(Or, Isn’t the Airport Bookstore Filled With This Stuff?)
Here’s the movie: new start-up comes on the scene filled with a few incredible young people. Start-up grows, the team expands, and those few incredible young people all of a sudden have the responsibility of a team underneath them. Just a year or few prior, these incredible young people were barely able to manage themselves in the crazy, ever-changing company that they are a part of. Now, these incredible young people are “managers” and are expected – without any direction or manager role models - to know how to develop, coach, structure work, review, and set expectations for a whole bunch of new incredible young people. Sound familiar?
Time and time again, I ask start-ups what they need to be successful and the response is: management training – which is code for “I’m a first-time manager running around and I have no idea what I’m doing.” So naturally, these first-time managers want to quickly learn what it takes to be a successful manager – like they learned how to program, how to design, how to operate – and put those learnings into practice. They want AND CRAVE a set of trainings that teach them how to manage, all while not letting on to the people they’re managing that they have no idea what they’re doing. Simple, right?
Well, not really….
Teaching someone how to manage is hard. First reason it’s hard is because it takes time to develop the muscle of management. The first time you manage someone you’re going to stink at it, the second time, you’re going to stink a tiny bit less, and so forth. Repetition, practice, and more repetition can’t be taught, but rather have to be experienced. Okay, so we can’t speed up time, so let’s focus on the second reason…
The second reason it’s hard to “train” someone to be a good manager in a couple hours of class time is that “management” is a whole bunch of things. Managing is knowing how and when to have difficult conversations, managing is structuring work and breaking down problems, managing is setting clear expectations, managing is developing an individual’s skills, managing is giving critical and constructive feedback, managing is motivating and incentivizing….the list goes on and on and on….
Phew. So where does that leave us, and what, might you ask, is then the purpose of this blog?
Well, bar none, the best way to learn to be a great manager is to be managed by someone great, learn from them and practice over time. AND, for first time managers in start-ups, that’s often impossible, nor is there infinite time to develop those skills. So, this blog aims to break down the key components of management and provide context, suggestions, readings, and research on how to build those management skills. It aims to give first-time managers some tools, information, and ideas to continue to improve their craft.
Now, onto the fun stuff!