Here’s a “scenario”…
The other day I was walking through my neighborhood and came across an interesting tree. As we are in the process of landscaping our backyard, I wanted to take a closer look at it. As I got close, a bird flew out at me, giving me a Tippi-Hedren-style what-for. After I got through a flashback of being attacked by a flock of wild turkeys (that’s a WWCD for another day), I inched closer to the tree and saw why this bird was being so territorial. It made me think, what would I do if some crazy nature-loving lady, looking for the perfect tree for her backyard (aka a dumbass I-know-everything-about-marketing executive infringing on the day-to-day effectiveness of my team), came at my peeps, what would I do? I’m so glad you asked.
Here’s what I would do…
- Protect your team at all costs and buffer them from the crap and noise. (Like mama bird did when I came near her soon-to-be young.) I can’t tell you how many executives I have seen throw their own team under the bus. Don’t be like that. Do everything you can to protect them, and their jobs, while still being transparent about goals and progress. Your job as a manager is to shield your team from exposure, negativity, and harm. By doing this, it allows them to perform optimally, not having to worry about the stuff they shouldn’t need to.
- Lift them up. I’m not saying applaud them for showing up every day. I’m talking about making them feel their worth. Help them understand and see the impact they are having. If they can see that, they will take even more pride in their work and likely increase their efforts and productivity. I do what I call Secret Missions, where (sometimes without warning), we’ll drop everything and go do something fun. It doesn’t take much to make people feel valued.
- Provide sustenance for survival. In other words, make sure they have whatever they need to be successful. Do what you can to ensure they are set up for success. Duh! This could be making sure they have the right tools and resources. Or maybe they have a skills gap that can be alleviated by getting them some training. If you can’t provide for them, you may need to reevaluate the priorities.
- Nurture them. Understand what motivates them, and focus on that. I once had an employee who was great at her job, but it wasn’t ultimately what she wanted to do. We made a deal that if she kept doing her current role for now, I’d cover the cost for her to train in this new area she was interested in and would help her find a role doing that, even if it meant with a different company. Help them learn to fly, and sometimes you have to let them go.
- Kill, er, maim, um, defend your peeps against anyone who messes with them. This is also the job of a manager. It goes beyond buffering and protecting. You need to ensure that boundaries are set and kept. In the words of Picard, the line must be drawn here (and yes all of you Trekkie fans, I may have taken this out of context, but it works for me here).
- Add humor to the mix. Lighten up a bit. If you are going to be in a shit show, at least have some fun with it.
And for the record, said tree was a Smooth Arizona Cypress, aka Blue Ice. And the bird was a red-winged blackbird. And you can bet that I am going to do everything I can to make sure those little ones are safe, even if I have to set up my outdoor office nearby to chase away the “dumbass executives”.