Busy Managers: How do you set them up for success?

Kate Harry ShiphamBeing a Leader

Legal marketing Managers can be some of our busiest people.  Reading their Job Descriptions can be like a ‘wish list’ rather than a reality.  So when new Managers are on-boarded, how do they approach this wish list and keep everyone happy?  How do their Directors manage them to not be overwhelmed and to also get some quick wins to impress at the outset?  And how do the partners help this person to compartmentalize the urgent priorities versus everything else that needs to be done?

The answer lies in the careful management of expectations in both the short term and long term for everyone involved; and it needs to start as soon as the new Manager starts discussing the opportunity with your firm:

  • During the interview process be honest and real with them about the role.  Tell them how busy the role is and what a typical day and week will look like for them.  Many people thrive in busy environments and like the challenges that come with this.  You are looking for their eyes to light up and them to smile and relate to this busy environment when you discuss it with them.  Get them talking about how they manage up and down during these times and ask them about their success stories in getting things executed in these environments.
  • Speak to your team about your new Manager’s workload and get them to understand the pressures they will be under.  If this person will be managing people, talk to them about how you see these junior staff utilizing this person and then also how they can assist their new Manager.  (And in talking to your team, use this opportunity to check in with them about their day and week; your team will appreciate your interest and perspectives will be shared and understood, which will help you manage your new Manager!)
  • Speak to the partners who will be relying on this person the most and make them see that, in the same way they must balance their time between their clients, your new Manager will do the same.  Whether it’s a balancing act of responsibilities, time spent between individual partners, or even dividing time between offices if the role has a more regional focus, give them an insight into what your new Manager will be dealing with in the first 30 days and then also the first six months.
  • In checking in with all of these people, do ask what each one wants.  There will be many cross-overs and then the harder issues can be worked on to prioritize where time is spent in the first few months.  After three to four months these priorities will change and checking in with all the key players and re-setting expectations is just as critical as it was the first time around.  But asking what each person wants from this new Manager makes everyone involved feel like they are part of the solution, even if there are some initial bumps along the way.
  • Empower your new Manager to make the necessary changes to get their job done and to change things for the better.  Depending on the level of your new Manager this will take different forms.  But if you want your new Manager to make a difference in their role (either from the last person who did this role or to be impactful in a new growth role) they will need to know they can move things forward while trying new things; but they need your confirmation to do this.

Getting all of this right is not easy and won’t happen in the first five minutes.  But the key is to keep working at this and making sure your team is happy and your new Manager still smiles when you ask them about their day six months into the role.  Help them be successful and in turn they will make you successful.