What does it take to build a great manager? Fidelity Investments Head of Human Resources Bill Ackerman and our CEO Laszlo Bock recently joined Fidelity’s Side of the Desk podcast to discuss just that.
Read on (or listen below) to learn the best —and worst—career advice Bill and Laszlo have heard over the years, including some leadership tips that might surprise you. Plus, see how Humu has made it easy for Fidelity to offer their managers personalized support in the areas that matter most to teams.
Listen Now >
Wendi Kennedy (WK): Hello. I'm Wendi Kennedy, the Head of Talent Development & Learning at Fidelity Investments. Managers have always had a lot on their plates, but over the last few years it’s never been more challenging to be a manager.
To start, could each of you share the worst and best advice you've received from your managers that still sticks with you today?
Laszlo Bock (LB): The best advice I've ever been given as a manager was, “Share way more than you're comfortable with.” A lot of managers want to hoard information or avoid looking vulnerable by saying, “I don't know.”
But the problem with hoarding information is the fear and doubt that grows in silence. Your people will assume things are wrong or worse than they really are if you don't fill that emptiness with whatever information you have.
The worst advice I've ever gotten was, “Focus on your team's productivity as the top priority.” But people who are stressed out or panicked or exhausted or freaked out are not going to do their best work.
As a manager, the most important thing you can be doing now is actually the opposite of that advice. Don't focus on productivity first. Focus on your people as human beings and be there for them. The productivity will follow.
“Don't focus on productivity first. Focus on your people as human beings and be there for them. The productivity will follow.”
WK: Why do you think being a manager is so challenging right now?
Bill Ackerman (BA): It was hard to be a good manager even before the pandemic. But right now, managers are trying to navigate really charged topics, like the return to office, and that polarizing energy can break down relationships and divide teams. That’s difficult for any manager, even great managers, because it doesn’t feel good when you can't give a clear answer to a question.
LB: What's particularly hard today is managers are caught in the middle between what senior leadership wants and needs and what their employees need.
When we look at attrition data across the Humu customer base, more than half —52 percent— of the time, employees say that they would have stayed if their manager had done one or two things differently. In fact, two thirds of employees say they'd prefer a better manager over a pay raise.
One of the most important things you can be doing today as a manager is carving out some time for self-care, whether it's an hour a week to go for a walk, maybe it's a couple of hours to have lunch with a spouse or a friend to recharge your energy so you can be there for the team under you.
“One of the most important things you can be doing today as a manager is carving out some time for self-care [...] so you can be there for the team under you.” - Laszlo Bock
WK: Fidelity has 6,000 managers across the globe, almost 700 of whom are new since the start of the pandemic. Can you talk a little bit about how we at Fidelity Investments invest in strong managers, including new ones?
BA: Like a lot of big companies, we have a portfolio of manager tools. There’s a program for new managers called “Managing at Fidelity,” then regional manager forums that connect middle management to the top, and we’re launching help for some of the polarizing topics that I mentioned earlier.
But those traditional tools often need to be supplemented by something different, and that's where Humu comes in. It complements everything else we do, because different people learn in different ways.
LB: On the Humu side, we use Nobel Prize-winning behavioral science to figure out exactly what each Fidelity manager needs to work on. And then we send them personalized nudges—or short, science-based suggestions—on how they can improve. The nudge is basically a virtual personal coach for every manager.
What's special about nudges, though, is we're also nudging people around you. Your team members, your peers, and your boss are all getting nudged, too, and that makes it easier to change.
BA: Our analysis shows a strong correlation between manager effectiveness and Fidelity associate sentiment. With Humu’s help, we're seeing improvements in areas associates tell us are most important, like giving and receiving feedback. The data also shows that associates feel more valued and appreciated when they receive nudges, and more connected to learning and growth opportunities.
On a personal note, I'm a better manager because of Humu’s nudges. I have little yellow stickies to remind me of the two things I want to focus on personally, which are recognition and providing clarity to my team. As a manager, I believe the data show Humu works for Fidelity. And as an individual, I believe it works for me.
“As a manager, I believe the data show Humu works for Fidelity. And as an individual, I believe it works for me.” - Bill Ackerman
WK: What's the best career advice you can share with people listening to this podcast today?
BA: If you're an employee considering a job move, don't just ask about how your new manager will support you. Ask how your new manager is going to be supportive, because that's going to translate into a really good experience for you.
LB: If you’re thinking about switching jobs, internally or externally, you need to ask, “What systems does this company have in place to gather, share, and most importantly, act on feedback? When I ask for help, do I get help or do I get ignored? Is it even okay to raise my voice?”
Fidelity has taken a lot of steps to excel at feedback, and it’s probably one of the best employers on the planet at feedback now.
Looking for actionable ways to better support your managers in 2022? Sign up here to receive free nudges based on the insights from our State of the Manager Report.