Each person that we meet in our lives is living an interwoven life. The threads of each life that we get to see, interact with, and impact is a privilege. It is no secret that today people want to have a life of meaning, and that is enriching in their own eyes. As managers, we have an outsized opportunity to have an large impact on the lives of those we oversee.
Over the course of a life, we build and weave uniquely rich and wonderful tapestries. How can we as managers be a generative and enriching presence with the time we have together? Here are four suggestions to help enrich their lives through working with us.
Understanding where they are
There is life beyond work. We don’t have the right or need to know the details of their lives. Yet, if we can understand the posture they are in, we can better support them. Are they burnt out, or looking to make aggressive professional changes? Is this person needing to update their technical skills? Might they want space to stretch, thrive, and focus on soft skills?
Furthermore, having a general understanding of their midterm career goals helps. It lets you support and advocate for them, inside and outside the company environment.
Storytelling and Advocating
Tapestries are the interconnections of their threads. The stories we communicate weave into the lives of those we oversee. They connect them to one another, our work, and our mission.
These stories are not static, but living and dynamic. Take time to contextualize the stories we hear, and share them often. The better we do at storytelling down to our reports, the more natural it will become for us to advocate up for them. We help them progress in their careers when we tell stories of their work, and growth. As we celebrate wins we get to highlight those who did the work.
Providing clarity and boundaries
Software engineering is a collaborative and dynamic process. This means that we need to be extra focused on providing clarity and boundaries. This can mean that we push back against feature creep and establish reasonable deadlines. It means that we proactively communicate changes up and down within our organization.
Modeling and expecting healthy boundaries is also important. It makes it safe to step away from working. It lets us investigate why someone may regularly be putting in too many hours. Are they taking on extra work they shouldn’t? Do they need more support? More time heads-down to work? To take a break? Are we ensuring that they are taking advantage of the perks provided?
Being one who communicates clearly and supports healthy boundaries gives people mental rest. There should be no confusion around expectations. Nor added anxiety around fuzziness that all too many of us can relate to. No one should doubt what they are working on, what we expect, or where they stand.
Resourcing and Empowering
This is the most exciting for me. Getting to trust and empower our people to work. Tech is one of those industries that is intellectually demanding. So being able to resource and empower people gives them the mental space to get their work done.
Moreover, our empowering and resourcing helps people on their current work. It also sets them up for the next stages in their careers. Helping people see that their time with you and the company is helping them. They should see how their role cares for themselves, and makes progress in their career. Some of this is as simple as keeping track of their use of the provided vacation time, and education resources. Making suggestions for resources, conferences, or training courses/resources. It is easy to let day-to-day concerns of work keep people from doing this. Yet this investing work benefits the company, their work, and themselves.
📷 – MidJourney 2023 Prompted by Paul Prins