I remember when I was first promoted to being a people manager. I felt both exhilarated and terrified all at once. What did I know about managing people? What if I turned out to be one of those managers everyone tolerated or hated? How could I ensure that I was the type of leader people wanted as their manager? How could I avoid being someone people dreaded as a manager? It’s completely normal to feel these types of things any time you venture into a new role or position at a company. Before you become overwhelmed from pressure and expectations, it’s helpful to decide who you want to be as a manager by crafting a personal mission statement. From there, let your mission statement guide your journey as a manager.
Decide Who You Want to Be
First, take stock of the managers throughout your career that you’ve admired. For me, I asked myself what these managers did that made them a favorite manager? Several managers came to mind. One manager always stands out to me: David.
David hired me at a small startup in New Jersey in 2000. David had been an executive at a financial company and had taken a risk at this small startup to build a knowledge management platform for organizations. What I appreciated about David as a boss (he absolutely hated that term!) was his transparency. He regularly kept me in the loop about company decisions, direction, and difficulties. Most importantly, when things really started to go south at the company, David was kind enough to give me fair warning that he was leaving. He suggested that I figure out my exit plan as well. By doing this, he demonstrated how much he cared for me. He made sure I could exit on my own terms.
David taught me that I want to be the kind of manager that doesn’t avoid difficult news with my employees, but addresses it head on—no matter how hard it is.
List Your Your Desired Traits
So, where do you start? Start by reminding yourself of these kinds of stories. Make a list of the traits that you want to exemplify as a manager. Here’s some of mine:
- Be Truthful
- Be Forthcoming – with good and bad news
- Focus on employee growth and development
- Be Candid
- Empower each person to contribute their best each day
- Passionately advocate for each employee
Decide Who You Don’t Want to Be
Just as important as deciding who you want to be, is deciding who you don’t want to be. Ask yourself what managers in your career were your worst managers. What did they do that made them your worst manager?
My worst manager came from my time at a Pacific Northwest Insurance company, named Julie. Looking back, Julie wasn’t really a bad manager. I’ve watched my husband put up with far worse managers than this person. What makes me categorize her as my worst manager was her inability to address conflict. Julie took a very passive aggressive attitude towards conflict. I’d had regular 1:1 meetings with her to talk through project progress and performance. Julie never told me anything bad during those meetings. Yet, when it came time for my annual review, it contained significant feedback on what I could do better. Why wait until a performance review to address the issues? I remember feeling how completely unfair this was of her. Julie hadn’t given me the feedback in a timely manner, so there wasn’t any way for me to address the issue and improve.
Based on this experience, I have made a commitment to myself to never address something on a performance review that I haven’t talked to an employee about ahead of time and invested time in helping them improve. That last part is key for me. I owe it to my employee’s to help them work through these challenges. If, after all of that, it’s still not working out, that requires a different type of discussion with my employee.
List Undesirable Traits
Next, use these experiences to make a list of characteristics you don’t want to portray as a manager. Here’s mine:
- Don’t surprise someone with negative feedback at a later time. Give it in a timely manner.
- Never place blame. Reflect on what you could’ve done better to set clear expectations.
- Don’t avoid conflict. It’s the fastest way to break trust with an employee.
- Don’t avoid taking responsibility for mistakes – either yours or the teams
Create a Mission Statement
Now, it’s time to craft your own mission statement. Use the reflection questions and list of desired and un-desired traits to help guide you.
As an example, here’s my personal mission statement as a manager:
I want to be the kind of leader that helps each of my employees become their best self at work; leaders that enable my employer to achieve its mission. I do this by creating opportunities for growth for each individual, sharing candid feedback, and helping each of them fully utilize their strengths on a daily basis. These are amazingly talented people and it’s my privilege and duty to help them thrive in their career.
Resources to Help You
I keep this statement at the front of every notebook I use at work. I flip to it often to remind myself how I want to show up every day and who I want to be as a leader. This is my personal mission – yours will be unique to you. Here are some additional resources to help guide you in writing your mission statement.
- Dave Ramsey – How to Write a Personal Mission Statement
- FranklinCovey – Offers a tool to help you think through your mission statement. Find it here.
- Andy Andrews – The Ultimate Guide to Writing Your Own Personal Mission Statement
Using a personal mission statement can be a powerful tool as a manager. Use it to decide who you want to be as a manager. Let your mission statement guide your journey. Let it help provide clarity when you face challenges and difficult situations. Allow it to inspire you to manage with intention, not circumstance.
Write your own mission statement and share it in the comments below. I’d love to read them!
Until next time,
We’d love to hear from you!
If you’d like to share a story or have a question you’d like answered on becoming a great manager, reach out to me here.