Help Me Help You
Posted by Charlie Recksieck on 2020-06-18
Managers' Golden Rule
Over the years, I've grown to appreciate what good management is. One of the first reasons why is my experience with a guy named Ben Hendry. Since Plannedscape's inception in 2002 one of our constants and tentpole client is an electric utility company. We really are fortunate to work with them; almost all of our contacts there are kind, smart, talented and hard-working. (Their regulations require them to be a little sensitive about public information, so I’ll leave their company name out of this post.)
Ben Hendry managed a department that although wasn't directly who hired us, our work was closely related enough where we ended up in a lot of meetings and decision-making sessions with each other. I immediately respected the hell out of this guy. He was obviously smart. But something about his demeanor was very calming
His Signature Move
The crux of every interaction or meeting that I saw Ben have with every employee who worked under him or in his department was that he would always ask this:
"How can I help you do your job better?"
It reminds me of a Jerry Maguire quote - no, not "Show me the money", "You complete me" or "You had me at hello" (wow, more quotable than I'd remembered). It's "Help me help you."
No matter what the situation, "How can I help you do your job better?" amazingly is the usually right thing to ask. If an employee was excited about a new project, that question empowered the employee to run through a wall. It provided a friendly communication channel for those under him to feel heard.
And this part could sneakily be Machiavellian: it also corners people who just like to gripe; if there's nothing to be done to help, then that question kind of calls BS on malcontents, too.
Various Classic Managerial Advice
Isn't there more to management? - Yes and no. There is so much advice out there for managers; it's an entire industry unto itself. Go online and look at any of the results. I'll use this one as an example: 7 Things Great Managers Do To Support Their Employees.
Here's that article's 7 things: 1) Encourage Them To Be Their Own Leaders, 2) Motivate And Inspire Them, 3) Be Available At All Times, 4) Know Their Strengths, 5) Be Humble, 6) Listen and 7) Give Feedback To Help Them Grow.
See something in common? Every one of those pieces of advice is accomplished by regularly asking "How can I help you do your job better."
The Golden Rule
Go ahead and try it. Maybe not just only manager to employee. Company to contractor. B2B company to client. Company to customer. Friend to friend. As for society member to government, let's get into that next week.
Meanwhile, a big shoutout to Ben Hendry. A good man who really meant it earnestly when he was asking what he could do to help. A great manager.