Think about your first management position. What was initially on your mind? For most of us, we dove into the technical work. What are the projects? Are they on time and on budget? What are the technical challenges? What is the financial picture for each?
For sure, you need to learn all of that, but learning your staff is also of utmost importance. You need to know who gets work done and how they do it so that you can match skills with organizational needs. This process can take months or years and you don’t have that kind of time. Here is a trick that short cuts the process so that you get a sense of their skills right away.
Ask for a briefing on his or her project and don’t say how to do it. Then, pay attention to the approach. You may observe that they fall into one of these four superpowers.
- Big picture thinkers. Big picture thinkers will begin the briefing by setting the context and describing the project goals. They may lay out a project strategy that flows from the goals. Your big picture thinkers are your strategists. They’ll know the goals and keep their eye on the ball. This keeps you and others from going off on tangents. They are less likely to be lost in the details and they will ask the tough questions.
- Tactical executioners. Tactical executioners will tell you about the activities that are underway – who’s doing what and when it’s due. It’s all about getting the actions completed. I had a staff person with this talent. She prided herself on diligently tracking every task and its completion. She could tell me the status of everything. If you have complex projects to manage, you need someone with this superpower. They will be on it!
- Analytical analyzers. Analytical analyzers will provide data, charts and graphs. Their presentation will be grounded in data and facts. You need to know the people on your staff with this superpower. In management positions, you must frequently make decisions before you have all the data. Go to the analytical analyzers to find out the data that is available and hear the data that they wish they had. You can decide if the risk it too great without all the data. Analytical analyzers will keep you honest and fact-based. There will be no fake news from them!
- Politically savvy. The politically savvy staff member will talk about the individuals who are essential to project success or who are actively involved in the project. They understand that relationships play a big role in project success. If you are in management, you need to know the politically savvy people. You need them and you need to learn from them (if this isn’t your superpower). They are networked into the organization. They know everyone and everything. My chief of staff was like this. She knew how to get things done by leveraging her relationships with others. This skill was invaluable. Find them on your staff and cultivate their superpower.
The briefing style you observe tells you as much about them as it does about the project. Their approach will point to their preferred work style and their superpower. Use this trick and you’ll learn about the project and about your staff.
To be a savvy manager, you need to know both.
If you want even more, re-read my blog about “Who’s Here.”