Podcast: Toeing the Management Line

Tonkean
Tonkean
June 14, 2023
June 8, 2023
5
min read
Podcast: Toeing the Management Line

In this episode of the Modern Business Operations podcast, Steve Hufford, Managing Director and COO at Raymond James Investment Banking, sits down with host Briana Okyere to discuss the importance of having mentors, as well as AI’s potential for replacing managerial roles.

What should you do when you find yourself in a management position, with no training on how to manage people? It’s a common dilemma; people who stand out as individual contributors often get promoted into a role where their job suddenly requires a new set of skills. 

Steve Hufford, Managing Director and COO at Raymond James Investment Banking, found himself in such a position. For him, though, it was an organic and gradual transition. As a lawyer working on M&A projects, he increasingly had to work with and manage multiple teams of people. “I've sort of migrated from being a doer of deals, to being an organizer of deals, to being kind of a manager of deals, to being a manager of people who do deals,” he told Briana Okyere, Tonkean’s community lead and co-host of the Modern Business Operations podcast

In addition to his own learned experience, Hufford gleaned a great deal about management by absorbing strong mentorship. And he came to an overarching principle—that it’s important to be relational with people when you’re in a management role. He says you need to show that you care about the decisions you make that affect people and be willing to follow up and change course if need be. 

Rules to Manage By

Steve says that a lot of what he does involves resource allocation. It’s a tough place to be, because often there are two parties, A and B, who want the same thing, and you have to be the heavy. Here are several simple rules he uses to guide those decisions:

  • Come prepared. Do the legwork to know what all the arguments are on side A and B, and don’t let yourself be surprised by a new fact.
  • Be transparent and honest with all parties. It doesn’t help to marginalize the truth. 
  • Be decisive. Don’t hem and haw and allow a decision to be drawn out longer than it needs to.
  • Find the third way. Parties A and B may assume you’ll pick one or the other. But look for the synergy between them that leads to outcome C. There’s often a great “third way,” but people may not be moving towards it when the conversation starts.
  • Follow up on the decision. Say you go with A over B; go to B later and check in.

The COO Role

Steve and Brianna get more specific by talking about the role of the COO, specifically. 

Steve believes a major role of the COO is to provide a counterbalance to the CEO, especially in entrepreneurial companies. Where CEOs in those kinds of companies are often full of passion and possess strong vision, that passion can result in a lot of movement, and the resulting energy may be frenetic. The COO can bring complementary patience and discipline to an organization.

They’re also often a sort of emissary between the CEO and the rest of the organization, so they need to have trusting and trustful relationships with both. 

Plus, at a time of increasing volatility in the world writ large and also within the tech sector, strong COOs can provide “ballast” in the form of wisdom and discernment.

To the question of how AI might usurp managerial roles: Steve parses machine tasks from human tasks. "I'm sure [AI] has lots of applications for maybe some of the more rote tasks that get done in the business world day after day," he says. "But my gut also tells me that at least it'll be a long time before it incorporates wisdom and discernment."

Hear all the details of this conversation by listening to the whole episode!

Subscribe to the Modern Business Operations podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, YouTube, or wherever you get your podcasts. Join the Tonkean community to engage with your peers! Get more insights and information about operations, no-code, and generative AI tools from our newsletter, LinkedIn, and Twitter

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