Giuseppe is Web Summit’s COO. Formerly of Google and Oracle, Giuseppe started his career in strategic consultancy. He is an engineer with business and executive education at London Business School, Duke and Columbia Business School. Here’s what he’s learned about managers.
It’s an exciting time for us here at Web Summit. After our first event in our Lisbon home, we’re now hiring 20 people for our new Portuguese office, along with 40 people for our Dublin HQ. The growth of our conferences over the last seven years, from 400 people at the first Web Summit to over 50,000 in 2016, has been driven in part by data-driven decision making and the application of graph theory to our gatherings.
In an era of flat hierarchies though, I think the success of business boils down to one key factor: your people managers. How do you do foster an environment where both results and innovation thrive? Over time at Oracle and Google, I’ve learned that good people management is a primary driver of results. Great people managers drive the people, not the numbers.
Here are a few things that I’ve learned about great people managers.
1. They’re Real Role Models
Great people managers exemplify the behaviour they expect from others. You want an experimental mindset to permeate the company? Make sure your managers are taking risks, testing new approaches and that they’re tolerant of failure. You want your sales team to be a team of hunters? Make sure your sales managers are hunting themselves. Outstanding people managers are acutely aware of their own behaviours — they know that people mirror what they see around them.
2. They’re People of Integrity
As someone once told me at Columbia, there are two reasons we don’t trust people: because we don’t know them, and because we do know them. Great people managers are first and foremost upright people. It’s the basic prerequisite for building trusting relationships with others. If your people managers have no integrity, they’ll have no trust.
3. They’re People Persons
They are truly gifted at listening and understanding their employees’ motivations — education, money, growth, status, or security — and at finding how these personal goals align with the company’s business goals. Great managers are honest and don’t distort facts because they want to sell a change: they know they may have a short-term win, but risk losing one of their most important assets, credibility.
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4. They’re Generous
They are selfless when it comes to recognising and rewarding people, and they understand that employee recognition sends an important message to the whole office. The implicit message is powerful, ‘This is the change we need, this is what I want to see more of.’ Neglecting to praise the people who make your strategy work is an unforgivable sin.
5. They Can Change the Temperature
They can dictate the pace of team discussions. When passion is lacking in a discussion, they know how to turn up the heat. Equally when tempers flare, which can sometimes happen due to internal conflicts or personality clashes, they know how to remove egos from the equation and bring the discussion back to the business issues.
6. They Can Communicate
They break down the barriers to effective communication. They do this mostly through assuring colleagues that speaking their minds is a good thing, and by being aware of cultural differences — fundamental when leading cross-boundary and multicultural teams. They are crystal clear when they state what they want and what they need. Even if the issue is ambiguous and they do not have all the facts, they say it. Openly.
7. They Know when to Apologise
They know what they don’t know and don’t try to fake it. They have the courage to admit when they don’t have the answer. They also know that making mistakes is part of life. And when they make mistakes, they apologise. Simple as that.
8. They’re Nimble
They tend to respond to change quickly, can assess available facts and know that there are no ideal models, structures or processes, only advantages and disadvantages of pragmatic approaches. We live in times where it is difficult to see the future and to separate real signal from the noise.
9. They Keep on Keepin’ on
You don’t motivate a team with one action. Yes you can prepare and deliver a great annual kick-off; you can invite inspiring speakers into your office, but a yearlong plan is rarely achieved in one month or quarter. So who reinforces your company ethos on a daily basis, and keeps the team motivated in the face of setbacks and difficult times? A great people manager is in it for the long haul.
If you want your company to constantly strive to innovate, to act and think differently, to thrive and disrupt, you need to keep your leaders and managers accountable. No ifs or buts. If you think you’d like to come join us at Web Summit, check out our openings here.