Reaching a management position is cause for celebration. It means that you’ve exemplified that you know what you’re doing well enough that you can (probably) successfully lead people in an official capacity.
However, competency is only half of the equation–if you can even quantify what makes a good manager. Unfortunately, when I ask you to reflect on a good manager that you had, the majority of you are going to think, “Have I had a good manager? Well there was that one job…but were they good at managing, or was I just not paying attention to what was happening?”
I am no longer in a management position. However, I can tell you that when I ask myself if I was a good manager, a couple of things happen. First, I say, “Yes, I think I was a good manager.” Second, I question if I actually was a good manager. Every conversation that didn’t end exactly the way that I wanted seeps into my thoughts, opening the way for more doubt. Right on its heels, everything that I missed, or took too long to get to comes to mind and fogs my vision of myself even further. I re-analyze every look I ever gave my staff, and I start to really wonder, was I actually good, or am I deluding myself?
It’s sad, but it’s the truth: the majority of people in management positions are highly competent with their jobs, but not good with people. Perhaps you’ve heard the old saying, “People don’t leave jobs, they leave Managers.” Consider the fact that all jobs were voluntarily entered into. The person was willing to do the job, at least for a little while. So, the job itself is not the issue. The employee always knows what they are signing up for and they still sign up.
If they leave, it’s because of management.
Something wasn’t safe enough. Their work and accomplishments went unacknowledged. They felt like their coworkers got away with murder and nobody did anything about it. They bring their ideas for increased efficiency or profit or a new product and feel blown off. In short, they feel that they are just another cog in the machine. They know the machine will keep running (or it won’t) whether they are there or not, so they are going to take their skills, time, and mental health where it will at least be appreciated.
In my humble opinion, your biggest fear as a manager should be that one of your staff members leaves because of something that you did.
If someone quits because of you, you should seriously question what you’re doing that caused someone to leave. Nothing happens without a team, so if they start deserting you, leaving you out to dry, there is something fatally wrong with the way that you handle people. Make sure that if it does happen, it never happens again.
Now, when someone leaves unwillingly–which is never fun–they are going to speak ill of you. They are going to bring up everything that you’ve ever done wrong in your job. That reaction is natural and it’s something that, if you’re a good manager, will cause you to lose some peace in your life–but not too much.
You should always be learning and growing, so taking some of the hate and becoming better because of it is always a win, but nothing is going to make you feel better as much as knowing that you did what you could to keep them.
A manager’s job, first and foremost, is understanding the morale of their team and knowing who needs what.
It’s about taking over a difficult table that a server just can’t handle anymore. It’s about backing your staff over the customer (at least in public). It’s about rewarding them by letting them know they are kicking ass when you get a huge, unexpected rush and everyone is running around keeping up a high standard of service.
It’s about understanding what it’s like to work underneath you. It’s about knowing how your actions affect the team and working every day to improve yourself for their benefit.
I’ll leave you with this: I think it’s safe to say that you are succeeding at being a good leader when people you’ve fired continue to come in and hang out. You’re succeeding when, even when you doubt yourself and some of your actions, there is a part of you that can still say, “Yeah, but how many people hear that they’re the best boss someone ever had?”