I stopped reading management books some time ago. Sure, I still read summaries, pick up the occasional book, and I am a big fan of the Harvard Business Reviews publications and their archives. Tip : they have an excellent subscription model for only 14 euro per month.
Over time, management books have been replaced by gut feeling. The tipping point must have been when I turned 40 and when I was three years in the job of managing Eén, VRT’s very succesfull television channel. By then I was confident enough to enter a meeting unprepared and trust on what both my heart and mind would decide.
I have been managing plenty of teams in my professional life. It all started when one of my mentors, long time talk show host Jan Van Rompaey, asked me to become the editor in chief of his program. I have moved on since then, but managing teams basically became what I do. I often – both jokingly and seriously – tell my staff, that I’m not good at many things, except in building teams.
So here is my recipe. It is no rocket science, just my two cents of gut feeling : build a team, empower it, then coach. Let me explain.
build a team,
As a manager never think you are the centre. Don’t aim to be Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos or Bill Gates. You will never be Steve, Jeff or Bill and your pockets will never be as deep. If you want to have impact – and in my case I can only think societal impact – build a team around you who shares the same personal and corporate values. My partner and I had open discussions about our values. The longer we have been together, the better we know what we want to stand for. These values prevail both in our private and professional lives. Building a team is not easy : it may mean departing some of the team members that were on board long before you arrived. Recruiting new ones, spending long hours (over coffee and wine) in understanding what each of your collaborators stands for. And above all, in leading by example. Be your true self, and be authentic. Be your true authentic self.
Build a team, then empower it. Once you have assembled the right group, no need to do their job. Don’t micromanage, delegate to the maximum. To the maximum ! Stretch both yourself and your direct report as much as possible in this exercise. In most of my jobs I was in charge of broad responsibilities, often quite complex. I always loved managing more than one ‘factory’ at the same time. My rule of thumb is 20/80. Spend 20 % of your time on 80 % of the business. Most of your team members are perfectly capable of leading their teams, implementing the goals and being successful. Even much more successful than you have ever been in that specific area. 80 % of my times goes to onboarding new staff, setting directions, and managing a crisis which goes beyond the remit of a particular person I collaborate with.
and coach it
Build a team, empower it and finally coach it. When I turned 50 I realised that I had managed almost everything. That in the end every problem is a variant of another. Shizzle is shizzle and in the end you become good in clearing it. Without it you feel lost. So I came into a position where I could divert my energy from helping others to solve problems to coaching them to solve it. I am a trained executive coach, but you don’t need to be trained to be a good coach. Every good manager has the gut feeling to coach.
I am looking back at plenty of excellent teams at the VRT and couldn’t be a more happy Media Director with the current team I have at EBU.