Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Supporting New Managers - 4 Questions

My response to March's Big Question:

When I think about managers (new to managing or new to managing me), I think about the characteristics of one of my favorite bosses.

Rick Yeatman was the Technical Director for the Singletary Center for the Arts at the University of Kentucky. I worked for him as one of the stagehands while I was in graduate school.

Inspired by my experience with him, this is the list of questions I ask myself whenever I find myself managing people.

1) Would I do what I am asking my employees to do? Rick would NEVER ask us to do something he wouldn't do himself. If we ran into problems during setup - he was right there - handing us equipment, sheperding people (usually out of the way), running cable, cleaning bathrooms, anything that needed to be done at the time. He also knew when to stay out of the way....

2) Am I in a position to teach? Rick had a lot of experience as a stagehand and a roadie. He knew all of the shortcuts (and when not to take them). He treated his managerial position as a teaching opportunity and was tremendously patient when we decided not to listen to him. Of course, he was always right.

As an employee, I have to work for a manager who has experience in the field where they are managing. I tend not to stay long with managers who got there through politics. If this is your situation - this would be a good opportunity to start learning from your underlings ... and listening to them.

3) What battles should I fight? Rick had only 2 things that would set him off.

Safety. The only time I ever heard him raise his voice was when I was about to do something incredibly stupid. Accidents, he tolerated (such as accidentally dropping a leko off the ladder). Stupidity, he didn't (if the leko fell because you didn't put the safety cable around the pole - god help you when you came off the ladder).

Abusing his employees. Rick was a large man. Watching him go toe to toe with the management of some large touring companies when they mistreated his employees was a wonder to behold. He was calm - but intimidating. If one of his employees was in the wrong, he would talk to them first to get all sides of the story, come up with a solution with the employee, then bring the employee with him to discuss the issue.

As long as we completed show prep on time - nothing else mattered.

4) Is there something my employees need to know? We never had to guess what other variables might affect how we worked. When Rick had news, he shared. Especially if it impacted our decision-making that day. If the President of the University was going to be in the house - he told us. If we had a short in a circuit - he told us. If our turnaround between events was shortened by 3 hours - he told us. There was absolutely no guessing with him.

Communication is CRITICAL. Communication takes effort. It is way too easy to assume that we know everything we need to know to make decisions. Of all of the managers I've had, Rick was the best at this form of communication.

Keep asking yourself these 4 questions on a regular basis and you might turn into someone I would be willing to work for.

Last I heard - Rick was teaching at the University of Texas, El Paso. It's been 10 years since I've talked to him. I don't think he works there anymore

Rick - if you find this post - thanks for everything.....


Dave Lee said...

Thanks Wendy. I too chose to tell the stories of managers for whom I worked. I think the other message in your post is the power one person can have in the lives of those who work for them. I've had employees who I've run into years later who will relate a situation that I've long forgotten that "changed them forever." Each time it's happened I've walked away stunned and humbled. I hope Rick does stumble upon your blog post. He deserves to know the impact he's had upon you. Thanks, Dave

Redbone said...

I grew up with Rick and have maintained communication with him over the years -- until of late. I followed his career to Savannah, Ga. (after El Paso) where he was on the faculty staff of Savannah College of Arts. And then Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005 and I've been so busy ever since rebuilding that I lost contact with him. I found your site trying to Google him. It appears that he is no longer in Savannah. He is a great guy.

Anonymous said...

Hi Wendy!

Rick is currently the production manager for the School of Performing Arts at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, GA.

I am a stage manager at the college and I work with him during tech week. All of the qualities you mentioned are still true and he's great to work with.

Wendy said...

Anonymous - sorry you didn't provide a name.

Funny to see your comments. I had just thought about him as a result of series of posts from another blogger on creating an employee-driven environment of safety.

Struck me that he was an excellent example of how to support that type of environment.

Glad your experience with him is as positive as mine was....

news games said...

I TOOOTALYYY agre with you when you say "Communication is CRITICAL. Communication takes effort." and great comunication it is esential to a make a great job