Doctorow: Headed Back To The Office? You Better Learn These Leadership Skills. 

Doctorow: Headed Back To The Office? You Better Learn These Leadership Skills. 

Eric Doctorow | Random Media

November 21, 2022 | Many people in our industry are going back to the office after more than two years of remote work to find that the world has significantly changed.  Many managers have forgotten, or perhaps never learned, critical skills needed to be successful  to climb the company ladder. For those people who are not going back to the office, or who are going back to the office on intermittent days, well, leadership skills are even more important. 

These past years have tested every organization in new and unique ways. Certainly, the culture and structure of each company has undergone massive changes, with some companies thriving and others just getting by. But one thing is certain, as companies begin to return to a more normal work environment, rebuilding the in office” culture will require time and real effort on the part of employees responsible for managing and leading people.  It will be especially hard for those employees that are not going back to the office full time. 

I have learned some valuable lessons over my many years of senior management experience, and I was thinking that some of these lessons could be useful to others. Some, hopefully many, of these topics will not be new to you and you have already incorporated them into your work. If not, these ideas will help you advance your career goals.

Character Matters

Despite the current direction of our culture, in which civility and manners may not seem to be important, the truth is that character matters. How you conduct yourself with others matters, whether on the phone, in emails and texts, or in person. One of the most important “rules” that I learned many years ago is to always tell the truth.  I have learned from some of the toughest and smartest people in our industry that business is tough, and you can be as tough as you want, but you must always be honest and truthful. If you only remember one rule, remember this: your handshake is your bond. 

  • Learn to live with failure. Turns out that failure is one of the most important experiences you can have since you learn so much from it. 
  • Stop telling people how hard you work. No one cares how hard you work, they are working just as hard as you are.


Be A Good Partner

Let other people get credit for their ideas and work. As we all know, some leaders take credit for the work of their colleagues. Please don’t do that. It sucks. And people always, always remember when you gave them credit…or didn’t. 

  • You need to report up and down differently. Always keep your bosses in the loop. Go to them with solutions, not just problems. They might not like your solution or approach, but they will be thankful for your effort. When you report “down” be sure to remember that your employees are looking to you for support, not distance. 


Care About the Work 

If you care about the work, then others will see it and care too.  This can be tricky when you are not in the office and all your “public facing” activities are limited.  Therefore, it is even more important to be “present” and pay attention.  Too many people go into passive mode when on Zoom calls.

  • Always be ready to challenge accepted norms, but don’t challenge them just to make a point.  
  • Remember the adage, “No battle plan survives first contact with the enemy because they have plans too.” In your business world, this means being ready to change your plans if they are not working and admitting that they are not working.  
  • Very few problems are black and white. So, when you are trying to solve problems make sure that you ask for input from others that you trust. Remember that it is bad to go into a meeting to solve a problem when you have only spent a few minutes thinking about it. 


Manage Employees Smartly  

Finding and retaining key employees is harder than ever. The best retention strategy is to acknowledge great work when it is done. Everyone wants to find satisfaction in their work and how employees think about you and how they think you feel about them will affect their approach to their job. 

  • There are very few times that you will get the chance to pick the people that you work with. This means that sometimes you will be working with people who might not be your cup of tea. Maybe they have radically different styles than you. Some will be smart, and some may not be. Deal with it. 
  • As the saying goes be nice to people on your way up because you will meet them again on your way down.


Know How to Run a Meeting  

This is especially important when meetings are virtual.   

  • Always have a meeting agenda. Meetings can be a waste of precious time unless they have focus and direction. Never go into a meeting that you are leading without an agenda and a clear plan. 
  • When solving a problem, park job titles at the door. If someone is not supposed to be in a meeting, don’t have them there to make them feel good; have them there because you expect them to contribute.  
  • Start meetings on time and end them on time. This forces you to make the meeting as productive as possible and everyone will appreciate it.


Know the Rules of Engagement 

When giving a speech or making a presentation make sure that you rehearse it at least three times. Do not simply read the words on the slides.  The best presenters make it look simple. That is because they have rehearsed and know the material really well. 

  • If you use slides or materials to support what you are discussing in a meeting do not simply read the words on the page; this makes people crazy because they know how to read. The pages should support what you are saying, not be the script for what you are saying.  
  • In all of your dealings, follow the law. Always. No exceptions. And if you don’t know the law, ask. 
  • Your legal and HR teams are there to support you, but make no mistake, their loyalties and obligations are to their client – the company – not you. They have your best interest in mind when your interests align with the company. 
  • Mistakes happen. This is why they are called mistakes and not plans. No one gets up in the morning and says, “Today I am going to do something dumb.” But sometimes people do dumb things. Fix the mistake and cut them some slack.


Know the Math 

Do your best to understand the underlying math about how your business works. Your decisions and observations about the business will be smarter.  

  • Always remember that when you are spending money on something that it is real money. Would you spend it if it were your personal money? if not, then don’t spend it. 
  • When possible, use numbers, not charts. People love to use pie charts. However, it is not the best way to present a business topic.


Be Customer Focused 

Always ask your customer, “How is your business doing?” It is the one thing that many people never ask. You will often be surprised by the answer. 

  • Always ask your customer for feedback on how you are doing.  You will often be surprised by the answers you get, and your customers will really appreciate it. 
  • Every once in a while, opt for a phone call instead of emails or texts. If the topic is complex there is often nothing better than having a phone discussion rather than many messages where intent can get lost. Pick up the phone and call. 


Be a Good Listener

Be ready to accept someone else’s ideas. They may be right. 

  • Focus on things you can change, not those things that you cannot. 
  • Listen more; talk less. Talking is easy. Listening is hard. 


 Eric Doctorow is CEO of Random Media.
He earlier was President, Worldwide Home Entertainment at Paramount Pictures for 20 years
and has also worked at Miramax, 20th Century Fox/MGM and THQ.