Q. I’d love to get some advice on management, as we recently hired a new (male) intern who is only a few years younger than I am. We’re still building the foundation of a marketing team at our startup so this is a crucial time for us, and I am happy to be given this opportunity to grow into a managerial role.
- What sort of skill set should I be developing?
- What kind of guidance and mentorship should I be provided to my younger colleagues?
- How can I be friendly and supportive while still firm when it comes to younger colleague meeting my expectations of how projects should be completed?
A. Congratulations on y0ur new responsibilities. First off, start by being yourself and being real. That is the key to any relationship. But there are specific skill sets to learn. You will not only learn valuable lessons that will help you throughout your career and personal life, you will get endless reward from helping someone else grow. And when they grow, you will grow and more importantly, if it’s focused in the right place, the bottom line will grow.
“A manager is not a person who can do the work better than his men; he is a person who can get his men to do the work better than he can. — Frederick W. Smith
It can be daunting to manage others when you still feel you are learning so much yourself, especially in your situation at a start-up where things are perhaps not as structured and a lot of things are new. In that environment, having a manager who is consistent helps keep it from being completely overwhemlming. The best of both worlds would be to provide some structure in the chaos of creation.
A great piece of advice I once heard: “People want to know two things. They want to know what they should be doing, and they want to know that what they’re doing is important. And you must, therefore, set up an environment in which they totally trust that.”
For this question, I have answers and insight from three 40-something women, all successful in careers that required managing others with grace under pressure. Today is the first response from from a woman was responsible for building new divisions within a global apparel company and new product development and expansion for a leading entertainment and media enterprise. Breathing new life into two companies whose names are both American institutions is a study in managing both up and down! As she outlines, it’s all about setting expectations and milestones and keeping the lines of communication open.
It is important to create a development plan outlining the objectives of the project / projects, even if these change as the projects progress. It would include the scope of the project(s), who he might need to be in contact to achieve (internally and externally) his milestones, your expectations, the intended outcomes (financially or developmentally). It should not long, but, the more detail the better the result. Having a piece of paper with expectations gives him something to refer to when necessary.
Build in check-point meetings where he can cover questions about the project, raise questions about the business or whatever is relevant to his progress ( i.e. @2 weeks, @1 month, @ 3 months or whatever cadence works for the length of time he is employed). These check points do not negate the need for the daily interaction that will naturally occur. Depending on the pace of your company, he might have difficulty getting an audience with you and these will be critical face to face meetings to raise issues and a time to get important feedback from you. You will benefit from the sit down time as well as you hone your management skills. Just as you want direction in your role and career, it is important for the intern to have the same. The more focused and clear you can be with him, the fewer issues you will encounter.
Since you are in start-up mode, be clear that you are also working out the kinks in developing the marketing department and that flexibility will be critical for his success there. He needs to know that one day he might be working on a project and the next day he might be filing papers for 3 days instead. Although that will not be glamourous, it’s part of doing business and important just the same.
Be consistent with your feedback. There is nothing worse than a manager who is changing course every day. That doesn’t mean the job might not change each day, but, be consistent with your praise / criticism and the expectations of a job well done. Be sure to give positive feedback when it is warranted. You will most likely be critiquing someone new more frequently, so when he does something well, be sure to point it out.
Give him exposure to others in the company (your peers, management, investors, customers) as much as possible. If your company is willing, 1:1 meetings are great for him to ask others how they got where they are, what they like about the company, the industry, their goals, etc. Give him a list of names you think he should meet and have him set them up.
It’s fine to be friendly and supportive, however, refrain from being too personal. You will determine the line, but, be sure to develop a line, and stick to it. By following the advice above, you will have no trouble remaining professional yet friendly, and get the desired outcome.