There are only two hard things in Computer Science: cache invalidation and naming things.
The quote above is a common saying in software development. After reading Scaling Up by Verne Harnish and the team at Gazelles, I began to think about how we name things. In the book, the term direct supports is used in place of direct reports and is recommended as a more appropriate way to refer to those you lead; this really rang true for me. As I thought more about this concept I began to picture an upside down organization chart like the one below.
As both a manager and an individual contributor, I have used direct report without stopping to think about what the name implies or what it conveys. On the surface, referring to someone as a direct report makes a lot of sense and when I do a quick search on it I get a clear and concise definition from reference.com.
A direct report is an employee who reports directly to someone else. For example, a director might have five managers who report directly to him. They are considered his direct reports.
When digging deeper, however, this top-down view of individual contributors feels slightly off and disconnected. As I thought about those that I lead, I started re-framing my perspective with this new terminology and I started to see the underlying benefit that this small name change can have. It became clear that this was a shift in mindset.
Supporting Your Direct Supports
As a manager one of the most important jobs we have is to support the teams we lead. Some of the best ways to do this is through coaching, mentoring, and removing roadblocks. This new frame of reference enforces a view of management as something driven from the bottom up. In my opinion, this is much healthier and more conducive to maintaining a healthy and successful team.
This shift in mindset can begin to unlock new ways to lead and adjust the types of questions you ask yourself and your team. Here are a few questions that I am introducing into my own process.
Questions I am asking myself
- What is one thing I can do today to support my team better?
- What can I do to help or support the work that the team is doing?
- What support do I need from my manager?
Questions I am asking my team
- What challenge(s) are keeping you from completing your work?
- What do you dislike doing most?
- What do you think is the most important thing we should be doing?
These questions only begin to scratch the surface. As a manager, how do you become more in touch with the support your team needs? This shift in mindset has helped me see my job differently. Could this thought process help you?