In this issue:
Sherry, a VP, was worried. Cliff, a new director, insisted on keeping his “hands in” the code. Now, she realized Cliff focused more on the code than his director role. And he irritated the team because he no longer understood enough of the technical details.
Sherry had offered him feedback several times—which partially worked. She decided to be more explicit with him about the value she wanted him to provide.
Sherry sent him a message and explained she wanted to review the value he offered to the people he led and served and the organization as a whole. She asked him to prepare for their one-on-one meeting two days later.
When Cliff arrived for his one-on-one, he first asked, “Are you planning to fire me?”
Sherry, surprised, said, “No! I do want you to change the mix of activities you choose. But I'm not planning to fire you.” She paused. “Do you want me to fire you?”
“Okay,” she said. “Let's work together.”
Every manager offers value at three levels: for themselves, the team(s) they lead, and the organization. Sherry asked three questions to discuss Cliff's value.
Question 1: Which Behaviors Do You Want People to Model?
Sherry first explained that people look up to their managers. Was Cliff modeling the behaviors he wanted to see in the managers he led and served? How about for the people who might want a management position in the future?
Cliff said he hadn't fully considered his behaviors as a role model. He added, “Since we're in the middle of this agile transformation. I'm not sure I understand everything I need to do in this position.”
Sherry and Cliff reviewed the outcomes she needed. Cliff realized he needed to spend more time on strategic product and operational issues and with customers. And, probably no time in the code. He could still discuss issues in the code, but not touch the code.
Cliff said, “I'm not so sure of myself for the strategic problems. I am sure of myself in the operational issues and the code.”
Sherry said, “I understand. I can either support you or help you with the strategic issues. But spending time in the code doesn't help either of us nor the teams. I suspect you'll do a great job when you solve the operational issues with your colleagues. And when you stay out of the code. That way, you could model the behaviors we need from managers. We need managers to manage themselves so they don't micromanage.”
Question 2: What Do the Teams Need from You?
Cliff's operational responsibilities included many problems that appeared technical. For example, just a year ago, the organization had a centralized build-and-deploy team. Now, the teams were supposed to build and deploy themselves. However, the teams had trouble deploying without creating more problems.
Cliff thought build-and-deploy problem was technical. As he and Sherry discussed the issues, they both agreed it was partly technical and partly a problem of collaboration.
That collaboration problem exposed itself in how the product people worked with the teams, how the project portfolio team selected projects, and how the teams dealt with incomplete technical work.
In addition, Cliff and his colleagues needed to collaborate with HR to rebuild the career ladders. The teams required that work so they would collaborate more with each other.
Cliff—along with his colleagues—had plenty of operational impediments to resolve.
Question 3: How Do Your Teams Serve the Organization's Purpose?
Sherry had spent significant time with the senior leadership team, discussing the organization's strategy and purpose. The organization finally united around customers and the problems they wanted to solve for those customers. Just as importantly, the organization decided which business they no longer wanted.
However, some teams still wanted to “do right” by their customers. That meant the teams still added functionality or supported their customers. Even though the company no longer wanted to support those customers with the older products.
Not all the teams believed senior leadership's decisions. Which meant Cliff needed to ease the teams away from the older work to newer work.
Consider These Questions to Start
Sherry and Cliff had several conversations refining how they saw Cliff's job. Once Cliff stopped trying to code, he had many more questions.
And once Sherry saw some of Cliff's concerns, she had more work to do.
A manager's value extends through all levels of the organization. You might need more questions. Let me know if you use these questions or change them.
When you change your questions, you can change how people work. Especially when it comes to certainty and openness. (This article is based on all three of the Modern Management Made Easy books.)
I opened my next writing workshop for registration: Q3 Writing Workshop 1: Free Your Inner Writer. This workshop will teach you how to write nonfiction faster and better.
My Write a Conference Proposal book is in the Write Stuff 2021 StoryBundle. This bundle is for you if you write, have a “side gig,” or if you work for yourself. Michael Lucas' Cash Flow for Creators will save you time and money. The bundle also includes 9 books plus one online course about dealing with toxic people. Those are the people who want the best for you and don't want to cause you pain. (The kind who tell you a little dessert won't hurt when you're trying to lose weight. Those people.) The bundle expires on May 27, midnight Central time, if I did the math correctly.
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Till next time,
© 2021 Johanna Rothman
Tags: delegation, management, servant leadership