I’ve been an operating manager for 25 years and a marketing, sales, customer success executive in tech for about 15. In my role as a VP for our SMB advertising business at Twitter, I started to notice my junior managers making a bunch of common mistakes. I would regularly “sneak off” with them to run some whiteboard sessions with them on their people issues. As their grand-boss, of sorts, I guess I was a safe option, and they were laying out their people issues clearly and plainly. To say these issues were predictable…. Would be an understatement. Almost everything came back to coaching, direction and expectations, and career management.
I left Twitter to found Candor, Inc with Kim Scott — author of Radical Candor. As the COO of the company, I led marketing and sales, and while we failed at our mission to build software to help people have better conversations at work, we accidentally succeeded at creating a very nice consulting business. Through all of that, I spoke to about 1000 companies and learned they all have the same problem — they just used different words to say roughly this: “we have an engagement problem related to low manager skill.”
I became curious about what skill gaps they believed were contributing to the engagement problems, became curious about the relationship between employee engagement and enterprise results (hint: it’s a strong relationship), and realized that 1) the most leverage place a People Ops team can intervene is on the manager and 2) I was uniquely positioned to affect managers because of my own experience and because of this multi-year pseudo research project hearing companies articulate the exact same problem over and over.
The manager skill gap? Coaching, direction and expectations, and career management.
I pitched the folks at Qualtrics on the idea of helping make their managers great, and here I am.