I never had the benefit of any training as a manager – it was learn on the job, JIT – Just in Time Learning. So I thought managing was getting things done through other people. That’s part of the story but I eventually learned there’s more to it than just that.
I’d been told at a previous job that I was very “task-oriented”. I took that as a compliment. The person who worked for me was trying to tell me that I wasn’t very people oriented. But I didn’t get the message.
At my next job I had a great product manager working for me – he really got things done! But one day he came in looking very down in the mouth, very uncharacteristic for him.
So I asked him if anything was wrong and if he wanted to talk. He came into my office – we had offices in those days – and let me know that his wife had a serious medical issue and it was why he wasn’t looking his usual upbeat self. I sympathized and asked if there was anything I could do, like giving him some time off to be with her. Each day I found a time to check in with him to see how his wife was doing. Eventually she pulled through and everything was fine.
But that’s not the end of the story. Sometime later he came into my office and said, “I just wanted to tell you that it meant a lot to me that you were supportive when my wife was ill. Frankly I was surprised, as you seem to be someone 100% focused on getting the work done. But I really appreciated your support.”
Well that was an eye-opener. I may be a slow learner, but thanks to his frankness I learned my lesson this time. Work is more than just getting things done. It’s about the people who do them. Whether you are a CEO, executive, management or staff it doesn’t matter, empathizing with your colleagues is really important.
So lesson learned – pay attention to your colleagues and check in with them about their personal lives, not just if they have hit their latest milestones.
Companies are made up of people and people have more going on in their lives than work. Especially if you are in management, pay attention! And just because you are in a start up that’s moving a hundred miles an hour doesn’t mean you can afford to focus 100% of your attention on achieving your startup’s goals. If you don’t care – and show you care – about your people the odds are you won’t be nearly as likely to achieve those goals.