unfortunately, we can't hire them all but I wanted to share 3 things I think they (and all of us) should expect from their new managers.
Here are 3 things EVERY manager should be doing with their team. Its an easy one to check, If your manager isn't doing these send them this link and start a discussion! (especially if its me!)
It’s surprisingly easy to get 1:1s wrong. I’ve come across a few examples, regular '4 hour' 1:1s over lunch, using the time for catching up on office gossip and leaving questions like ‘did you have anything you wanted to discuss?’ to the last 2 mins all count as red flags. There are so many more (drop your examples in the comments!).
Before we get going - lets remind ourselves of what a manager is tasked with.
A Managers Role
When it comes to you and your manger part of their role requires them to look after you, broadly a managers role in relation to their team is as follows.
Management of Delivery You need to do your job - your manager is going to help you understand what this means, how you can expect to be measured and how you will be reviewed. They are there to help and ensure you become a successful member of the team.
Management of Culture Often culture is not homogenous across the organisation. Its rather obvious to say that how a line manger interacts with their team can have a huge impact on the wellbeing and mental health of its members. Its the responsibility of managers to infuse the right sense of culture, dedication and work ethic into the team and the very best way to do this is through demonstration of the right behaviours. Line managers should walk the walk. That doesn't mean that every manager has to be capable of doing the job of every team member, rather that the behaviours they exhibit are the ones they want from the team. Simple things like holding themselves accountable to the same meeting etiquette, jumping in to help the team when required, being curious, saying thank you, apologising in public and promoting open honest feedback throughout the team are really simple ways to grow trust.
Management of Your Development There is no rule that says your manager needs to care about your career, (hint: the good ones do) but it is their responsibility to keep you as happy as possible and maximise your contribution to the business. As you grow you will develop interests and skills that can be useful, you'll have ideas and want to improve. Your manager should be able to help you navigate the organisation to find opportunities to grow without leaving. That progress should feel real and might also include learning opportunities e.g courses, conferences or workshops. It's your responsibility to grow, your manger is there to make sure the garden is right for you to grow in.
Heres the minimum.
1. Regular one-to-one meetings
1:1 meetings are really important, they should create a safe space to build a human connection between you and your manager, a place to get feedback and guidance. Building a good working relationship with your manager will mean they are far more able to help support you through any situation that might occur, they don't need to be a friend but it helps if you are open about life! A good manager is going to notice changes in your mood and energy levels and will care enough to ask you about it, they will check your preferences for things like being publicly recognised and will check in to make sure you are ok - a regular 1:1 is a great way to do this. A good one to one meeting should happen predictably, the frequency might change but they should feel regular (if they don't - ask) and they should also have a recognisable agenda with space to discuss your topics in private with their full attention (on hands free whilst driving doesn't count!). Share the responsibility for ensuring these happen, (agreeing on the date of the next one before you leave is a good habit), prepare for the time in advance and bring a list of topics to talk about (shared in advance) ; oh and take notes you will need these later for annual reviews. I like to think a healthy 1:1 should always have some actions for you both for which you hold each other accountable throughout the year.
2. Feedback and Guidance
Giving and receiving feedback can feel challenging, especially early on in your career. You’re going to make mistakes, a good manager will let you know quickly that you have and allow you the space to try again. Mistakes are good - I guarantee your manager has made more mistakes than you've made attempts right now!. Feedback will at times feel awkward so it's important to breathe between emotions and remember to receive the feedback graciously even when you don't agree with it, giving the signal that you aren’t open to feedback can sometimes make others think twice about giving it again in the future. You can take a moment to reflect with a simple pause or even just saying 'can I reflect on that for a moment'.
Don't forget, you will also find yourself getting positive feedback and recognition for the great work you’re going to do!
Theres often a day to day element to work but we are also at times required to run presentations, explain technical concepts, work with and sometimes lead other teams. Your manager can help you with the feedback here too, these 'outside my normal role' opportunities are often the time to shine being positive, taking on the challenge and working with your manager is a great way to excel. Comfort zones are not where growth comes from!
3. Training and Career growth
Your career is your responsibility but it's also the result of the environment you grow in. When you take a job with an employer you are planting a seed from your career in their greenhouse for the duration of your time there. Plants grow at different rates in different greenhouses, dirty windows, inconsistent temperatures and no ventilation leads to stunted growth. It's a team job between you, your line manager and the organisation to work out what conditions will get the best results for you. Expect to know roughly what direction you want to go, things that interest you are a good start, to call out opportunities to help in areas you enjoy and to help your manager understand your learning style so that you can work out how you will grow best together. Your manager can help you find conferences, books, courses and opportunities and can also help to arrange the time you will need to attend and practice, but they cant always work out what you are enjoying.
Your manager is there to help. Not everyone makes a great manager, not everyone enjoys it and often there is a lot of additional reporting and time pressure on the people doing those roles, this means it can be hard to keep on top of all of this for every team member. If you feel that your manager isn't nailing this with you - maybe use this article as a talking point, perhaps you or they disagree with my points but can share their own thoughts. It could even be that they are doing everything they can but are being blocked outside the team talking about your frustration will help.
Wherever you choose to work the combination of manager and company can have a significant impact on your health, lifestyle and career it pays to do research and have some great questions ready for your interview, perhaps start by asking what the retention is for members of that team/department (and also the company).