A few days ago marked my former manager’s last week at Best Buy. Alix accepted a position with another company in California and will be starting her role there next month. My peers and I were disappointed about this because we hold her in high regard. She is a smart marketer and business person but beyond that Alix earned the respect and support of her team because of the advocacy she displayed. While we are sad that she left Best Buy, we are excited about the opportunity in front of her.
Over the last couple of weeks as I’ve been preparing for the upcoming transition, I’ve reflected back on what I think makes a good leader in a large company such as Best Buy. (When I say leader I’m not just talking about anyone with an executive title. I think that any person that manages others should absolutely consider team leadership as a key component of his or her responsibilities.) I personally take managing a group of people very seriously. I look at my job like I have two components: one half is the business focus of my job and the other half is being an effective director for my team.
Like others out there I’ve had my share of managers that were strong leaders and those that were not. Though it’s been a mixed bag I’ve always tried to learn something along the way even if it meant learning how not to do something. From this experience I’ve developed my perspective on what is important about managing and leading a team. Here are the elements that currently shape my approach as a manager and what I look for in strong supervisor.
- Have a vision: Teams need an idea of who they are, where they are headed and why they are doing what they are doing. Job number one for any manager is to articulate these two things: 1) rally your people around an idea of why the team exists and 2) get buy-in on what they are working on and why they are working on it.
- Empower your teams (and get out of the way): I’ve found that teams are stronger and work at a higher level when people can own and feel responsible for the work without being micromanaged. It creates capacity, freedom to operate and ownership of the work. As managers sometimes we need to know when to get out of the way.
- Hold people accountable: Related to the above, when someone knows they are on the hook for something the level of commitment to the work increases and the work being produced is better.
- Expect excellence: My team and I were talking about this just the other day. If we don’t set a high standard for ourselves, then we’ll never produce great work. We should always have high expectations even if we don’t meet them because at least we’ll deliver something that is above average.
- Be human: At the end of the day work is a means to an end. It should be about having fun with the people you work with and enjoying the ride. It’s about relating to each other as human beings and rallying together during difficult times.
Being a good leader isn’t easy. It takes effort, it takes understanding and it takes patience. Personally, I make sure that I give myself dedicated time and space to think about this part of my job. There is no clear cut guide to being an effective team manager of people – it’s a continuing process where you are constantly learning. But I can say without hesitation that I have the most respect for people that put in the same kind thought and energy when it comes to leading their teams as they do on the actual work itself.
(Photography courtesy of Wen Zhang via Creative Commons license.)