In 2016 I found myself, a millennial, managing a team of about 60 staff. Thankfully (or maybe not) most of them were part-time. But even so, I was managing about 40-50 full-time equivalent staff. Many of the people I managed were older than me, and many of them were men. This was a challenge, but the bigger challenge was figuring out my management style and how to get the best results out of my team.
I quickly realized the best way to manage people is to trust them and get the hell out of their way.
I take my work seriously, especially in campaigns where not only is my reputation at stake, but my candidate’s job is at stake, and so is the representation of thousands (or millions) of his or her constituents. My first experience managing others was a challenge because it was so hard on me to rely on others to do their job in order for me to be considered successful at mine. I spent a lot of my time checking, double checking, and triple checking on my staff individually every single day, making sure they were doing what they said they were doing and doing it the way that I wanted them to. (I was annoying, is basically what I’m saying.)
I realized the way I grew up thinking about “management” was out dated. I wasn’t my grandfather’s manager, I was a millennial manager — and that meant something.
Check-in, check-out, and then stay out of their way.
Thankfully, my field is entirely metrics driven. It’s measured by how many calls are made, doors are knocked, money spent, voters persuaded, voters identified, volunteers in the door, etc. It’s easy for me to check on everyone throughout the day, see who is doing what, and how productive they are being without actually talking to them. Thank you, internet.
Staying out of their way meant my team and I would have one check-in and one check-out call every day. Beyond that, I was available anytime they needed me. Each morning I’d give them their marching orders, trust that it was going to get done, and then step out of the way unless it was proven I needed to step in. During check-out we’d go over their high’s and low’s, and anything they needed from me or anyone else. This check-out call would drive any “mini-trainings” or corrections that needed to happen during our morning call.
In addition to team check-ins, I had specific times dedicated to touching base with each regional manager once a week. During that time we would go over how their team is doing and how they’re holding up. Other than that? I stayed out of their way. They had enough to do and didn’t need me constantly checking in on them. That was a waste of their time and my time. They would call me anytime they needed anything, and we would always be emailing throughout the day, but I wasn’t hassling them. We both had enough to do.
It became about leading, rather than managing. This is the biggest lesson I’ve learned, and the one I am most thankful for.
Being a millennial manager means it doesn’t matter when it’s done, as long as it gets done.
I was pretty flexible (from a campaign’s perspective, at least) about any personal appointments they had and time off. So long as they were hitting their weekly goals and doing quality work, I didn’t care. I didn’t care when they got their work done, as long as it was done. Am I guilty of occasionally checking in on a few staffers who were procrastinating their work a little too late? Yes. Definitely, yes. I wanted to make sure they knew 1) I was paying attention and 2) if they needed help, I could help them. But I quickly learned everyone’s “schedule” and how they like to ration their work throughout the week, so this became less and less needed as time went on.
Let’s face it, life can be unpredictable. Some days you can’t find a babysitter, you need to go to a doctor’s appointment, you’re moving, your family or an old friend is in town for the day, or whatever. You have a life, work is not the end all be all, and that’s okay. I recognized this and had no issue with my staff having lives outside of work. This seems like such a simple concept, but it isn’t everywhere you go. I don’t need to know the details, I just need to know that your work will be done by the time it needs to be done. Period, end of story.
I mean, come on, the idea of working a typical 9-5 seems so outdated to me – and I currently work one! Sure, I could ask that staff all got in to the office at the same time (which, I did at the end of the campaign for various reasons) and stayed until a specific time, but their presence didn’t mean shit to me or the campaign if they weren’t getting results. Because of that, the amount of time spent in the office didn’t matter to me as long as they were getting results and hitting their goals. Bring home to work, take work home, I don’t care as long as it gets done. I feel like I’ve made my point, right? Right.
Keep it simple, stupid.
Crisis after crisis might look cute and exciting, but it’s not. Having a crazy, busy day full of complicated issues might make you feel important, but it’s not productive or useful. Anyone can complicate a task, but not everyone can keep it simple and just get it done.
In keeping with staying out of my staff’s way, I like to keep it simple and minimize process. As a manager I was constantly checking what was working and what wasn’t. I wasn’t interested in doing something if it didn’t yield amazing results, and because campaigns have a set amount of time (Election Day is Election Day, no matter what), I wasn’t interested in doing something if it took too much time. I’m not convinced that just because something has been done a certain way for years that that is the best way to do it. There is no way I was going to stick to traditional tasks that don’t work in an effort to appease generations before me. I wanted keep things as simple as possible for both me and my staff. This allowed for flexibility, it allowed for productivity, and just worked better.
Glorifying busy, glorifying chaos, and glorifying stress isn’t cute. It doesn’t make you look any more professional. It doesn’t make people take you any more serious, it just proves that you don’t know how to handle your shit. Keep it simple, figure out what works for you, and do that.
Millennial managers are redefining professional.
Millennial managers are redefining what it means to be professional and this is something everyone should be thankful for. Under millennial management, gone are the days of tight ties and pantsuits. Phones are allowed in meetings, employees are allowed to admit they are human and talk about their personal lives, and titles are just but minor details. The thing I love about campaigns is that campaign work is serious business. Elections have serious consequences. Yet, campaign workers are not dismissed as unprofessional just because they’re wearing jeans with holes and a t-shirt. People don’t assume I don’t know what I’m talking about because I walk in the office with a messy bun on my head and a backpack slung over my shoulder. These things don’t define professional, my work ethic does.
Coming in to work a little later some days doesn’t make someone unprofessional. Rather, not owning their mistakes makes them unprofessional. Having tattoos or dreadlocks doest make someone unprofessional. Not doing their work makes them unprofessional.
Additionally, I think we need to redefine professional when it comes to how we communicate with people. On or off the clock, I am the same person. I like to joke, I like to give people shit, I swear, I like to ask people about their personal lives, and none of that makes me unprofessional if I do it at work. I treat people the way I like to be treated, like a human with a personality and interests that happen to live outside of the spreadsheet I’m currently working on.
Being professional is asking for help, owning your mistakes (even if that does mean walking into someone’s office and saying “I’m sorry, I’m such an asshole, I screwed up”), taking initiative, giving credit where credit is due, and finishing the work that’s given to you. That’s professional. Plain and simple. Not what you wear, not your hair, not your makeup, not your personality quirks, none of that define your professionalism – at least not anymore.
So, what about you? How do you manage – and how do you define professional?