A bit of a divergence from previous blog content but after some reading recently, I still think there is relevance to my message below related to our work in higher education enrollment management. As managers, we are building a team of talented individuals, sometimes relatively early in their professional careers. We are also building our professional careers and engaging with other professionals outside our departments. Middle management is more of an art than a science. Here are nine things I’ve learned in middle management.
1. Obey the Golden Rule
If your job requires you to interact with even one person every day, you will likely find yourself in a position of either judging another person’s actions or actually dealing with that person’s actions. Ask yourself how you would expect to be treated under the circumstances. Try to avoid telling yourself that you wouldn’t put yourself in that situation. It doesn’t matter. Live in the moment with the other person. Put yourself in his/her shoes and obey the Golden Rule!
2. Build your team
Make it a priority to get to know people in other departments every day. Take the time to offer a small compliment whenever the opportunity presents itself. Make sure they know you and respect you! Be proactive and take control of your own career.
3. Think institution first
Be selfish, but probably not in the sense that immediately comes to your mind. Realize that making your boss and ultimately your institution look good will come around and benefit you.
4. History is important
When new to a situation, do your research to see how a particular strategy has been implemented before and work to understand the variables involved in the strategy. Understand that years of consistent results will not likely change without a significant change in strategic variables that influence the results. If you don’t like the results, change some of the variables.
5. Define success
Take team and individual goals seriously. Use history to define goals that are attainable but still a challenge to reach. Goals should be easily measured while also having a timeline for achievement. Goals should be broken up throughout the year and include a variety of components influencing a more substantial individual and ultimately, team goal.
6. Value every position – live in their world
Work hard to understand other people’s positions, particularly those that work directly with you but also those that work outside your immediate office and influence your office. Take a genuine interest in people’s work and recognize the influence they can have on your job. Recruit them to work with you so you can better understand each other’s jobs and ultimately do both your jobs better.
7. Beware of precedents
Two things: first, consciously think about the precedents you set when you make decisions. Second, communicate with your office about future expectations rather than unintentionally establishing a new norm.
8. Write a note
Write personal notes to colleagues every week. These small gestures, in my opinion, make a very powerful statement; you care!
9. Measure twice and cut once
When finishing an important email, letter or a project, write it, read it, let it sit for an hour or a day, and then re-read it again. Make sure it says what you want it to say and that your information is correct. Try to have everything proofed. For email, resist the send button until you are confident it sends the correct message. Ultimately, listen to your gut. If it doesn’t feel right, hold off for a while.
These lessons are the result of specific experiences. Later this week I’ll expand on these lessons with my personal experiences. Stay tuned!