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| 4 min read
| Jul 14, 2020
| by Laura Koehne

So you’re a manager. Congrats! Now what?


We’ve all been there.

Your boss tells you she thinks you’re ready to manage a few people on the team.

Hooray! You’ve been waiting for this day for ages!

But when all the congratulatory high-fives subside, there’s just one problem: you have exactly zero tools in your toolbox to help you be a manager. Where do you even start?

Management at Expel: our $0.02

This scenario happens far too often.

You’re deemed a manager and then thrown into the deep end of the management pool … with no life jacket. You’re given no tips, tricks or resources to help you figure out how the heck to actually be a good manager.

Plenty of us here at Expel experienced this scenario in our past professional lives. In the absence of real guidance from former managers and HR teams, we splashed along trying our best to figure out that whole management thing on our own.

This is precisely why we decided to “do” management differently at Expel, and approach the process of becoming a manager in a much more intentional and thoughtful manner.

Here’s the thing: if you do your job as a manager well, not only will you achieve results for the company, someone will hopefully remember you as a person who changed their life in ways they never expected. And you’ll show them how to be a great manager for someone else. Remember that your efforts will have a positive ripple effect on others. If that doesn’t make it worthwhile to be an intentional manager, I don’t know what does.

We feel great management is paramount to making the employee’s journey as successful as possible. A managers’ habits – the thousand little everyday decisions –  are what matter most to employees. This is where culture becomes reality.

So what’s our $0.02 on management? Invest in training managers. We believe managers are critical in scaling culture – not only in the way we grow our business but in the way we keep Expel true to who we are.

Three ways we’re “BUILDing” great managers

A few months ago, we kicked off a new program at Expel designed to “BUILD” great managers and give them the support they need to become the leaders that others remember fondly.

We turned “BUILD” into an acronym, which became the name of this effort: Building Up Intentional Leaders Daily.

And that’s exactly what we ask of every manager at Expel, from a first timer to a seasoned execuwonk: be intentional about management. Commit to a habit of learning, practicing and getting better every day.

We know people management is hard. Becoming a great manager isn’t something that happens overnight – it’s a lifelong journey. So we created a program to support each manager on the path, the Expel way.

Our manager program is made of three components that provide opportunities for continued conversations and skills building. While becoming a manager at Expel isn’t a linear path, here are experiences you can look forward to:

First …

Pro Tip: A book club is extremely adaptable for a virtual work environment. If you’re looking for an easy way to keep your leaders learning during these WFH times, feel free to use Expel’s Making of a Manager Book Club Discussion Guide for inspiration!

The “Making of a Manager” book club: A book club?! Yeah, a book club. But not the kind your grandma goes to with her bridge group. To start our 2020 program, we gave our people managers copies of The Making of a Manager by Julie Zhuo. Managers divided into groups to discuss what they took away from the book, reading a few chapters each week. Hearing what other leaders are doing in their teams and being honest with each other about what’s working well (and what’s not) was beneficial, and helped us all build connections across the org as we prepared to level up our management skills.

After we finished the book, we were thrilled to have Julie Zhuo join us for a Zoom chat to answer all our questions and talk more about the ins and outs of management. Our whole company was invited because every Expletive needs to know what being a great manager looks like at Expel so that we can all hold our managers accountable and support them in this learning.

Every new manager we promote or hire receives a manager box that includes a copy of The Making of a Manager. This book is foundational for our journey.

Then …

Monthly Manager Habits: At Expel we identified 12 manager habits that, when done well and consistently, help us become better managers, better coworkers and more aligned with our company values.

Each month we collectively explore a single topic – an essential Expel manager habit – giving each other ideas on how to apply those habits with our own teams. We work on these skills independently every week, coming together in a two-hour online workshop mid-month to pressure test our learning.

Servant leadership is a core tenet at Expel. All of our manager habits are understood through the lens of how they help us better serve others. So, new managers attend our Serve Others workshop as a gateway into the BUILD program. After attending the workshop, a new manager can jump into the next month’s habit. Over the course of a year, they will build their skills and experiences in each of the 12 habits.

Coupled with …

Leadership coaching: Books and workshops are a solid start to building our collective management skills, but something we feel is important to our leaders is the opportunity to work directly with a leadership coach for more personalized advice. For a full year while in the BUILD program, each manager has unlimited 1:1 sessions with a BetterUp coach to discuss issues and goals they choose.

These are the three core parts of our BUILD program … for now. It’s important to be adaptable, especially in these uncertain times, and this design is by no means set in stone. We rely on feedback from our managers on what’s useful and what else they’re interested in learning. We believe dialogue is key. So as we move forward, we’ll continue having conversations with our managers to ensure they get what they need to successfully BUILD great management skills.

What have you found most helpful in your own management journey? We’d love to hear.


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