Manager stories

April 20, 2012

Public relations

Sticker charts worked when we were kids...and they still work as adults.


This collection of stories is a follow-up to this week’s #pr20chat, which covered the topic of people management — managing direct reports, managing peer-to-peer and managing up.

First story

I am not the most confident person in the world. Second-guessing and I have become good friends during my professional career, even though it’s a friendship I’d rather not have. And even though I am technically a millenial — actually more of a cusper — I never really had that whole entitlement thing going on when I started working a “real job.” I always felt like I had a long way to go before I got to the point where my opinion meant much.

Being someone with that mentality, I had the perfect first manager. Every time we had a team or company-wide meeting where some “big news” was announced, she would always come by my desk and ask: “How are you doing? What did you think of that?” I usually thought a lot about it. But I didn’t think I was in a position to voice my opinion. Knowing someone cares what you think is a powerful thing. I have always tried to remember that when I’m managing people.

Second story

When I was a kid, I totally had a sticker chart. Only mine wasn’t stickers, it was dry erase checkmarks. But same idea. Complete a task or do something positive, get a reward — in this case a checkmark. Get enough checkmarks and you got something really cool. So cool, in fact, that I don’t remember what it was. But that’s beside the point. What I really wanted was the recognition that came with one of those checkmarks.

Another manager of mine believes in sticker charts. For adults. In the workplace. And you know what? It still works. And it makes your job a lot more fun. If you don’t believe me, give it a try. This manager also does something else that really stands out to me. Whenever someone does something exceptional at work, she sends and email to the entire office letting them know about it. Some people might call that over-aggressive cheerleading. I know for a fact that some people have. But this manager, who was a cheerleader in college, does it because she understands the value of recognition. She told me one time: “I’ve never met anyone before who doesn’t like to applauded for doing a good job.” This may seem small. But it’s the kind of thing that people talk about when they tell friends stories about where they work. It’s a retention tool, if you think about it. And btw, who doesn’t want to work at a place where you get stickers?

Third story

Talk to enough people about their boss and someone is bound to bring up the word ego. Heck, talk to enough people about their workplace, and you’ll definitely hear it. Control freak. Micromanager. Turf war. All words you can’t go to long without hearing in corporate America.

But one of my past managers told us something different. Something I will never forget. “I always try and hire people who are smarter than me in areas where I’m not smart enough,” is what she said. Or something to that effect. Almost every leader I have ever heard or worked with would have seen a comment like that as a sign of weakness. But I saw it as a sign of strength. And a sign that this manager valued her people and wanted them to know it. That’s the kind of person and leader you want to work for. That’s how you build loyalty.

Fourth story

I’m sure you’ve seen this scene on your favorite sitcom before. Kid does something stupid. Parent yells. Other parent comes over and says something about the stupid stuff we did when we were kids. Parent who yelled says I see your point. Parent eases up on kid but has an honest conversation about the issue. Man, I think I just described every episode of Full House and Family Matters that ever aired on TGIF.

As cliche as it may sound, the best managers I’ve ever had remember what it was like to be sitting in the chair I’m sitting in when we’re talking. And they remember what questions were on their mind. Take money for example. If you are managing someone and you don’t think they have questions about salary, bonuses and merit increases, you’re crazy. Certifiably insane. But those topics are still taboo in so many workplace conversations. Which is why I remember so vividly how one of my managers handled the issue recently.

“Where do you want to be financially? You know salary-wise?” she asked. I was floored. No manager had ever asked me that before. “It’s not like I can get you there today, but if I don’t ever know, it’s going to be much harder to get you there.” What followed was an honest conversation about my hopes and expectations when it came to money. But more important than that, I left feeling like my manager and company had my best interest and family in mind. That’s not something you forget.

Related posts:

, , , , , , ,
Post comment as twitter logo facebook logo
Sort: Newest | Oldest
Nikki Little 65 pts

I've learned a ton from the managers I've had at the two agencies I've worked at, but two really great managers from my first agency helped me develop confidence. Similar to your first story, I struggled with confidence when I first started out in my career (and to some extent, I still do in certain situations today). My managers always encouraged me to speak up and constantly reminded me that even though I was young, I needed to counsel and advise clients. If I did so with conviction, they would trust me. It took awhile to get enough courage to tell people more than twice my age how they should handle their communications programs, but the more I believed in myself, the more I saw my clients trusting my opinion and counsel.


From the managers I've had throughout the years, I've learned how I do and don't want to manage, and I've applied what I learned to how I manage people. I just hope that I help younger PR pros as they move through the ranks the way my managers helped me.

JGoldsborough 247 pts moderator

 Nikki Little And you will help younger PR pros because you will have the model your managers gave you to learn from. And that is why our managers are SO important -- they start the cycle.

Confidence and conviction are key. A daily struggle for me, but something I continue to work on. Thanks for sharing your POV.

My latest conversation: I don't want our child to be best friends with Siri