Managing Humans Part I

Don’t be a prick

A great manager is someone with whom you can make a connection no matter where you sit in the organization chart; he has the ability to construct an insightful opinion about a person in seconds: so know that judgments of you and your work will be constructed in moments.

While you might be handsomely rewarded for what you build, you will only be successful because of your people.

A successful organisation is built of layers of people that are glued together with managers. They know what their employees want and what their manager wants, and they are able to successfully navigate when those wants differ.

Understand your manager’s vision

There are three distinct classes of managers, each with their own agenda. Inwards are responsible for a small team of folks, their vision is focused on their team and their product; they don’t tend to be involved cross-functionally. Holistic's’ vision is staring across the organisation. They are responsible for multiple products and multiple teams. They can focus on figuring out what to build next and who they’re going to need to build it. Outwards are the senior managers, VPs, CEOs. Their vision is focused on the outside world, the perception of the company, the company’s relationship with its customers, the financial community, the world. While it’s not their job to run the company on a daily basis, they are accountable for it. Sometimes a manager can have two titles. First, there’s the title they give themselves and, second, there’s the perception of the rest of the organisation, i.e: working for a manager who fancies himself a holistic when the organisation has him pegged as an inward; your manager isn’t paying attention to his primary job, but the opportunity is that you are.

In order to understand how to speak to your manager, you’ve gotta figure out how he acquire information, and chances are, he gathers it either organically or mechanically. Organics are all over the place; they tend to be loud and they can tell a joke. If you work for an organic, trust that they’ve got a plan even though it may not be immediately apparent. Topics will vary wildly and the moment they become dull, they’ll vanish. Organics miss detail as they hurry from place to place. Mechanics move forward methodically, in a structured manner. If you work for a mechanic, you must overload your mechanic with data in order to satiate their structured brain. You will wrongly assume that mechanics don’t trust you, but you will build trust by acting like a mechanic with them.

Don’t be evil

The main complaint is the what-do-you-do disconnect between employees and managers, and it is at the heart of why folks don’t trust their managers or even find them to be evil (they may have no idea of what kind of stuff you are doing).

The second most common complaint is “My manager has no idea what I do”; so encourage them to explain what they do and why it matters; as their manager you are their face to the rest of the organisation and the organisation’s view of you is the view of them.

A manager’s job is to transform his glaring deficiency into a strength by finding the best person to fill it and trusting him to do the job. However, the folks who work for pure delegators don’t rely on them for their work because they know they can’t depend on them for action.

Speak managementese and also the common language

It’s management speak, a language that is learned, evolved, and spoken by managers. It’s the cross-functional language of the company, as managers are hubs, and can help you talk with your fellow managers, but you still need to communicate to your team, and the main issue is they don’t trust this language. When you’re talking to individuals, dispose of the management hat and have a conversation in a common language.

Be strategic

Busy feels great, but busy is usually tactical, not strategic. You should have time in which you’re investing in yourself. You should always have a clear map of the company in your head, what intends to do, and understand whether or not it’s doing it. Having a map is usually a better way of getting to a destination.

Run efficient meetings

The core difference between a conversation and a meeting is that it needs rules so people know when to talk. Meetings has two critical components:

  • Agenda: The agenda answers the question “how do I get out of this meeting so I can actually work?”. There are different agenda strategies: e-mail before the meeting, writing it down on the whiteboard, etc. It’s important to let the others known what you will cover and how long you’ll spend on each subject. By creating a plan and following through, you’ll accomplish more and not waste your colleagues’ time.
  • Referee: The referee’s job is to shape the meeting to meet the requirements of the agenda and the expectations of the participants. They’re aware of anyone who doesn’t believe that progress is being made (If they’re doing anything except listening, they aren’t listening; if their attention is elsewhere, they aren’t listening; if steam isn’t coming from their ears, they might stop listening; etc). For dealing with this kind of problems you should try to: pull them back, ask them a question relevant, reset the meeting with silence, change the scenery. stand up or write stuff on the whiteboard. If there are signs for a meeting that is doomed, stop this meeting because there is no discernible way to make progress.

Meetings become the fashionable solution to problem-solving — to making progress. Everyone believes that if you’re invited to a meeting, you are somehow more professionally relevant and suddenly we’re worrying more about the care and feeding of meetings than getting shit done. Meetings must exist, but meetings cannot be seen as the only solution for making progress. When the meeting is done, it need never occur again.

Know when to get the hell out of meetings

Knowing the roles and what these distinct meeting roles want out of a meeting it’s a very important skill, whether you’re a participant or the person running the meeting.

Figure out the players. When some problem needs to be solved, you can classify the participants in player and pawns. Players want something out of the meeting; pawns are either silent or instruments of running the meeting, they don’t contribute. If you’re sitting in a meeting where you’re unable to identify any players, get the hell out. These are some of the most common characters on a meeting:

  • The Anchor Slogan: “It’s all about me” It’s the person who will decide. Make sure they know their job. When there is no anchor present, the best move is a reschedule.
  • Laptop Larry Slogan: “Pardon me, what?”. He goes to regularly scheduled meetings that he knows are going to be 75 percent irrelevant to him. He’s not working and he’s not really listening (Ask Larry to put his computer away)
  • Mr. Irrelevant Slogan: “I’m just happy to be here”. He is mostly harmless. There is a reason Mr. Irrelevant is in your meeting and you need to understand that reason before you punt him.
  • Chatty Patty Slogan: “I don’t shut up”. Your main issue here is time. Incapable of conveying thoughts in a concise manner. Figure out whether Chatty Patty is actually Ms. Irrelevant.
  • Translator Tim Slogan: “I know every acronym ever. FTW!” He speaks the language of everyone in the room.
  • Sally Synthesizer Slogan: “What he’s saying is …”. Sally’s job is to end meetings. Derives the basic truth of what was just discussed.
  • Curveball Kurt Slogan: “The sky is pancakes.” No clue what he’s talking about. Your absolute worst situation is when your anchor is a Curveball.

Figure out each player’s position relative to the issue on the table as there are two subclasses: the pros and the cons. Cons are usually easy to pick out because they’re expressing some degree of pissed-off-ed-ness. If you want the meeting to produce something useful, the pros must be represented (A common tactic of a good pro is to not acknowledge that they’re the pro)

Figure out the Issue, what the whos want. The reason you’re sitting there is the cons. The cons need a plan. Someone needs to synthesize everything into constructive next steps and communicate that to the cons. Cons will not let you out of that meeting until there is the perception of forward progress. If it’s 30 minutes in and you still can’t figure the issue, it’s time to go, too many issues.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store