Q&A Interview with SirTradesaLot Part 3/3: Becoming the Boss

Andy note: Here's the final installment of the 3-part interview series with SirTradesaLot. See Part 1, Part 2.

Bio: He has worked in the finance industry for almost 15 years in a variety of roles at global investment banks and asset managers. A few years ago, he left a senior management position in the equities division of a large asset manager to start a hedge fund/asset management firm with former colleagues.

Becoming the "Boss"...
If you have a goal of managing a team or moving into senior management, there are steps you can take to increase your odds. Many people think that you need to be given a formal leadership position before you can start managing or leading people.  I think most people have that backwards.

You start training, mentoring, and guiding other people on the team and senior management will start giving you more and more management responsibilities.  If you do a good job, you will be given more management responsibilities and will start managing progressively larger teams.

Easiest ways to get managerial responsibilities
In my opinion, the easiest way to get the first managerial position is to be a technical expert in your field and be willing to share your knowledge.  Most people starting out in their career value their potential to learn more than anything else (the" learn in your twenties to earn in your thirties" mantra).  

Another way to garner more managerial responsibilities, is to become involved in recruiting, both for experienced and inexperienced hires.  Volunteering for things like on-campus recruiting, will allow you to hone your interviewing skills.  If you can build a reputation for selecting and retaining the best people, you can imagine that senior management will likely give you more responsibilities in this area.  Once you bring someone in to the firm, it's natural that they will seek you out for guidance and training.  If you aren't their boss initially, you at least set yourself up to be in the future.

If people can learn from you and you take their input, people will gladly follow you.  However, taking the input of the team is very difficult for many people to do.  I'm sure many of you have had bosses that have taken your work product and tweaked it in a way that made no substantive difference to the final product.  When that happens, most people significantly decrease their commitment to the product/project.  In other words, the boss has increased the value of the product by 1% and reduced the team's commitment to it by 50% by undermining the team's efforts.  Good luck with getting the most out of your employees on the next project.  They're going to half ass it, knowing that you are going to make significant changes to whatever they do.

Fair Treatment
Good managers do not treat people equally, in the sense that everybody takes a proportional share of each portion of the workload.  Good managers dole out assignments fairly, but give people things in which they have a comparative advantage.  People will naturally have different abilities and some people will simply be more effective than others.  You need to make sure you maximize the team output and reward the top performers, take your chances with the average performers, and let the laggards know they are laggards.  Once you get the managerial responsibility, your job is to make sure your team is fully engaged by challenging each team member and giving them responsibilities that play to their strengths.

I am a big fan of immediate feedback.  Nobody should be wondering if they are doing a good job or how their year end discussion will go.  If someone is killing it, you need to tell them they are doing a great job and specifically what you like about what they are doing, so they know to keep doing those specific actions.

If someone is performing poorly, you need to figure out what is wrong.  Don't start off with accusations.  People are usually pretty receptive to feedback.  Often times, they don't know they're doing something wrong, or you have done a poor job of communicating what the goals are and what their role is in achieving them.  If you determine that they understand all of that, but they just aren't cutting it, you need to tell them what they are doing wrong, what your expectations are going forward, and if the problems persist, what the ramifications will be for not improving (i.e. -- prepare to get nuked).  The important thing is that you are measuring output, not input.  One time I had a problem employee who was telling me they were the first one in and the last one out every day.  My response:  "Why is it that you are getting the least amount done?"

Often, it sucks to be the "Boss"
If you really want to be the boss, you need to be prepared to fire people and tell them they are not doing a good job.  You also need to be prepared to give people disappointing bonuses even though they did a great job.  None of these things are fun, trust me. You also need to be willing to go to battle with those above you to make sure your team is getting treated fairly for things like compensation and promotions.  Managing people can be both very rewarding and very painful.  You should figure out if it's something you truly want to do and position your career accordingly.  There are a lot of ways to make money on Wall Street without managing people, should you choose to do so.

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