You’ve got to be better

This is a lightly edited version of a piece that originally appeared in my newsletter, Summer Reading 2020: On Management #44.

If you’re reading this, you may be in tech, media, VC, not-for-profit, higher education, government, or beyond.

Maybe you lead a team, HR, an organization — or you own a business. You’re probably in the US, Canada, the UK, or Australia. Or not.


I usually feel competent to share information that’s widely useful, based on experience and what I’m seeing Out There.

Right now, I have little sense for any sort of universal experience. Even here in the US. Even in my close cohort.

Some are safely working remotely, maybe challenged by home-work boundaries and child care. Others have been pressured to return to workplaces that may not be safe.

They’ve been let go, or work in organizations that are subject to rolling layoffs. Some are in job-search mode.

Others have gotten sick.

Right now, I only see one universal truth: you’ve got to be a better manager.

There’s no panacea. There’s no training, coach, newsletter, or book, that’s got you completely covered for this moment.

It’s time to practice what you already know. You can start by looking in the mirror:

  • Be sure that people know what’s expected. Are you talking with people individually, and aligning goals with current priorities? Do team members have goals? Are you providing regular feedback?
  • Get a handle on key projects and objectives. Does everyone know their role in moving things across the finish line?
  • Understand where your team is under-resourced. What projects or processes are in trouble? Can anything be dropped? How can your support make a difference?
  • Identify, if you can, whether anyone is struggling personally. This is tough. So many have been taught to hide when we have problems. Does your organization have an Employee Assistance Program?
  • When you have a management challenge, get help from a human. Can you list 3 experienced managers in your circle who will take your call? (Hint: your mom counts.)
  • Get feedback. “What can I do more/less often to make your job easier,” is a great question to ask team members in 1:1s. You are having 1:1s, right?

One of your best tools is your own moral compass.

Are you doing the right thing? Is the way you’re being treated okay? Are you treating others as you wish to be treated?

“Normal” is gone. It’s gone for good. We can’t be waiting to go back there. Our choices, in aggregate, will co-create our new normal.

Make good choices.

Image via @sketchplanator on Twitter; h/t Alex Wykoff, who tweeted it into my feed.