The Three Kinds of Managers
What kind of manager or leader are you? How often do we honestly ask ourselves that question? From a very straightforward point of view, and in spite of what all the management books want to tell you, there can really only be 3 different kinds of managers.
- The manager you are today. All of us have a pretty good idea of where we fall in terms of management performance. And like 90% of drivers, we probably believe (or want to believe) that we are above average. Some of us have had the chance to undergo a number of courses and programs designed to assess and enhance our management skills. If so, you probably have a fairly good idea of just how good you are as a team leader and whether your troops are prepared to follow you into battle. For others, however, there may not have been such opportunities. If you haven’t taken advantage of them, do so. Now. As Sun Tzu said (I paraphrase): “If you know your enemy you will win every other battle. If you know yourself and your enemy, you will win every battle.” You need to undergo some self exploration to discover the manager you really are vs. the one you think you are. Sometimes the gap between the two can get very wide. Don’t let it. Annually take stock of yourself as a manager and be sure you continue to grow. Analyze the situations you have experienced, how they affected you and what you have learned.
- The manager others see you as. Sometimes it’s what others think that matters most. We all know how impressions are made quickly and can be hard to change. The manager that others see you as can have immense and profound implications on your situation and professional goals. This is why it is so important to conduct audits and seek constructive feedback. Whether from your direct reports, your peers or your management, try to seek out the perceptions others may have of you. Doing this is obviously not as easy as it sounds. Many people are naturally reluctant to give honest or direct feedback. It can be uncomfortable and rather emotional. So try to create opportunities when others can feel more at ease and where they can play the role of coach or teacher. Set up, for example, bi-annual meetings exclusively to discuss working relationships and how people feel towards you and your style. Planning these ahead, and holding them in a relaxed environment, can help remove some of the tension. Also, the more often you ask feedback of others, the easier it gets for everyone. Ask for 3 strengths together with 3 development areas. More importantly, try to get as many specific examples of instances when you did something that was perceived in a certain way. Conduct a 360 degree feedback survey or participate, if you can afford it, in a development program such as the excellent and highly recommended Center for Leadership and Creativity weeklong course. I did this several years ago and found it immensely helpful and enjoyable. At the end of a project or program, ask all the participants to complete an evaluation or feedback form.
- The manager you want to be. Each one of us harbors a deep seated sense of who and what we want to be as we grow older. This is the compass point we are all aiming for. So what is it that you are striving for or towards? Maybe you crave for connection with others, maybe it is a desire for recognition or maybe it is a passion for teaching. Maybe you want to collect lots of endorsements on Linkedin. Only by understanding our deepest needs can we align the manager we are today with the one we are perceived as and the one we want to become. Fortunately, there are clues along the way. Such as moments of intense satisfaction after a situation gets handled in a certain way. What did you do that made a difference? Perhaps it is a feeling of awe or inspiration when you recognize something you admire in another person (maybe a current or former manager). Maybe a coach or mentor reveals a whole new perspective to you. Or perhaps it is just a clue or comment from someone who says something profound that causes you to see things in a whole new way. Whatever it is and wherever it comes from, define it, describe it to yourself and use it as your management compass point or perhaps create your own management mission statement. Whatever form you choose, memorize it and review it periodically to remind yourself of your goal. With every passing year, ask yourself what you are doing and how you are progressing as a manager towards the embodiment of this aspiration.
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