A while ago, I discovered that one of the people that I had been working with had given his notice and was moving on. He was smart, talented, and a hell of a nice guy, and had a solid track record of success.
I was going to miss chatting with him; he and I had a similar approach towards managing our teams, and tackling problems. I’m not sure where I got the idea from, but I decided to take to opportunity to pull him aside before he left.
“Hey man… I’m bummed you’re leaving. But before you go, can you do me a favor?” I asked.
“What do you need?”
“I need you to give me five things… five snippets of advice. It can be anything; ideas, guidance, warnings, stories, management tips, whatever you want. Do you mind?”
I wasn’t exactly sure what I was going to get back. What I was looking for were simple rules that he had employed to grow his career, do better work, or build a solid team. It made sense to me at the time; I was at a pivotal point in my career. I knew that to succeed, I would have to go out of my way to be the student. To never stop learning (that topic is for another time…)
A few days later, I popped my head into his office, notebook in hand. “Hey man… you got my list ready?”
He smiled. “Yeah, I’ve got ’em.”
At the time, I didn’t know what direction he was going to take, or where it was going, but I knew that it was going to be good.
The following is the list of the five things.
#1 Be transparent.
This is something that I hold near and dear to my heart. I kind of consider transparency to be honesty’s little sister. Transparency in all things is important, especially as a leader, or a manager.
- Transparency builds trust. Furthermore, transparency maintains trust. Clarity is important to the people that work with you, and the people that do work for you. Transparency is the best policy, whether in business, your personal life, or otherwise.
- Transparency provides the opportunity for there to be open, clear communication, free from static or confusion.
- Transparency means that your team knows what you know. They can provide feedback, critique, and opinion on the hardest parts of the project. You can share the struggle of the hardest aspects of the project, and thrive with their help.
You may have experienced moments in time where a boss has “recommended” that you keep people in the dark; a “they don’t need to know right now” approach.
Nope. I’m not that guy. Withholding information from your team that relates to the goals of the business, or an active project is poisonous. Unless it’s proprietary information, or strictly prohibited from being discussed, lack of transparency does nothing but hold up progress. Your thought leaders come up with potentially awesome ideas and solutions when they know what the issues are.
#2 Never take credit.
Nothing is more toxic than the manager that shuts down your great idea, only to bring it back a month later and call it their own. I’ve been there, and it sucks. It’s an angry, marginalized feeling akin to being cheated on, without the melancholy music and Häagen-Dazs.
Call it a power grab, or glory hogging, or whatever you like… it’s poison. When a manager takes credit for the work of others, it’s a guarantee that their direct reports will detach, disengage, and vilify that manager. Bosses are not deserving of the praise when it’s their team that’s producing.
Simply put, without the team, the boss ain’t got a goddamned thing.
A shitty boss that always takes the credit loses his or her credibility with their team. In most cases, good work speaks for itself.
Here’s the deal… If you’re on a team and your boss has passed you over and taken credit for the work that you’ve done, speak up (in a clear and respectful fashion, of course). Corporate thieves come in all shapes and sizes. Some steal from the business, others steal from their teams, only to advance themselves. Yuck. It never ends well.
If you’re the boss, and you run a team… be selfless. Reward hard work. Be open; communicate their value to them, and to others. Be smart; when your boss gives you an “great job” and a HR appropriate pat on the back, make sure you go out of your way to give credit where credit is due.
You strengthen your team when the members of your team are respected, listened to, and not marginalized.
The credit hogging, inconsiderate, self-serving individualist should be the first to get eaten in the zombie apocalypse but it doesn’t always work out that way, unfortunately. Don’t be food.
#3 Connect and network.
It’s a bit of a no brainer. Networking and cultivating meaningful relationships with colleagues always can help in the long run.
Find those around you that are as stoked about what you do as you are. This ensures that you will learn, grow, and build relationships that will serve you in the long run. Connections matter, and they last far longer than you think they do.
LinkedIn works if you manage it properly. Keep the lines of communication open. Show interest in your connections. The occasional phone call to that person that you hit it off with at that high-priced workshop works too. If you need to, put some “correspondence” time on your schedule. Lock it in, and stick to it. The next big thing only exists if you know it exists. If you don’t know your options, you don’t have any.
#4 Don’t take shit.
(Really, that was one of the five…)
This is an important one. You may be in a clearly defined box on the org chart at your job, but seriously… fuck that. It does not, for one second, mean that your position makes you more eligible to be shit on. Too many CEOs and members of leadership use an organization chart as a shield, sword, and crown. They’re convinced that they’re not bound by the same rules of engagement. It’s no wonder progressive companies are starting to crumple up their org charts and throw them away. If you’re not familiar with Holocracy, learn more here.
If you’re really good at what you do, it’s most likely that the toxic behavior of the “shitter” is occurring because they’re afraid of being exposed; they may not be as capable as they convinced everyone they were. Behavior like this typically occurs because it’s never been identified and checked, or simply because it’s allowed by the management above them.
Amazon has recently been blasted for being a super-toxic place to work. The funniest part of these articles are the people that defend Amazon’s abusive environment because it’s “competitive”. I’d hazard a guess that the people that defend such a toxic environment do so because their vile behavior has allowed them to succeed there. I doubt that they’ve never worked on a truly engaged, mutually respected, solid team before. The only way a company can survive holistically is if the team works as one, supports each other, and waves the same flag as they rush into battle.
Honestly, everyone knows who the backstabbing ladder climber is… except for the backstabbing ladder climber.
If you feel like you’re in a situation where you’re being shat upon, take a few deep breaths. Take a moment to be as self-aware as you can. Reflect. Do a private poll. Ask your colleagues for honest, “it’s ok, my feelings won’t be hurt” feedback. Explain your concerns and your situation, and get the feedback before you attempt to escalate. Look… if everyone including you thinks your boss is a manipulative asshole, chances are your boss is a manipulative asshole.
“Listen… I need to make sure that I’m not taking crazy pills, here… from what I’m telling you, do you guys think I’m out of line? Can you give me some insight?”
Use whatever strategy that you can (there are about 12 million results for “deal with bad boss” on Google right now) to avoid being shit upon, or receiving the dreaded “swoop and poop” from a manager. If your options have been exhausted, and the situation can’t be addressed, LEAVE. In the long run, it’s not worth it to stay and be miserable.
#5 Consider every career opportunity.
We aren’t in the world where you can work at a company for 25 years and retire with a juicy pension anymore. It’s just not that realistic anymore. The landscape is competitive, and driven by growth and rapid advancement. Don’t get lazy.
Accept the fact that the awesome, progressive place that you work at today may grow too fast, be sold without notice, or asshole themselves irreversibly on social media. Be prepared. Hope for the best, and prepare for the company to be bought by aliens or zombies and fucked up.
My Dad is a really smart guy. “The only thing that’s guaranteed in life is change.” he always says.
Be flexible. Keep your eyes open. As a rule, even if I’m in a great position, I make it a point to connect with or reach out to a recruiter or agency every 6 months. I look at the job boards every once and awhile. The only way you know that your next dream job is out there is if you’re looking. This doesn’t mean that you’re disengaged from your job. You can’t get fired for looking. You’re not betraying anyone. In many cases, a quick search may determine that you’re exactly where you should be for the time being. If you’re happy at your job, enjoy it. Love it. It means you’re engaged.
You’re the curator and cultivator of your career. Own it.
I was kindly given five simple things…
…and those things helped me reinforce and refine my approach to work, leading a team, and being the best boss that I can be. It felt good to know that I was on the right track.
The next time you have a chance, take it upon yourself to ask the question to someone that you respect.
Seems, easy, right?
What are your five?