The best manager I ever had viewed his job as finding good people, setting lofty goals, and getting out of their way until we needed help or needed him to fly cover for us with senior management. His goal was to work himself out of his own job by preparing his successor, and he managed to find the sweet spot between elevating and developing his team and elevating and developing himself. I learned a ton from this managerial superhero.
But when you are a superhero of a manager, how do you avoid having that hero’s cape turn into an invisibility cloak?
When a large part of your job is about helping others succeed, it can be easy for leaders to overlook the value you bring as a manager. But there are a few things to keep in mind as you work to find that balance between highlighting your successes and those of your team.
In most major team sports, the league champions celebrate by commemorating an amazing season with rings given out to all the key personnel. And the coach always gets a ring as well. It’s really important for a coach to highlight and recognize the accomplishments of team members, and they certainly can’t take credit for the goals or points their amazing team members score. But their respective organizations recognize the value of someone who sees the whole field and puts the right players in position to be successful. You can create exceptional value without taking away from the value that your leading scorers create.
This is one of the major lessons I have learned in my career. People always have a “leading indicator” – something that is just innately important to them, and that they always look for when evaluating individual, team, or company success. Learning to ask the right questions to uncover this motivation allows you to communicate success in ways that are relevant to that leader. When highlighting the success of individuals on your team, as well as your team overall, articulate your message in relation to that motivation. So if they care about development, talk about how you help your team develop. If they care about revenue, talk about how your team came together to deliver revenue. Position the success of individuals on your team, and your own success as well, in terms that resonate.
Part of success is making sure you define what success looks like before you start. When taking on a leadership role, or taking over a new team, sit down with your manager or leader and define what success for you as a manager will look like. These goals will be different from the goals of the individual contributors on your team – and that’s a good thing. You need to understand, and know that your leader understands, what you will be working to accomplish, and what they should be evaluating against. This makes it easier to separate and highlight the performance of individuals on your team, as well as your own success.
Being a manager is a challenge, but it also can have great rewards, both in seeing great people succeed as they develop and grow and in growing in your own career. As a manager and leader, always keep in mind that there’s enough success to go around. Highlighting the success of others is not only the right thing to do, but it positions you as someone who truly understands what drives success and makes you even more valuable as a leader.
Mollie Lombardi is the Co-Founder and CEO of Aptitude Research Partners, a research-based analyst and advisory firm focused on the new conversation required by changes in how technology is delivered and utilized by today's organizations.
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