The art of managing is found in balancing the individual strengths, weaknesses, and desires of a team of people. Every person is great at something, weaker at other things and is hoping to do something beyond the dictates of their current role. Your mission is to align all of those elements within each person and across the team as a whole.
During my time as the head of sales for GoTo.com, I made a promise to each of my direct reports. If they gave me their best for 12-18 months, I would back them in moving to whatever area was their desire. I then began to scheme. Not in the bad way, mind you. I plotted to find opportunities for them within the company.
Being privy to the company’s longer term plans allowed me to see a few moves ahead and to plant seeds with other managers. When we added an international division, I mentioned to the head of that team that Dan, one of my sharpest account execs, was very interested in moving into the international arena.
When the company was looking to add a new business development role, I mentioned to that team’s manager that Charles, the top account exec on the team at the time, was interested in business development. As my assistant manager (more of her role than her title), Jennifer, began showing an interest in managing people I gave her early opportunities to be the manager in charge when I wasn’t around. I also made sure my management knew of her interests.
Though this might seem counter-productive, it wasn’t. These folks were fantastic in their current roles, but they wanted something else. I would rather they find that within the company than outside of it. After all, they are just as ambitious as anyone else, if not more so. No person or business can cap a person’s passion. Nor should you try.
Christine, another of the original account execs, was equally fantastic, and she wanted to sell. Period. Pete wanted to sell and Brian wanted management. So on and so on. The art of my role was to keep people happy and productive. For some, like Christine and Pete, that meant clear goals and a chance to succeed. For others, like Charles, Dan, and Jennifer, it meant artfully opening paths to their next step.
Always scheme on behalf of your employees and you’ll build a team of dedicated, hardworking professionals. They’ll give back to you, as their manager, as you give forward to them.