Are You the Manager You Think You Are?


Are You the Manager You Think You Are?

Inside NGO's Management Skills Workshop, held in Washington DC in August 2016.

By Caitlin Holland

Content & Storytelling Lead

I went to Humentum’s Management Skills for New Managers workshop at the perfect time. My former marketing assistant had just announced he was leaving for graduate school, and we were in the throes of interviewing to fill his position. What better time to improve as a manager than right before getting a new direct report?

Hoping to pick up tricks of the trade from the trainers—which included a colleague who I see expertly managing her team of four on day-to-day basis—I signed up for the August 2016 Management Skills workshop.

As soon as the day started, I knew I would be leaving with helpful takeaways I could implement in my role. The trainers covered fascinating models for communication and leadership that I had never seen before. We did exercises in role playing and active listening that got the entire room engaged. After the role-playing activities, the group gave feedback on how you did in your role as “manager.” I was interested to hear some of my group participants encourage me to be tougher during the role-playing exercise where I was talking with my “employee” who was “continuously late completing financial reports.” Was I overly empathetic in real life? A borderline pushover? Hmm…

The principles we were learning through the role-playing exercises got me thinking. What’s my management baseline? And who better to ask than the person I directly manage now for ideas on how I could be a better manager for my next assistant?

As it turned out, I wasn’t the only one wondering about this. A breakout roundtable to end the day formed around this very topic—fielding opinions about your management skills from your direct report(s), in a manner that allows for them to be honest. Someone suggested taking them to the bar, which we all agreed would be the most fun strategy. Anonymous surveys, getting HR or another manager to speak to your employees, and other ideas were discussed. Everyone was envious that timing was on my side with this one. I could choose almost any means of requesting and receiving feedback, and my employee had a better chance of being brutally honest as he was moving on soon anyway.

I ended up choosing to make a copy of the Supervisor Competency Model page of our course workbook, and asked my assistant to check off my strengths and circle my weaknesses. Then we would discuss. I also made it clear he didn’t have to do it if he wasn’t comfortable with it, but that I was going to use it as a tool to better myself, and nothing would insult me. (Tip: you have to really mean that part!)

The Supervisor Competency Model covers the following areas: decision quality, developing others, directing others, drive for results, interpersonal skills, motivating others, priority and planning setting, self-knowledge, technical and functional skills, trust and integrity. Phew. Thanks to the models and functional skills covered in the workshop, I already had some clear ideas about where I might be lacking. Time management and organization are skills I’ve more recently grasped, but they were a real struggle in my young professional days. I was not confident I’d mastered them to the point of being good at helping others with timelines and structure. Also, as priorities shift for me, I wasn’t sure I was always great at communicating that down the line.

My assistant agreed to indulge me in the exercise. His main suggestion for improvement was in line with what I had expected. Sometimes, when my own deadlines are pressing down on me, I don’t get him the feedback he needs to cross things off his list in a timely fashion. I’ve improved since we had a conversation about it, and I understood how it affected his workflow. I also felt fortunate to learn some of the things he valued the most: feeling like part of a strong team, knowing that he was respected, and that his work and opinions were highly regarded.

If I can keep providing inspiration and positive reinforcement while incorporating some of the two-way feedback skills learned in Management Skills for New Managers, I’ll be prepared to best manage employees in the future. My takeaway for other managers: don’t be afraid to ask your direct reports for honest feedback, in whatever manner works for you. Their responses can be incredibly helpful. And once you know what you can improve, this workshop will help teach you how.

Related Events


Management Skills for New Managers

Nov 16

Washington, DC

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