- When stress turns to laughter, we form lasting bonds with our colleagues.
- Leverage goes two ways: everybody should get to know their manager.
- It’s also just as important to make strong connections at every level.
The reason the expressions “It’s a marathon, not a sprint” and “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together” are so often repeated is because they’re true. You need to pace yourself, and you need to have someone to run with.
When I think about some of the hardest moments building Google and then Stripe, I think back to the many meetings, dinners, and occasional late nights when the stress turned into laughter. I treasure the friendships I carry from those experiences. You’ll meet people you can reach out to at any moment for the rest of your life, and I guarantee they will be there to help. These friendships come from all corners: your manager, your colleagues, your team, even your boss’s boss. Take the time to make those connections, ask for help, and share the load.
Ask for help. Management is not just about building a complementary team but also about having the mutual self-awareness to look at your entire orbit and seek out those with different strengths. You can’t go far together unless you’re not just self-aware but also confident enough to be vulnerable and seek others’ assistance.
Working well with your own manager
Leverage goes two ways. Your manager should get leverage from you, and you should get leverage from them. Your manager can help unblock your team, advocate for more resources, provide the necessary context to do your job well, work with you to identify priorities, and hopefully help you develop. You’ll be a better manager if you can successfully “manage up,” by which I mean being able to work with your manager to get the best results for your team and for the company. I don’t mean being political, which is how the term “managing up” seems to be used more of late. Help your own manager be their best, and never surprise them with late news of challenges hitting your team or poor results.
The good news is that if you’re reading this, you’re likely a manager yourself, and you probably already have an idea of what makes a report great to work with. Think about the things you appreciate as a manager. Your manager probably won’t be that different! Get to know each other personally. If your manager could use some feedback, provide it constructively and suggest ways the two of you might work more effectively together. It’s in both of your interests to jointly succeed.
Working with other managers
Speaking of managing up, it’s equally important to manage sideways. Your colleagues are critical to you and your team’s success, and part of your role is to understand where you and your team sit within your organization’s larger ecosystem. For people to work together well, the whole must produce something greater than the sum of its parts. How does that happen? By forging formal and informal connections.
Although running into someone in an actual (or virtual) hallway helps, you also need to actively identify and cultivate relationships that you can draw on to succeed even as you’re helping the other person do the same. Share information about your team’s mission and goals with key partners and stakeholders, and seek out those you need to work with, especially those who might create or prevent obstacles. Remember that other leaders are great resources, both as sounding boards for handling tough situations — there’s nothing better than practicing a hard 1:1 with another manager — and as sources of information about what matters and how to flourish in the organization. It’s easy to neglect those relationships when you’re too focused on your day job.
I suggest taking two actions:
- Map your team’s partners and stakeholders, and either hold 1:1s with them or sit in on meetings for key individuals or teams. Share your team’s objectives and discuss how you can best work together.
- Identify leaders you admire within your company or even at other companies. Ask them to coffee or lunch to get to know each other and compare notes on management practices and the work of your respective teams and companies. Some of these connections might become folks you can call on to test out ideas or seek advice in difficult situations.
Identify leaders you admire within your company or even at other companies. Ask them to coffee or lunch to get to know each other and compare notes on management practices and the work of your respective teams and companies. Some of these connections might become folks you can call on to test out ideas or seek advice in difficult situations.
I find these relationships also grow out of working together on a shared project for your team or company. Working with your own manager to make sure you’re making connections and getting integrated with organizations outside of your immediate area of focus is also time well spent.
Be a good peer. Honor your commitments, listen thoughtfully, and help others. Share information you think might be helpful. If you have an issue with a fellow manager or with their team, make sure they hear it from you, and then work together to resolve the issue before it escalates.