• Manager’s.  Are you afraid of getting it wrong?

    Manager’s. Are you afraid of getting it wrong?

    Posted 16/08/2012 By in GETTING THE MOST OUT OF YOUR PEOPLE, MANAGEMENT With | No Comments

    One of the things I see in the work I do with many Manager’s is the fear of ‘getting it wrong’.  It could be almost anything that I’m referring too.  Whether it’s a difficult discussion around performance or having all the answers to questions or organisational challenges the desire of many modern managers is to knock it out of the park, to get it absolutely right and right away.  Life is rarely this straight forward and most things that are worth doing have elements of complexity to it that requires practice, reflection, application and error.  Leading a group of people is no different.

    With the expectation that one must have the answers, that I must do this correctly and that the outcomes should be as near to perfect as possible, comes a raft of maladaptive and dysfunctional behaviours.  Some of the worst are:

    • Increasing the confidence or force of delivery to convey ‘rightness’
    • Avoiding tackling something for fear of getting it wrong
    • Creating so much emotional turbulence for themselves through worry, anxiety and procrastination that they’re operating on diminished cognitive functioning
    • Not asking for help
    • Not allowing staff or team members to solve the problems for themselves and doing so, becoming disempowered.
    • Not recognising when the approach has failed and persisting to avoid embarrassment.

    I also see things like Managers not shielding their people from bureaucratic nonsense and organisational ‘noise’ because they’re afraid of giving a dissenting opinion to their own managers and leaders.  I talk often about priority management and not taking everything on board.  There are limits to capacity and once exceeded the decline in someones performance is both marked and rapid.  Persist and that persons engagement is gone, sometimes never to return.  If you say yes to everything then the organisation will continue to get you to do those things.  If you’re at your threshold and keep taking more on, not only are you modelling this as the appropriate behaviour to your teams but at some point you will start under-delivering.  In my opinion it’s better to learn to say no to the excess and really perform on the things you have taken on.  Who knows, you may even find your ability to take more on increases as you start making headway on your other tasks and projects.  Or, as is so often the case, the ‘really urgent’ thing you said no to has disappeared.  How often have you busted your gut to get something done only for it to go nowhere?

    My approach in working with Managers is to normalise their experience.  To show them that they are not alone and that they are not expected to have all the answers, nor to be perfect.  That in fact there are far better things to focus on which will yield far greater performance improvements than if you did them all yourself.  In my opinion Managers need to get out of the way and focus on building the team.  It’s through their people that they will get things done.  Discard the merely urgent for the important.  Set your priorities with your manager and work to them.  Engaged staff will work far harder for you than a team who are not.  Use the multiplier effect to your advantage and enrich the working lives of your people into the bargain.  Do this well and your career trajectory will change and most likely for the better.

    Something else I work on with managers is “Are you in the right job?”.  Managers often end up in their roles due to ambition or skill in their technical area.  The skills required to manage are often very different to the skills you were previously using and not everyone is cut out for it.  I’ll talk more about this in another post.


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      Sean is an experienced coach, speaker and facilitator who is passionate about improving the relationship between people, their work and the organisations they work for. If you want to get the most out of your managers, supervisors and their teams and think that work can or should be a rewarding and enjoyable component of a productive and meaningful life it might be worth a chat.

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