The MIT Human Resources group sponsor multiple Professional Development courses and one course that many of the MIT Manager take is Essentials of Managing. Although the course is geared toward new managers, it reviews MIT policies and relevant laws and also applies to experienced managers. Many of my peers at MIT have taken this course so when an opening presented itself, I decided to enroll.
Over the span of the last few years, I have not thought to deeply about management or management strategies and techniques, however in this course, I found that I am sharing opinions about managing and the characteristics of effective managers which is a topic that I wrote about back in 2007 with a post called “Characteristics of an Effective Manager”. In that post I outlined six characteristic that I feel are important qualities for all managers:
- Be a Leader and Lead by Example
- Effective Communications
- Provide Feedback
- Be Fair
- Be positive, Negativity Kills
- Promote Teamwork
I still like this list however, I would like to add another characteristic to my list which is to “Build Relationships”.
The Value of Building Relationships
Enterprises and organizations are formed to provide goods, and services, and most organizations are formed to make a profit. While each organization is different, they all have goals and tasks required to deliver their goods and services, and the organization’s management team is responsible for planning and delivering the resources necessary to meet those goals. Managers need help from direct reports, peers, senior management and vendors to get their job done, and often rely on others to meet their goals. It’s advantageous for a manager to invest time and effort into building a relationship with everyone that will help them accomplish their goals.
Building a positive relationship with all individuals increases your influence and trust in an organization. As you learn more about your team, your peers and vendors, they also learn more about you. Communication improves, sharing of information increases and that is how influence and trust grows.
As a manager, if you work from a position of control where your circle of control is related to the position that you hold, as opposed to the influence and trust that you have earned, then I believe that you will have less control because your circle of control will only include your direct reports. Without the extra level of influence and trust, your direct reports may do what you say, however they will not be motivated to put in the extra effort that is often needed to complete critical projects. Managers who make decisions that best suite themselves, and not the team, are recognized quickly, and often loose influence and trust.
If you are looking to improve your circle of influence you can start by building a relationship with all of your direct reports. My strategy is bi-weekly one-on-ones and a weekly staff meeting where everyone is open to bring their challenges to the table. If you are managing a remote employee, then the frequency should increase and you may need to speak with the remote employee every day. From a peer perspective, let your peers know that you are always approachable and willing to help and do the same with your vendors. Good vendor relationships are key in many managerial jobs.
As managers we all have different communication and management styles, however by building a network of relationships throughout your organization, you reduce the risk of a miscommunication or misinterpretation and increase the chance that everyone will be working together toward similar goals.
I have really enjoyed the discussions in the Essentials of Managing course and would like to offer another resource for folks looking to improve their managerial skills. I have been listening to Technology and Management Podcasts for many years and would recommend www.manager-tools.com for anyone who is managing people. Manager-tools.com is a great resource for both the new manager and the experienced manager. It is a free service, with forums, podcasts and premium content, where they discuss different managerial scenarios and outline the strategies and techniques necessary to deal with each situation.