I’ve managed a lot of teams and amazing people in my career. Some were older, smarter, and more seasoned than me. Despite our differences in age, upbringing, or opinions, I never swayed from my core principles as a leader. We had all been through the fire together in some way or another at work and our collaboration is what made us better.
I totally forgot that I captured this (thanks Timehop), but the photo is how one of my teams ended a message they sent to me. They received my feedback about their account reconciliations. I had a group meeting to share my thoughts then I met with them individually to point out specifics.
The recs were a HAM (Hot A$$ Mess) if I do say so myself. They weren’t timely, correct, or in any position to be relied upon by anybody. Having been a reconciler for years and understanding the reasons why we complete recs in the first place, I knew a big part of the errors was because they didn’t know. They didn’t know how to reconcile an account or what the true meaning of a “source document” was.
How Did We Get Here?
My direct reports, ranging from new grads to seasoned professionals, all made the same mistakes in their work. That told me 3 things:
They’ve been completing reconciliations this way all this time and no reviewer or manager has said anything
They’ve been completing reconciliations this way all this time and never asked for feedback
It was up to me to invest the time to educate them on how to properly complete a reconciliation
Leading with Empathy
The email was a reminder that authentic leadership always wins. Speaking the truth, even when it stings, can change someone’s career. I could have easily sent the recs back with notes and left it there. I realized I needed to block time on the calendar and have a real come-to-Jesus conversation about their performance.
The rest of the email laid out their plan to redo all the recs and complete them by the next deadline. They had gotten together to discuss the feedback and how they were going to make it better - all while I was behind a closed door in a full day of meetings.
A leader is nothing without a team who’s willing to get behind them and execute their ideas.
The fact that they received what I said and valued it enough to act upon it meant everything.
The Employee-Manager Relationship
A lot of times employee-manager relationships go wrong because of misunderstandings. An employee may feel like a manager treats them a certain way because they don’t like them. A manager may feel like an employee is uncoachable and doesn’t care about feedback. Because of this, neither invests in building the relationship.
Although the work gets done, the rapport isn’t there to exchange feedback. It continues until somebody leaves or gets fired then there’s a lost opportunity in professional development.
Let’s be clear, you do NOT have to be BFFs with your boss. In some cases, the relationship isn’t meant to be and that’s cool - I’ve worked for people that I couldn’t stand, but that didn’t stop me from getting my work done. In those cases, at least have a line of communication where you can get what you need to professionally get to move forward in your career.
Employees: when you receive feedback it’s not personal, it’s to make you better. How do you handle it?
People Managers: how are you investing in your people? Are you a leader or a boss? There’s a difference.
I’m grateful for all of my mentors and advisors who have yanked my coattail many times in my career. It felt like a scathing attack at the time but it turned out to be a raft for the deep water.
What do you think about this post?