Before my MBA, I thought good management meant that my boss treated me well, challenged me, and provided me with feedback throughout the year. I considered my old boss a good manager simply because I liked him and we had things in common. Now, more than halfway through my program at Hult, I realize that good management is all about creating the best environment possible for employees—and trusting them to do their jobs.
Here are four important tips that I have come to understand during the course of my MBA, which good should managers believe in and put into practice.
1. Build Trust
In my pre-MBA experience, senior management monitors itself through countless engagement surveys, with a common question being: “Do you trust senior leadership?” But senior leaders, in order to be effective, also need to be asking, “Do you trust the employees under you?” Since trust is not something that can be easily measured, it is also not something easily taught. In fact, it comes from experience. Building trust comes from listening to what employees have to say and the willingness to question situations and processes, and if they are not working, rebuilding them.
The Hult MBA program has taught me that delegation, and allowing people to manage themselves, is the only way to get things done. Self-regulation is important because it allows employees to figure out how to improve a process or a project. One way to encourage this is by allowing people to work on personal projects—something that firms like Google do.
Yet, it is often hard to give people ‘free time’ or allow them to self-regulate when time is precious. But it is essential, because even when companies pay employees well, money is not a big enough motivator—people want to have a sense of purpose in their job. This is why good managers must be willing to pay employees enough to keep money ‘off the table’ while empowering them (and therefore trusting them) to be innovative and develop an intrapreneurial mindset to create solutions. We see how important this in our group work at Hult. Because time and schedules are always tight, we need to constantly divide and delegate work so that the early birds and late owls can make their contributions, and we still make our deadlines. This is especially important when you have people of many cultures and life stages in one meeting room. Good managers will empower employees to self-regulate and get their work done on time.
3. Create a Killer Team
I’ve also learned that good managers surround themselves with people that think differently than they do, and who have skills that complement their weaknesses. Now, in a traditional view of management, managers reward the hardest workers on their teams. Yet, I’ve learned this year that it’s important to remember that a team is composed of all types of personalities and styles. For example, individuals who are less outgoing, but work hard to clear roadblocks in the background, can be forgotten among more extroverted personalities when the time comes for promotions. The Hult MBA program has taught me to champion and defend those employees who are doing good, essential work, but are not as as visible. We see this in our groups while working with the same people in one module on every subject. The quiet guy who does not say as much during the marketing project can suddenly become your team’s ticket to an ‘A’ in a finance class.
4. Look At The Big Picture
You can always count on little kids to always ask, ‘why?’ But as adults, we can get so caught up in our busy lives that we forget to stop and ask why we are doing something we’ve always done—again and again. We forget why we expect people to do things a certain way, and that our old, comfortable ways are not always the best ways. There is not one, and only one, correct framework or style that makes a good manager. In fact, it is important to be adaptable after assessing the needs of employees and specific situations. As emerging leaders, we need to always ask ‘why?’ And, we need to listen closely, be flexible, and establish credibility early. This is how we become good managers, and this is how we can help employees succeed.
Sarah Lipes is a 2015 MBA candidate at the London Campus. One of her favorite things about Hult is the international student body and perspectives.