Decoding Careers – 4: M+M equals to Managing Mentors

Leaders today have different challenges in managing people or teams. Projects and key activities require different skill sets and therefore leaders have to rely on different people to execute them. The times for solo players are gone. Further, globalization and 24/7 operations require leaders to have teams residing in different locations in the world introducing a key complex element to managing, i.e. handling distance and cultural barriers. When you think of the math 1+1 explained in the previous blog, this situation becomes a big challenge for leaders to effectively manage successful teams and projects.

But there is one more thing: today in almost all industries, especially in technology, managing smart professionals by hierarchy definitely does not work at all. By just thinking you can say “do this“, it does not mean it will be get done (in the way you want). So, how do you manage all these complexities and still have people or teams working together?

First of all, you need to act as a mentor. Unfortunately, lots of (legacy) leaders manage by hierarchy and think it is a waste to discuss why some projects, activities, etc. are important than others. They yell down (mostly by email) and there is no patience to teach or explain backgrounds. Five minutes of attention to details can make a big difference. Mentors start to define common goals and explain why we need to execute certain tasks or why we have to change an organization or change a product or change a service. The explanation has to be authentic and genuine: many today are marketing talk and smart professionals won’t buy it. This is the key starting point for a successful leadership and credibility. It sets a common ground for people and teams to work together. At the end of the day, if 1 + 1 = -1, it has to do with the leadership for sure.

Managing by hierarchy should happen only when important decisions cannot be made by smart professionals because there are different options, they may have the same outcome but have different approaches or the business context is unknown and in that case, the teams need a mentor to look at it and help out with the decision. The difficult part here that the mentor has to take the decision based on different dimensions, like costs, innovation, potential, etc. In any case, any decision may favor a team vs. the other. A good managing mentor makes this decision quickly and will explain the why. Either people are on board or not, this process has involved all the democratic possibilities you can have in corporations. The mentor is also responsible to find alternative challenges for the team or person that is impacted. Many times people or teams are just left alone without a charter at all.

In my mind, the most successful leaders are mentors, they are a mirror of their teams and are available anytime for helping them to be successful.

In the next blog, I will cover a special leader role: product managers.





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