500 years ago Machiavelli said that if you can’t be both loved and feared, it’s better to be just feared. Well, Machiavelli didn’t have to come into an office every day knowing that he had associates group chatting each other memes about his totally-not-balding head (your hairline is fiiinnneee).
It’s no secret that many associates, analysts, and VPs hate their bosses…but what if you’re on the receiving end of that hate? Whether you’re a new MD hoping to start out on the right foot, or an MD that’s hoping to right the ship, it’s important to know when you’ve crossed a line with your team, why you should care, and what you can do to get back on the right track without sacrificing respect.
Why It Matters
As an MD, it can be easy to tell yourself it doesn’t matter what your associates think as long as they’re turning in good work. While that’s true to some extent, there are still reasons why it’s better to care.
- Morale – When morale is low, performance tends to match. While this isn’t always the case, people usually won’t go above and beyond if they’re distracted by how much of an A-hole their boss is. If people can focus on making deals instead of office drama, more people make more money.
- Direct Reports – If your team is telling your shitty boss about how shitty you are, that can be a death sentence for your current position (or even career). Even worse, if you can’t get your team to perform because they hate you, deals are being left on the table, and that’ll really be the proverbial nail in the coffin for your role as an MD.
Why They Hate You (And How to Change That)
Back to Machiavellian leadership for a second, being an MD in the 21st century isn’t as clear-cut as being loved or feared. On one hand, while being loved by your team can create a sense of loyalty and trust, it can also breed an environment where people forget that you are in fact their boss. On the other hand, while being feared can, to some extent, get people to do things, it doesn’t necessarily get people to do things well. People often won’t go above and beyond, due to the fear of messing up, meaning you’ll likely never tap into your associates’ full potential.
So, how do you find the happy middle that gets everyone to stop the group chat shit-talk and put out their best work? Try the things below.
Get Your Hands Dirty
Ask enough analysts and you’ll no doubt get a story about a time when their MD made them go the extra mile on analysis, only for the MD to go full-on Falcons in Superbowl 51 levels of choke (they had a 99.7% win probability halfway through the 3rd) the moment an investor asks a simple question.
While “lead by example” can feel cliche, it’s true. If you aren’t showing your team you’re capable of handling your tasks, they will quickly stop taking you seriously when you demand the best from them. This means getting in there and making sure your business is handled and done right.
Nothing will grind away at your team’s nerves like treating every single task as if it’s the holy grail of tasks. You need to know what is most important, so you can prioritize the big stuff. While a lot of the work you and your team does is stressful, the little things don’t need to be driving everyone into the ground.
Make Expectations Clear
Have you ever asked your boss or director what they want you to be doing, they say you seem to have it covered, and then once it’s too late they ask about xyz when you’ve clearly been doing abc? Yeah, that sucks. It’s your job as a manager to make sure everyone knows what it is they should be doing, and when they are getting off-track. Slip-ups happen, but when expectations are clear, there is less room for mistakes.
Honest and Timely Feedback
Piggy-backing off of clear expectations, giving your team honest and timely feedback is a huge step in building a strong relationship with the people under you. Don’t be the MD that doesn’t really pay attention, only to come in at the last second and tell people their work is crappy and hit them with a bad review. Speak up when you see someone doing something wrong, and tell them how they can be doing better.
Don’t Be a Dick (All the Time)
Huge shocker here, people tend to hate people that are huge A-holes all the time. This doesn’t mean you have to be chummy with everyone, but it does mean you have to show your team you’re a decent person every once in a while.
Guys like Bill Belichick and Coach K are known for being hardnosed with their teams, but they also know when to inspire, when to celebrate, and most importantly, when to support players in need. You don’t have to shower your team with hugs and gold stars, but you also need to know when it’s time to connect and let your team know that you acknowledge their good work.
Not everyone is going to like you. Especially when you’re an MD. But, that doesn’t mean you should resign yourself to being the most hated person in the office when you walk through the doors every morning. Implementing the above mindsets in your workplace management skills will go a long way in having a team that, at the very least, respects you. And at the end of the day, that’s all you need.
Oh, and one more easy way to get your team to hate you a little bit less? Upgrade the outdated AF VDR you force them to use to CapLinked. You’re welcome.