It has been over four years since I considered myself a manager of employees. While I am running my own company now, I have a team of exceptional individuals who only need me to not get in their way.
But when I think about the hires we’ll be making in the future, I can’t help but draw on my past experiences in management and it has me asking this question: isn’t it our job to know when our team – direct reports, indirect reports, colleagues, peers and even supervisors – have something affecting their ability to be successful in their position?
Digging through my old files I located the template that I used in the final years of my pre-start-up founder career where I often had anywhere from 3 to 8 direct reports. The template was what I used for performance evaluations, a conversation I never dreaded giving or getting.
The details of the form aside, the conversation always ended up with my asking if there was something, anything at all, in the office or outside of it, that was affecting their ability or their enjoyment of the work they are doing.
A line of incredible managers helped me to see that this was the single-most important question and if I didn’t already have an idea that something was going on, then I wasn’t doing my job. Because, as a manager, it is my responsibility to know something is affecting our employees. As a community member of the employer I choose to work for, it’s my responsibility to recognize changes that might affect the community, both harmfully and beneficially.
In the last week I’ve had the opportunity to discuss Caregiven’s Early Adopter Program to a number of potential customers, investors and strategic partners. Without fail I get the question “How do you know when an individual has caregiving commitments and this product can help them?”
Care partners ask for help when they need it in a million different subtle and obvious ways – from requesting some time off to take care of a parent to passing up a promotion they’ve worked for and earned. If they aren’t asking you for guidance or assistance, they don’t consider you a trusted resource. And if a manager isn’t able to recognize clear or understated signs that someone on their team has influences affecting their ability to be successful – my product can’t help.
I can imagine the arguments to what I’ve written – about prying or impropriety; don’t miss the point. I’m not suggesting mangers know specifics or even seek to know them. I am suggesting that a manager’s job is to be observant enough to recognize the presence of something, to give voice to it, and then to understand that it’s their job to ensure their employee can be successful in their role going forward.