Decoding Digital

What Leadership Traits Make a Supermanager with Aydin Mirzaee

By Ideas @ AppDirect / Aug 17, 2021

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Are great managers born or made? Aydin Mirzaee believes it’s never too late to become a better manager, and with the right approach, even become a “supermanager.”

If anyone knows what it takes to be a supermanager, it’s Aydin. He hosts the “Supermanagers” podcast, where he speaks to leaders from across the business spectrum to find out what habits, attitudes, and experiences have helped them on their journey.

Aydin could also be considered a supermanager himself. Alongside his role as a podcast host, Aydin is the CEO of Ottawa-based Fellow.app, a rapidly growing SaaS company that helps teams optimize their team management and productivity. Previously, Aydin co-founded Fluidware—growing it from nothing to a team of almost 100 and a $12 million run-rate—and led it through an acquisition by Survey Monkey just six years later.

Between his own skills and experience, and those he’s discovering through the podcast, Aydin has a treasure trove of knowledge about what traits make great leaders and how they drive success. He shares what they are on this episode of “Decoding Digital.”

Hit play to hear the podcast episode or read on to find more.


What is a “supermanager”?

While Aydin coined the term “supermanager,” the concept is something already present in many organizations. Aydin says the best way to think about a supermanager is to think about their impact. A manager’s role is to help get more out of their team. A supermanager is someone whose involvement gets 10 times more impact out of a team compared to if they weren’t involved.

One of the key characteristics of a supermanager is that they are always developing their craft. Aydin believes that this quality separates the professionals from the rookies: Those who deliberately practice becoming a better manager versus those who simply manage. Supermanagers, then, are those with a mindset to develop not only their teams but the management of their teams.

The key to supermanagement

Aydin shared some lessons he’s learned from the many interviews on his podcast, revealing that many of the same themes come up time and time again. The first is that excellent managers must understand employees on an individual level.

“There's this great quote from Peter Drucker. He basically says effective executives understand and build on the strength of themselves, their team, and their organization to make everyone productive and to eliminate weakness.”

Discovering what strengths and weaknesses each team member has allows the manager to find the best use of that team. This way, you’re not necessarily removing individual weaknesses but using the team in a way that the weaknesses are no longer present.

Another model that Aydin found interesting was what he called the 25/50/25 leadership model. This is when you dedicate 25 percent of your time to managing and guiding your team, 25 percent to listening to what your team needs from you, and 50 percent to collaboration. This is much more of a two-way approach, rather than a typical top-down model.

The biggest takeaway that Aydin thinks is important for all managers is to be yourself. Aydin says that, oftentimes, people try to emulate other’s leadership styles. But this isn’t always what’s best for the manager or the team.

“You have to really understand yourself, just like you understand your team. You have to understand yourself, understand what your strengths are, and what the authentic you looks like, and then be that person.”

How to be a supermanager in a digital-first environment

Is managing people remotely easier or more challenging than in person? Aydin believes that it’s actually far more difficult to run a company remotely—but it’s worth it. He suggests that there’s a mindset shift involved with remote working that means managers have to be more purposeful with their actions.

There’s an implication here that being more purposeful means slower. However, Aydin notes that by acting with purpose, you become more efficient and therefore, faster.

For example, documenting everything through a communication channel like Slack gives people unlimited and constant access to information when they need it. If you compare this to an in-person workspace, you may have to wait for everyone to be in the same room at the same time or repeat information to those who didn’t understand the first time.

It’s no secret that technology has unlocked almost unlimited potential for remote working, but Aydin believes it can also drive better team management.

How technology can help behavior change

This technology-enabled efficiency is what drove Aydin to develop what he calls the “manager’s co-pilot,” Fellow.app. Fellow.app is a software tool that takes a meeting-centric approach to optimize team management and productivity. Aydin’s goal is for this technology to help managers encourage behavior change using their preferred medium—meetings.

The digital shift changed the dynamic for many meeting styles, but one style Aydin suggests many organizations could better embrace is the asynchronous meeting. In practical terms, this means making information that could be a meeting readily available for people to consume as and when they need it. Sharing a presentation, for example, might not necessarily need to be a meeting, and it may be a better use of everyone’s time to share that asynchronously.

Aydin advised that if you’re going to communicate in this way, the organization should build reactions into the company culture. Whether that’s responding with emojis or sending a message, a proactive response indicates users have received the message successfully.

Aydin’s top leadership advice

After speaking to over 50 incredible leaders, we were keen to find out what leadership advice Aydin would pass on. He says that there are two qualities which all managers should possess in order to become a supermanager. The first is to remember that it’s really all about the people.

“At the end of the day, you really have to treat everyone like real people. Really understand them and treat them like human beings.”

The second quality is being willing to work at it. Being a manager isn’t a one-and-done task, it’s a constant state of personal development. Aydin likens it to the analysis and dedication professional athletes give to their training.

“Treat it just like a professional athlete would. A professional athlete would do drills and practice and look back on their week and figure out what conversations they had, how they went, and how much feedback did they give? And how did the feedback get received? The world's best managers are also practicing and they're very deliberate about all these things.”

Like anything, practice makes perfect. Aydin believes that great managers are made not born so, with the right attitude, it’s never too late to become a supermanager.

To learn more about the future of management and technology, listen to Aydin’s full discussion with Daniel Saks on the “Decoding Digital” podcast.

Check out the “Decoding Digital” podcast series for more insights from inspirational thought leaders and digital innovators. You can listen to the podcast on your favorite podcast app, including Apple Podcasts and Spotify.