If you are reading this, you are either at the stage where your company is experiencing significant growth, or you have just found yourself responsible for more people than you can comfortably manage. Perhaps with multiple managers below you.
I was in a similar situation a few years ago. Fortunately, I had experienced managers to learn from and a very patient team. Over time, I realised that managers who were effective at managing at scale did the following things,
They built meaningful relationships
Effective managers were really great at building relationships, not just with their direct reports but also others in their organisational unit. More importantly, they cultivated relationships with stakeholders from other departments and business units.
Deep meaningful relationships and trust take time to build, and they happen outside formal meetings in the many micro-interactions we have with others. Effective managers invested time in having these micro-interactions in between meetings, not just to get to know people but also to get a pulse of their organisation — what worked for people, what didn’t, what they looked forward to, what they didn’t; and what they thought about their company and its culture.
They Identified key metrics
A large organisation has multiple teams, each team working on a different problem or area within the business. It can get hard to keep track of what each team is doing and more importantly whether everyone is aligned and working towards the same goals.
Effective managers helped distil the expected output into a couple of key metrics that the team can work towards. They created a culture of transparency where team metrics were visible within the organisation. This not helped foster a sense of oneness but importantly helped members of different teams understand each other’s goals and pressures and created an organisation that was fair and reduced company politics.
They constantly communicated
Effective managers know that the #1 problem facing organisations is that of alignment — people working towards the same shared goal. It isn’t enough to state the company goal once during an annual all hands and assume each department, team and individuals understanding will align with it.
They not only communicated goals and changes to prioritisation but also their fears and the risks they perceived. They communicated transparently and allowed everybody to voice their concerns or opinions. They used multiple channels of communication and communicated the same message over and over because they knew that sometimes it takes a few tries for the message to stick. They brought people along on their decision-making journey. They built trust through communication.
They empowered others
No matter how efficient you are, you only have 24 hours in a day. To truly operate at scale, you must create teams that are autonomous, understand their goals and have the freedom to execute on the “how”.
Effective managers know this and constantly work to eliminate themselves as the bottleneck. They invest time in defining boundaries on what needs to be escalated and what doesn’t and then empower managers and teams to make decisions within their teams.
While effective managers delegate and empower others, they hold them accountable as well. They create channels of communication, so that they are still in the know of what’s happening and can step in when required.
I learned a lot from the people I worked with, learning to avoid mistakes they made, while making a bunch of new ones. I use these four key areas today, and I hope I can share some of what I learned with you.