Helping Managers become Better Managers, Melbourne

What are the tools managers need to be successful? How do you make sure new leaders can be effective at running their teams? How can you grow and scale up your manager hiring quickly? We touched on these critical topics at our Helping Managers Become Better Managers series panel discussion in Melbourne, Australia in 2017, part of our worldwide tour covering New York, Boston, San Francisco, London, and Berlin.

In this panel, we talked with:
Kelly Kozaris, Consultant and Coach
James Law – HR Director at Envato
Melissa Moore, General Manager for People & Culture at Melbourne IT

We’ve highlighted some of their top tips, but we encourage you to check out the entire podcast below.

What qualities to look for and encourage in a manager

It’s often undervalued in HR to rate a person’s leadership skills, in comparison to their tactical skills to do the job. According to Law, what’s key is “understanding what it is that you want your leaders to embody as part of a consistent approach to management.”

Managers should be able to understand and commit to a way of working that is true throughout the organization.

Moore said any management training should focus on the key questions: “What are the fundamentals that I need to get right? As a human and how I interact with other people? And how does that play out in the workplace?”

On top of that, said Kozaris, is a rapport between manager and employee that can form the basis of the working relationship.

“Trust is important,” she said, “to help managers build trust within their teams and really working on that to help build the potential of their people.”

Setting up the right feedback processes

The once-a-year review is dead. All the panelists agreed on the importance of building a continuous feedback culture instead. The tricky part, according to Moore, is that people love to give positive feedback but find giving constructive feedback to be a challenge. It requires more investment in building a culture of transparency.

“How can I give honest feedback in a constructive way that will help you grow as a person? Moore said. “I think that’s something that every organization struggles with.”

To Law, it’s important to build trust relationships and also set clear expectations of the manager’s role. At Envato, managers are put through a training program, educated about the company values, and know that their role is not purely to be the “boss” but the confidante, teammate, cheerleader, coach or motivator, depending on what the situation called for.

“People can go to their manager about anything, whether it’s career development, expectations around performance goals, feedback for the manager directly, feedback for themselves, something that may be happening in their personal life, and they trust that they can have a great conversation,” he said.

That kind of relationship is much more challenging to build without a constant rhythm of check-ins and conversations.

Setting effective and actionable goals

It seems like it should be obvious, but as companies scale, it’s easy for a large team to lose sight of how their work connects to the broader strategy.

The best way to create a general sense of purpose? According to Law, it’s about far more than just sharing the strategy — it’s about making clear the part everyone plays in impacting the strategy.

“Accountability in businesses that are growing fast is hard, because things do change fast,” Law said. “That’s why you’ve gotta have those conversations upfront and create goals that are consistently and easily measurable.”

Making sure your remote workers are thriving despite logistical challenges

Count Envato as one of the companies that understands the changing, global nature of the world. It’s generous remote-working policy helped the company earn a distinction from Great Place to Work.

But such amazing perks require a solid foundation in place to ensure productivity and output don’t slip.

What does that look like?

“We give you a lot of support and coaching,” Law said. “We also have a lot of documentation that helps you understand what (remote work) would look like. But it’s ultimately about expectation-setting. That’s how we’ve achieved the best results.”

Working asynchronously (i.e., not at the same time) across multiple time zones is also a challenge. Law said one could walk into a meeting at Envato’s headquarters and see just 40 percent of its participants.

Technology plays an important role in bridging the gap. If your company is thinking of implementing or expanding its remote-work policy, make sure you have the tools that allow everyone to communicate across different time zones. This could be Slack, Google Hangouts, Trello or an Intranet like Confluence. User adoption is also important. Do employees know how to join the weekly All-Hands? How can you update team members on a change in a project’s status? How can you alert your manager to a roadblock?

“We needed to change our perspective, going from ‘we’re not watching the clock but we are tracking your deliverables,’” Moore said. “There are really clear ways that we can manage our work and manage our output. But we need to change the mindset about being in your seat to get work done.”