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How to Be a Good Manager: Anna Wintour’s Management Tips

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Oct 2, 2020 • 6 min read

In 2013, Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour was appointed artistic director of Condé Nast, meaning she oversees the creative direction of all of the titles in the company’s portfolio except for The New Yorker and is involved in corporate decision-making, such as shifts in digital strategies and brand expansions or contractions. Most recently, in 2019, Anna was named Global Content Advisor—in this new role she assumes over sight of Vogue International, a central hub that creates digital content for Vogue titles around the world. She also will advise the executive leadership team on global content opportunities and act as a resource to Editors-in-Chief and editorial talent worldwide.

Anna’s role with Condé Nast encompasses many disciplines from journalism to fashion to global branding. More than anything else, however, Anna is a manager, and management requires an array of unique skills and personal assets.

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What Is a Manager’s Role in a Company?

At the most fundamental level, managers are leaders of a team. Some management roles can be quite prestigious, like a commanding officer in the military, the head coach of an NFL team, or the chief of staff for a prominent politician. Other management roles are more quotidian, like the night shift supervisor at a fast food restaurant or the stocking supervisor at a warehouse.

The 10 Signs of a Good Manager

No matter their status or their industry, great managers share many common characteristics and duties. Qualities of an effective manager include:

  1. Develops personal rapport with team members and keeping tabs on their sense of fulfillment, their well-being, and their career goals
  2. Uses strong communication skills to articulate the organization’s mission statement and its expectations for team members
  3. Facilitates employee engagement and buy-in to company culture and big picture goals
  4. Creates a work environment where employee voices are heard, where more than one type of skill set is valued, where different people are charged with status and responsibility, where new responsibilities are a reward for high performance, and where teamwork and good working relationships are just as important as the bottom line
  5. Uses time management skills that balance a respect for team members’ time and work efficiency
  6. Provides team members with training programs, company resources, and project management tools to help them both achieve present goals and take on new responsibilities
  7. Offers fair, objective performance reviews that function as a check in opportunity for individual employees on both a professional and personal level
  8. Maintains outlets for team meetings, team building, and general good communication so that team members feel clear about their work relationship and company direction
  9. Directs a hiring process where each new role is filled by the right people who bring new skills and new ideas that aren’t currently present within the organization.
  10. Leads with a fair, methodical decision-making process that considers varied opinions, adheres to company values, and promotes a healthy working environment within a small business or large corporation

Some managers own their own business, but many do not. Experienced managers often report that one of the biggest challenges is not their work with employees but rather with business owners. Think of the general manager of a sports franchise owned by an billionaire. The players and coaching staff may understand the team building processes needed to win. But the billionaire owner may have less patience and be prone to micromanaging from above. To this end, great leaders are able to manage down (toward employees) and manage up (toward ownership. This is undoubtedly hard work that draws upon many layers of management skills; the ability to both can separate the best managers from a pack of merely successful managers.

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7 Management Tips From Anna Wintour

Anna Wintour built up her legendary management style through decades of experience. Here are some tips from Anna about how to utilize leadership skills and how to be a good manager, as well as some insights into how she runs Vogue and other brands within Condé Nast.

  1. Pick a good team and trust them. If you trust your team, you can avoid micro- managing. This doesn’t mean Anna isn’t detail-oriented—she reads every word that goes into the magazine and approves every look for fashion stories—but she also empowers her editors to make decisions on her and the brand’s behalf. Find a self-starter: someone who can make decisions on your behalf and who’s going to be a good ambassador for you and your business. Groom them to be collaborators by empowering them to make leadership decisions on their own. You’re investing time and resources in this person, so consider their potential for longevity at your company.
  2. Diverse teams bring diverse ideas. When it comes to building your business, your team should be as diverse as possible—different backgrounds, experiences, ages, and opinions. When staffing a new position (from full-time to part-time to merely a contractor) hire with the goal of covering your blind spots: Surround yourself with people who will inform the judgment calls you make and the content you put out.
  3. Start early. Anna wakes up between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. and reads the British and American newspapers (The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian), looks at Twitter and Instagram, exercises (usually tennis), responds to emails, and mentally maps out her day.
  4. Small meetings are most effective, but there’s a place for large meetings, too. Arriving at the office between 8 a.m. and 8:30 a.m., Anna’s day typically consists of various meetings ranging in size and intimacy, from one-on-ones with editors in her office to fashion and features meetings with up to 40 people. Anna prefers small meetings—they tend to be most efficient—but larger meetings are an important time for everyone to get on the same page.
  5. Venture out of the office. Throughout the day Anna will often have meetings outside of the office, at the Met or designers’ studios. Even so, she makes a point of responding quickly to emails and queries from her entire Vogue team to keep things moving forward.
  6. Successful managers do bring their work with them. You’ll need a system for staying on top of things that works for you. Anna, for example, has the “take home bag”: At the end of each day, the take home bag is filled with a variety of things that need Anna’s feedback or approval, including “the book,” a mock-up of the issue that is currently in production. Anna goes through the book every night and comments on it with Post-it notes. She then goes over her notes with the art department and editors the next morning. The take home bag will also include drafts of articles for upcoming issues, pitches for future stories, photographer or stylist portfolios, invitations, and scheduling questions.
  7. “Not everyone is going to agree with you.” Anna believes that once you accept this and resolve to stay true to your own vision, you can be a better leader and manager. Having strength of conviction and communicating your point of view with clarity and decisiveness is the core component of Anna’s leadership style. This applies both to what Vogue shares with its audience as well as to how Anna interacts with her team. Hiring team members who are self-reliant and diverse in their way of thinking and observing the world is key and allows Anna to delegate confidently and trust those working for her. Don’t be afraid of being challenged in your managerial position. Let others be heard and let them challenge your biases; doing so will make you a better manager.

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Want to Become a Better Manager?

Whether you’re starting our own business or a veteran CEO looking to brush up on the basics, understanding the ins and outs of people management, team building, and effective workplace communication can make all the difference between a successful business venture and an unsuccessful one. No one knows this better than Anna Wintour, who has served as Vogue magazine’s editor-in-chief since 1988. In Anna Wintour’s MasterClass on creativity and leadership, the current Artistic Director of Condé Nast provides her distinct and priceless insight into everything from hiring and managing a successful team to how to best serve the right audience.

Want to become a better business leader? The MasterClass Annual Membership provides exclusive video lessons from business luminaries, including Anna Wintour, Howard Schultz, and more.

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