I want to start off by clearly stating I have never held an executive position in my professional career. I do not know the whirlwind of being a manager. I do not know the stresses firsthand around quarterly or annual reports, handling the politics of the office, or forecasting around specific teams. I have, however, worked for several managers that were all responsible for these things and I can tell you exactly what brought me success and exactly what disengaged me very quickly. I can quickly point out those who managed vs those who led.
Here are the three things millennials want in a leader:
One of the most frustrating things I have experienced in my career is when my managers wanted to hold me accountable but did not hold themselves to that standard (directly or indirectly related to me). Many times, I was expected to hit a certain number or fulfill an expectation and when I did not, I was held accountable (rightfully so). However, when certain managers did not fulfill an expectation they had given to the team or me (like a promised one-on-one or changes around a certain process), a socially accepted excuse was given The reoccurrence of this created a divide between my manager and me. Why should I give 110% when I am not getting it in return? On the flip side, managers that led by holding themselves accountable 100% of the time motivated me to raise my accountability to match theirs. The old saying of “Lead by Example” has never been truer.
Coaching and Feedback
A top reason I left previous companies was because I felt I hit my professional development ceiling. I believed I had grown as much as I was going to grow, was thankful for everything I had learned, but felt it was time to move on. In my opinion, a large contributor to that feeling was a lack of coaching and feedback. Managers today need to do two things when it comes to coaching and feedback:
Block out time (weekly, bi-weekly, monthly) and stick to that promised time. Rescheduling sends the message to your employee that they are not high on your priority list.
Make sure the time blocked out is effective
Many managers will tell me they have reoccurring one-on-ones with their team but when we dig further into what these meetings entail, it’s often clear that without providing coaching and feedback during these conversations, they just aren’t effective.
As a manager:
Are you having the same conversation you did the last three meetings?
Are you simply going through the numbers from the previous month and forecasting for the next month?
Can you truthfully say you provided effective coaching since the last meeting?
The leaders I look up to gave me constructive criticism (even if I didn’t want to hear it) and worked with me on how to get better. They made my development a priority on their list of initiatives.
If there is one section that you take away from this blog, please let it be this one.
Trust is the foundation for everything as a manager. Losing trust in my manager caused my quickest disengagement. I have lost trust in managers for many reasons and once that trust is broken, it is tough to earn back. I have had managers engage in workplace gossip, blame me or the team around them for them for underperforming times and never take personal accountability. And I have had managers habitually promise one thing but then do another. If you want to have success as a manager, make sure your messaging and actions are aligned.
"I don't trust words, I trust actions"
Top leaders I’ve known in my career and personally, are those I know I can trust. They have my best interest at heart, they don’t gossip or break promises.