We have all had those “Aha” moments, when the blinders are removed, the light bulb goes on, and things become clear. These revolutionary learning experiences can radically change our entire approach to our jobs, or even life.
Here we look at one revolutionary shift managers can make to be truly exceptional.
The Adversarial Manager
Many people view the role of management as a one of power, one in which the manager exerts control over their team. This adversarial approach to management is rife with problems that can negatively impact the success of an entire team.
Consider, for a moment, Brian, a manager of a sales team. Brian believes that his position as manager means that he has been elevated above his employees, that they must serve him, and that his position demands that they respect him. In meetings, he tends to berate his employees for missing deadlines and quotas. Any attempt at discussing issues the team is facing, he interprets as whining or making excuses. In general, Brian does not respect the ideas of his team members, and instead expects them to do as he says, in the way he wants, with little guidance or discussion. He has been known to complain about how much time it takes to “deal with” his team; they know their job; they should just do it. As a result, Brian’s employees tend to avoid talking to him. In meetings, they tend to keep their heads down and their mouths shut, anything to not draw Brian’s ire. Creative thinking is not encouraged. Collaboration between team members is rarely seen. When obstacles arise, or mistakes are made, each employee tries to handle the situation himself or herself, so that Brian never has to know about it. Or they point fingers at each other so they are not the one to fall under his wrath. This often means a small issue turns into a crisis. Brian’s assumption is that his employees are trying to do as little work as possible, to get away with as much “goofing off” as they can get away with. In such an environment, strong team members tend to exit as quickly as their abilities will allow them to find a better situation, one in which they can grow, advance, and thrive. Those employees who remain tend to not be very invested in their own success, let alone that of the team. Brian definitely controls his team, but he does so through fear, not respect or compassion, and the team’s success is definitely limited.
What would Brian’s team look like if he approached them not as his underlings or adversaries, but instead viewed them as competent team members who were invested in their success?
Management with Compassion
Successful managers reject the idea that their relationship with their team is adversarial in nature. Managing from a place of compassion means that a manager understands that their respect has to be earned, not demanded. This respect is built, not by controlling team members, not by yelling at them, but instead by showing them compassion, by understanding that each employee is doing the best that they can with what they have to work with. If an employee is missing the mark, it is the manager’s job to work with them to find what they need to rise to the challenges.
A manager’s true role is to serve their team. This is the concept of Servant Leadership. This means that the manager knows his job is to find what it takes to help his team reach the finish line, to be successful. Instead of demanding and controlling, a compassionate manager nurtures their employees, helping them to find their strengths, and to overcome any obstacles with creative problem solving and as a team. A manager who serves his team helps them thrive.
The Elements of Compassion
What are important elements of managing from a place of compassion?
- Empathy – Employees want to be heard and understood. If an employee has an issue, a compassionate manager listens, acknowledges the problem, then works with that employee to find a solution that accommodates the employee’s situation, as well as reaches the team’s objectives. An employee who feels their needs have been addressed will, in turn, double-down on their investment in their team’s success.
- Loyalty – Employees want to know their manager has their back. Your job is to facilitate between your team and your organization’s administration and/or between your team and your clients. Yes, there are always certain parameters that guide those relationships, but team members need to know that you are facilitating their success, not selling them out. Think, “My team is making sure that the report is as thorough and accurate as possible, before giving you the final version,” versus “You know how my team is, always late. Heads will roll.”
- Time – Some managers do complain, like Brian, that their employees take up a great deal of their time. Employees will go to a manager with HR issues, successes, obstacles, progress reports, requests, questions, etc. Instead of viewing this as a time consuming activity, understand that this is, in fact, the heart of the job. The manager is the information hub of the entire team. Fulfilling that role simply takes time and the willingness to listen
- Patience – Employees are human. They make mistakes. They have lives outside of work. They have emotions and preferences, and a whole host of other messy things. Yelling at them, or demanding that they be nothing but a work-oriented automaton does not get the job done. Working with them to find solutions for on-going issues takes compassion, time, and listening. For example, an employee regularly misses a deadline for a mid-project status report. An adversarial manager would likely just yell at the employee every time the deadline is missed. A compassionate manager, instead, discusses the problem to find out what is really going on. Are other team members not getting information on their status to her in a timely manner? Is she simply too busy with other project demands on the day the report is due to get it in on time? Is it just a matter of forgetting? To find the effective solution to the problem takes understanding the matter completely; doing that takes time and discussion.
- Accommodation – This can be a challenge for many managers. Usually, a good manager has a thorough understanding of the processes that the team employs to meet their objectives. We know exactly what we would do at each step to get the job done to our satisfaction. And we know it generally works best – for us. When training, it is tempting to tell a new hire what to do and how to do it. However, a compassionate manager understands that everyone has their own approach to the job, with processes that work best for them. Following our step-by-step guidance may get the job done, but it may mean using a process that does not work best for the employee. Rigidly insisting a team does it our way stifles innovation, as well. Instead, offering general guidance, allowing the employee to find the process that works best for them, builds a stronger team member who is confident in their own abilities to get the job done. If problems arise, using the Socratic Method, asking questions, can help the employee work through the issue, without belittling their methodology or thought processes.
- Delegation – Many start-up company owners often find themselves going from a one-man show to the manager of a team. This can feel like they are being side-tracked from what their growing company was built upon. Hiring employees is necessary, though, to continue to increase your company’s success. Allowing people to take on tasks, working with them so that they know how to get things done to your standards is also an important part of continuing that growing success. Too often, a new hire will make what the manager views as a mistake. Instead of taking the time to address where the task missed the mark, a manager who struggles with delegation simply says, “I will just do it myself.” This not only defeats the purpose of delegating a task to another, it undermines the employee’s confidence. In this case, it doesn’t mean accepting substandard work, it means working with that employee until they understand specifically what is needed, then trusting that they can get it done to your standards
- An open door – Communication is the key to everything. Employees must feel comfortable reaching out to their manager in order for the entire team to be successful. If they feel that coming to their manager with an issue means they will be berated or belittled, they simply won’t. Like Brian’s team, they will try to handle issues without letting their manager know about them. At the time, this may work, but, more likely, it poses the potential for a small issue (“We didn’t get the updated specs from the client.”) to turn into a very large one that derails the team, completely (“We ordered materials in the wrong size, and now none of it will work for the client’s project. Reordering will put us well beyond the completion deadline.”). Employees should feel comfortable informing their manager of team successes, as well. Letting management know that a fellow team member has performed well can do a lot to build cohesion within the team, as well as to help each team member feel invested in every team member’s successes. Again, the manager is the information hub of the team. Restricting the flow of information is likely to have a very negative impact on the team. Allowing the free flow of information helps keep management informed and able to guide their team to the finish line.
Releasing the attitude of an adversarial view of management frees us to view our employees as competent individuals who are not trying to pull a fast one. We are then able to view them, and even their missteps, with compassion, which, in turn, allows us to nurture their abilities, help them grow in their abilities and confidence, and facilitate not only their individual successes, but also the success of our team as a whole.
AdvantEdge Training & Consulting has management classes that can help you attain your own revolutionary learning experience.