Managing Managers

As my organization has grown over the past couple of quarters, I started implementing something I had never touched much before… a reporting structure. We have Directors, who have assistants, and managers who work on the Director’s teams. PR and Social Media report up to Marketing. Video production is a part of Media, while Accounting comes under Operations. As an organization grows, having a structure like this becomes important, otherwise you’ll start to see a lot chaos, really fast.

I was first exposed to a real reporting structure during my co-op at Digitalsmiths as a Project Manager. There, I reported to the VP of Client Services who handled Project Management. However, sometimes I’d interface with the COO, but it was usually going through the VP of Client Services. Why couldn’t I work directly with the COO when it seemed convenient? Well it turns out that policy actually makes a whole lot of sense, because the COO is responsible for managing the VP of Client Services, not me. If he had to manage both of us, he’d go nuts. 

Now that I am in a managerial role, I understand why I can’t answer every question for our Assistant Directors. I’d go nuts. Instead, they work with the Directors of each division of our organization, and I step in when necessary. In short, I am responsible for directly managing the managers (and responsibly for indirectly managing everyone).

So how do you do this well?

1. Give managers the tools they need to succeed

I constantly check in with all of my Directors to ensure that things are running smoothly in their division. Whether it is a budget issue, people problem, etc, you should get there before they even have to ask for help.

2. Don’t be a stranger to anyone in the company

Having a reporting structure doesn’t mean I don’t talk to Assistant Directors. On the contrary, I talk to everyone, a lot. I value everyone’s ideas and input, regardless of role, and I ask for them constantly. I gladly step in and work with anyone on my team. But at the same time, I try to defer the details in each division to the Director leading it. Part of my job is to make everyone better and more effective at doing their own jobs, so my Directors need opportunities to figure things out on their own, make mistakes and learn. As a leader, you are there to guide them along the way.

3. Respect managers authority

Don’t hesitate to override one of your managers if you feel that are making a bad call. BUT, do so with courtesy in a one-on-one environment. Calling out a manager in front of their team is never acceptable and can create way bigger problems in your organization.

4. Be a mentor to the team

As a manager of managers, your team is going to be learning a lot of management techniques from you. That means you need to lead by example, give lots of feedback, support and ultimately act as a mentor for everyone on your team.

5. As people learn, give them more responsibility

I give younger members of my team leadership opportunities as soon as they prove themselves capable of doing quality work and collaborating effectively in a team environment. The more opportunities that you give your team to manage, the better managers that you will have to work with. 

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