The Biggest Learning Curve as a Manager
Katey says her toughest challenge as a new manager was learning how to appropriately give feedback. She started as an IC and moved into managing her peers, and found it hard to give effective feedback people needed to hear so they could get even better at their jobs.
Tony’s challenge was that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to managing. You need to manage people individually and get to know them on many different levels so you can motivate them to succeed effectively.
Amin notes that we get used to being in the spotlight as rockstars ICs, but managing means being in the spotlight less is important.
Alicia says a principle she lives by is don't steal their dopamine. Being a great manager is being a great leader - it’s about developing your people and helping them shine. The dopamine for PreSales professionals is problem solving, so she uses it as a motivator for her team. She often presents a problem to the team, lets them brainstorm and use stretch thinking and find solutions. It gives her team greater job satisfaction and she ends up with creative and inventive solutions, plus it gives the team a view into our challenges as leaders. And it makes everybody look good, which is the goal.
Tony never wants to be the smartest person in the room, so he leans on the people who are actually doing the work a lot. Part of leading a PreSales team is helping them grow and develop their skills so they can take his place someday. As a leader, you always want to be grooming your team to be your replacements.
The Balance Between Teaching and Taking Control
Katey finds this is always an especially hard line to draw if you’re in a coach role, new to management, or in a startup. In a recent leadership training, she learned how to make a list of everything that needs to get done, and separate that into what actually only you can do, what needs your help or guidance, and what can anyone else do. This exercise helped her a lot.
Help your team shine and you will shine as a leader. She discovered that a recent example was as an SME in a few areas on her team a few roles ago. As she became a leader and grew her team, she learned everyone always went to her when they needed specific information because she knew it - but she didn't need to be the only person who knew this. As leaders, we need to be forward-thinking but also proactive in how we move things off our plate in the future.
Tony says he tries to over-prepare newer people and build confidence, and then he pushes them to rip the bandaid off and jump into the task instead of overthinking. The self-realization that you can actually do it drives people forward. At first, he was trying to protect them because we don’t want a bad reputation on the sales floor, but new people need to spread their wings and do it on their own. And most of the time, they truly can.
The Art of Delegation
Alicia says delegation is a combination of prioritization and facilitation, and matching the right opportunity with the right person. Prioritization means thinking about the importance of the task to the business, the visibility of the opportunity, how it can lift up the team or IC, and how it’s aligning with the growth goals of each person. Then allow the person you delegated to run with it. Her role then is to ask questions, remove roadblocks, give them what they need to be successful, and be there when they need help. And be sure the person who is doing the task gets the visibility and kudos they deserve.
Tony has 26 people under him, which is a big team. He looks at project assignments regularly, and says they give you insights into a team’s motivation levels and career aspirations and “whelmed-ness” (are they overwhelmed and drowning, underwhelmed and bored, or just right?). He’s regularly checking in to make sure they’re at the right level. And if it’s not working, is something else going on?
Katey doesn’t use too much automation for delegating yet. Her SE team is heavily using Salesforce so they do use that to track activity and get insight into the team’s overall bandwidth. She’s hoping to bring in Vivun soon too. And checking in 1:1 and at a team level is really important. Data never gives you the whole picture - so much of what PreSales does is qualitative. But you do need some data because you will struggle to grow your team without data to back it up.
Tony uses Microsoft Bookings for scheduling components, but it doesn’t solve every problem. It does help with baseline problems so you can spend time on areas where you really need deeper thought and expertise. But anywhere you can find the right technology to help (he’s also angling to get Vivun soon), you need to do it.
Ramping Up Employees
Tony says the biggest thing is he broke the team into speciality areas and product focus, and he takes a team approach to onboarding so they lean on each other as they learn. You need to have a tentative timeline, and then build in flexibility for how each person learns. And take their comfort level into account too - they need to be confident in what they’re delivering, not throwing people to the sharks doing that.
Katey notes that it’s also important to make a tangible, definitive onboarding plan for new hires. Her employees say in their previous roles there was nothing at all, it’s not as common as we wish it was. Theirs has flexible guidelines of things to work on and breaks out expectations. It also helps because they can adjust onboarding time frames for more experienced people, who mostly need info on the company, vs. brand new hires who need in-depth field info.