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Breaking Bamboo: Keys to delegating and getting people to want to work with you

By Dave Liu, AsAmNews Columnist

(editor’s note: Every other Monday, Dave Liu answers reader’s questions to help them gain success in the workplace. Those submitting questions will remain anonymous. Send them to info at asamnews dot com.)

  • What management skill is critical to my career prospects and how do I empower my direct reports to do their best work?

As you climb the corporate ladder, there is one key career hack that will help you expand your skill set, work on more value-added projects, and prepare you for senior management. That hack is delegation

By increasing your sphere of management and influence, you will be able to demonstrate to your superiors that you have what it takes to rise to the next level. However, to be an effective manager and not have a madhouse of ineffective subordinates, you will need to learn how to get the most out of your people. You need to learn their motivations and then build incentives for them to do your work.

My philosophy on how to accomplish this can be summarized in the following quote (rumored to have come from Albert Einstein): 

“In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they’re not.” 

I believe that only by learning on the job do managers gain insight into what motivates their individual subordinates. Managers learn by trial and error, not with standardized formulas. Everyone is different so what works for a goose might not work for a gander. To gain these insights, I practice empowerment.

For my direct reports, I would focus on their competencies rather than their deficits. I’d support their resourcefulness rather than their weaknesses, and help them develop skills rather than disparage them about their ignorance. 

I’d empower them to accomplish discrete tasks, observe how they performed, and iterate. Over time, I’d learn what they were good at and where they were weak, and I helped them fill the gaps. Similar to a coach with an unknown athlete, I’d try them at multiple positions before determining which position they were best suited for. Then I’d hire a team that would fill out the rest of the needed skills. 

It is only through this process of iteration that you are able to create a great team – a necessary component to any successful career. Unless you are a solo writer writing a masterpiece in a solitary cabin, you will need a great team to achieve your career goals.

  • How do I become a manager people want to work for?

The short answer is be the manager you would want.

The long answer is to determine the motivations of your subordinates and help them achieve them. 

As I mentioned early, every person’s motivations are different but with keen observation and listening, you should quickly learn why someone is working for you. 

For some it might be money or power. For others, it may be learning or just a sense of purpose. Regardless, every person asks themselves the same questions when choosing a manager: “Who do I really want to work for? Who will best enhance my career? Who’s my Yoda?” 

In the hard-nosed industry of Wall Street, I found that many young bankers simply wanted to work for someone who had empathy for their work-life sacrifices. Because I had been a junior banker, I knew what they were going through and could counsel them accordingly.

Others worked for me because they knew I would ensure they would get paid. I’m a fiercely loyal person and I would fight for members of my team who went above and beyond the call of duty. For them, I would make sure they got richly rewarded.

Finally, some simply wanted my job. For those eager beavers, as I got promoted up the corporate ladder, I’d bring them with me. 

The key is to learn your team’s motivations and do your best to satisfy them. That is how you become a manager people want to work for.

  • Do you need to be friends with people at work?

I don’t believe that work has to be a place to make friends. It is first and foremost a business. You are a member of a team whose role is to help the company achieve its goals. 

However, there is no disputing that becoming friends with those you work with can make it much more enjoyable and easier to accomplish the company’s goals. As such, it is a worthwhile endeavor to try to become friends with those you supervise.

Likeability isn’t a prerequisite, but you’ll get more out of your team if they trust they’ve jumped on the right wagon to advance their career. They’ll go the extra mile and are less likely to abandon you or the company in a crisis. 

For those you supervise, always give your people clear direction and honest feedback. Be straightforward about their progress and specific about their negatives. How else will your people know their blind spots and be given the opportunity for improvement?

Finally, it’s always good to think about opposites when determining the right mode of behavior. Would you go the extra mile to help an enemy?

About the Author

Dave is a seasoned executive and entrepreneur who founded several companies in entertainment, investments, and technology and worked on Wall Street for almost 25 years.

He started his career by joining a fledgling investment bank, Jefferies, when it had less than 200 employees.  Today, Jefferies is a multi-billion dollar diversified public company (NYSE:JEF).  He rose from the entry-level position of Analyst to Group Head of Internet and Digital Media and was one of the youngest Managing Directors in firm history.  As one of the only managing directors of color in the firm, he successfully broke through the Bamboo Ceiling. He not only worked hard but also played the corporate game. 

Hundreds of bankers have worked for Dave during his career. He has mentored many of them who have gone on to some of the best business schools and companies in America.  He is eager to share his knowledge with Asian Americans and other disadvantaged groups seeking to maximize their potential and achieve their career goals.

If you want some great career tips and insights check out Dave’s book, The Way of the Wall Street Warrior, at TheWallStreetWarrior.com.

You can follow Dave at Facebook@Liucrative, Twitter@Liucrative, Instagram@LiucrativeEndeavors, LinkedIn@DaveLiu, or TikTok@dave-liu.

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