Hey there! If you've clicked on this article, you're probably either curious about the term 'direct reports' or you've just been promoted and are freaking out about managing people. Don't fret! In Startup Land, everything is a learning opportunity (with a sprinkle of caffeine and chaos). Let's break this down, shall we?

Direct Reports: The Who

Imagine you're playing a game of human Jenga. Now, you're a piece in the middle, and there are a few pieces directly on top of you. These "top" pieces? They're your direct reports—the individuals who directly report to you at work. They're your team members, your right-hand people, the ones you're responsible for guiding and leading. You're their go-to person for work challenges, career advice, and the occasional "where's the new coffee machine?" query.

Lead with Empathy: The Why

You're a manager for a reason. It's probably because of a combination of things – you've excelled as an individual contributors and know what it takes to succeed and you have a strong sense of empathy which helps you build strong interpersonal relationships and inspire others to do their best work. As a manager, it's time to flex those skills. Your direct reports likely have less experience than you do and are looking to you for guidance and mentorship. Be the leader you had (or wish you had) when you were in their shoes.

Everyone has a different style, but there are responsibilities that managers have to their direct reports that are universal:

  1. Have a Plan: You can't just "wing it" in management. You should have a people strategy that outlines who you need on your team, what each individual can bring, how you'd like to set team culture and values, and more.
  2. Check In: Most managers miss the mark by not being available enough. This is an easy one to excel at – all you have to do is make the time and show genuine interest in learning about the latest challenges and successes your direct reports are experiencing. You can set up structured time or keep check ins informal.
  3. Show Empathy: Beyond just being there, actively listening and participating in your direct reports' professional lives is so important. Your care should be genuine..

Winning Their Hearts: The How

Navigating the world of managing direct reports in a high-speed startup can feel like teaching cats to line dance. But fear not! With emphasis on authenticity, connection, and autonomy, here are some epic ways to build fab relationships:

  1. Keep it Real: This ain't the time for corporate jargon or buzzwords. Speak your truth. If you don't know, admit it. Authenticity is the currency of trust. Best place to start in my opinion? With a Candor profile.
  2. Listening Ears On: In between chugging your third espresso, take the time to genuinely listen to your team. Understand their concerns, aspirations, and that hilarious story about their cat's new fascination with Zoom calls.
  3. Autonomy is Key: We’re in a startup, not a kindergarten. Micromanaging is the quickest way to a mutiny. Trust your team. Delegate, and then step back. Remember, autonomy breeds innovation.
  4. Feedback Sandwich: Feedback is essential, but nobody likes a raw deal. Present it as a sandwich: positive feedback, constructive criticism, and end on a positive note. Yum! More feedback frameworks here.
  5. Water-cooler Moments: In the hustle and bustle, don’t forget to take a break. Join your team for a coffee or a quick video game sesh. Connection happens in those random, unplanned moments.
  6. Grow Together: Invest in their growth. Workshops, courses, or simply brainstorming sessions. When they grow, you grow.

In conclusion, dear reader, 'direct reports' might sound intimidating, but remember, they're humans like you (just with less caffeine). In the fast-paced, ever-evolving startup realm, always prioritize connection and authenticity. And hey, a little humor doesn’t hurt either. 😉

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