There is plenty of advice in the Manager’s secret handbook about managing your team, your clients and managing up – and almost nothing written about managing sideways.
Likely because a sideways relationship in your organization is not about managing – it’s usually about rallying your managerial colleagues to a common cause. Even if that common cause is you.
All first time managers should make two sideways friends immediately in order to save themselves additional work, grief, and embarrassment – one friend from HR and one from Accounting.
It is unlikely, that unless you are a manager yourself in either one of these areas, that you will know what you are doing when it’s time to fill out your first budget or hire your first team member. How hard can it be? I’m smart, I can figure it out. Sure you can – but why would you?
One of the great joys of being a manager is giving other members of your team a chance to shine in their area of expertise. Sideways managers or their staff are definitely part of your team, even if it’s only a dotted line that connects you, and they want to be recognized for doing good work. Accounting staff spend their days, by choice, knee deep in spreadsheets, debits and credits and invoices. Some problem that seems complex and foreign to the new manager of customer service is likely right in their wheelhouse and can be banged out in no time. Followed by a prompt and genuine thank you from you!
Your HR friend is the same, spending their days with vacation policies, dress codes, workplace standards, terminations, disciplinary meetings, and FTE planning.
Since recruiting is the most important work that you will do as a manager, having a partner in HR is crucial to your long term success.
I have been fortunate to work closely with several excellent HR managers who counterbalance my natural instinct to hire people I really like in the interview with the company’s need to hire people with experience doing the job we need to be done. These same managers have also guided me through employee issues like drug dependency, family funerals, long term sick leave, theft, fraud and excessive sick leave. Together we did our best to balance the needs of the company with compassion for the team member.
In the end, as Ken Blanchard tells us in his book High Five, “All of us are smarter than one of us.”