TRUE LIFE: Diaries of a Middle-Manager

So I get asked a lot how do I get my executives on social tools (see here), like Yammer. The people on the ground, the front line LOVE tools like this. Yet what I find most interesting is managing on Enterprise Social tools and what is the role of a manager in a networked community. This is  something I want to dig deeper than just my personal experiences, so if you have research, please share my way.

For a while, if not forever, managers had the role of dissemination of information. Similar to the role of parents to children, teaching their kids about the world in a way they think they should learn, however far away or close to reality that ends up being.

You’ll need to take note. I am a millennial. I manage millennials and Xers. I am managed by a Xer.

 

YES TEAM

You probably also have experienced this as well. Some roles of your organization are shifting. The role of IT. The role of Corp Communication. The role of Learning & Development. The role of Marketing…. To name a few.

I also think the role of the manager is changing as  well in the social space.

And I don’t mean, because I use twitter, I am a better manager (although that might make another good blog post). I mean internally social tools like Yammer break down the dissemination of information in ways that managers have been holding the keys for ages. What is the role of the manager when my CEO can simply read and “like” a message of my direct reports. How does that reflect on me? How does it reflect on them? Is it a good thing? And what does the role look like if my reports can interact with the CEO without my involvement? What DO they need me for?

 

Three areas for managers to focus —  team, individuals, the company.

  • Team operations – As a manager I have certain things that I liked to do when I attend meetings, as well as when I am participant at meetings. I create a space for us to co-author meeting minutes and notes. No more of everyone take their own notes and someone compile them at the end of the day (and sent over email). I also ask what are my teams “highs and lows” for the week in our Team Yammer group. I do this to see how they are doing and whats going on, what ends up happening is that the lows or the highs spark other conversations. When my team “wins” or does something great, I tag the conversation, this why at the end of the year /quarter or month we can celebrate the team (I used #YES_we_can because the team was the Yammer Education Services aka YES team).
  • Individuals – With allowing people to work out loud on their projects in a variety of groups openly, it allows me to never have to guess what my people are up to. Then during our 1:1s I can follow up on specific conversations or roadblocks and see how I can help remove them to get them to move forward faster. I also use the Praise functionality to give the pat on the back of something small or big, but something worth deserving.
  • The company – By staying connected to a variety of groups that might not be so relevant for my day to day job, it helps me keep an ear to the ground and a heart toward the future of the company. I know and find out things before most people do because I can peer into their groups or spaces and see what they are up to. This allows me to translate and share it with my team on how they should prepare or how our customers will be affected by the other work. As a remote manager this helps me stay connected and virtually walk the halls of other teams and projects.

Your teams need you to serve them. To motivate. To remove and unblock barriers. To help plan and prioritize. And to get into the action, offer up your own hands to get dirty in the work when you need to. Your team needs to be that connecter, and not to stand in the way of connecting the dots for them as they grow and succeed. You need  to help build their networks. And they also need you to get out of the way, and have the opportunity to do it themselves, no matter how much you want to just do it.  And this is amplified in a social networked world. They don’t need you to horde or disseminate the information. If you are like me, my team is educated and has good intention. They don’t need me to be a blocker, they need me to open  the doors and get out of the way. Because at the end of the day, its not about you, it should be about them.

 

Last week I attended ASTD (Now ATD) International conference and I sat in a session with Marcus Buckingham about performance management. His whole talk revolved around the manager employee relationship. He asked managers to ask their employees early and often: 1. At work, do you have a chance to do your best every day? 2. Do you know what is expected of you? 3. Are you colleagues committed to quality (with the definition of quality varying in each organization and team).  Help your employees find their strengths, focus on their strengths and understand the expectations of the quality that the organization needs. You can’t have this level of conversation without actually knowing your team, and really understanding them for who there are and where they’ve been.

 

How do you lead? How do you manage people on social networking tools like Yammer? Do you have anything else to add?

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