At a point when I didn’t have the money to hire an assistant, I ran an ad for an unpaid intern. I ran it on a lark, thinking I’d be lucky if anyone in the world would want to work for free.

The number of responses I received was incredible, not just in quantity, but also in quality.

Losing the Management Crutches

The intern I chose was smart, talented, and fun — all the things I want in a coworker. And I was nervous she would leave. So every day, I thought to myself, “Am I doing everything I can to keep her? Am I teaching her enough? Is she getting enough out of this job?”

People aren’t managers because they have the title. They’re managers because they make the people they lead feel good about themselves and what they’re doing. I knew this before, from books, but I really learned it with my unpaid intern.

Most managers have a title and pay their employees. These are management crutches. If you want to be a really good manager, ignore those formalities and make people believe that they’re getting something even more important out of the manager/employee deal; that way, you’ll help them to grow personally.

Six Ways for Everyone to Win

Each person is at your company for a reason, and believe me, it’s not for the gold watch at the end of 40 years of service. They want to get something from your company so that they can grow personally and professionally.

Find out what they want to get, because if you’re helping them to get it, they’ll want to do the work you need them to do. People like to help each other.

Otherwise, they’ll do the work to get paid, but they won’t do it well. And managers who have people underperforming are not really managers — they’re figureheads, and people aren’t doing work for them.

A real manager gives employees what they need so that the employees deliver what the manager needs. Here are six ways to make that happen.

  1. Manage people first, do your own work second.Your job is to make sure the people on your team perform well. They can’t do that if you’re not managing them, so most of your day will be spent helping them to develop their skills.Your own work is something that comes after you’ve taken care of everyone else. This means you have to get very fast at doing your own work so that you can be available when direct reports need you.
  2. Delegate your best work.A great way to make more time to help people grow is to delegate your own work. But don’t delegate your grunt work — who wants to do that? Delegate your best stuff and the person you give it to will feel really lucky to be getting more work to do. You get more time no matter which kind of work you delegate, so you might as well be popular.
  3. Help people get recognized.You have more access to the world outside your team than the people reporting to you do. Use that access to make sure people know the strengths of your various team members.If you help people get recognition, they’ll be more likely to pick up a mentor. And while a boss is not always the best mentor, they can certainly help locate a mentor, and someone with mentor will stay longer and care more about work.
  4. Make projects relevant to people, not companies.If you’re giving a new assignment to a team member, don’t focus on what it will do for you, or the company. Focus on how it will help that person to grow in ways she’s hoping to grow. Show her the skills she’ll develop on this project and how they’ll change her.If you can’t do this, the only way to get her to care about the project is to offer other means for personal growth in exchange for her effort on the project. It’s not enough to say how something helps the company — it has to help the employee as well.
  5. Align yourself with your boss.People are much more likely to follow someone who seems to have support from the rest of the organization. You look like you can do more for your team if you have good relationships with people higher up.If you don’t look well-connected in the organization, people won’t work as hard for you because they don’t think you’ll be able to meet their needs.
  6. Work reasonable hours.If you work all the time, you look like you don’t have a grip on your workload and maybe even a little imbalanced. This doesn’t inspire confidence.It’s fine for high-profile people who have built up trust. But in general, the hardest worker looks the most scared. Otherwise, why would that person have to work so much harder than everyone else? Why wouldn’t they want to go home and be with family and friends?

Getting the Right Answer

The best way to think about management is to treat everyone like an unpaid intern.

Each day, your employees ask themselves, “Am I getting enough out of this job to keep doing it?” And each day, you need to give them a reason to say, “Yes.”