A small confession before I begin my sordid tale… I am a Human Resources professional, have been coaching managers on teaming, leadership, effective management and such else, since I can remember. So when I took on the mantle of a manager for a highly motivated, ambitious, driven and intelligent team of management graduates with experience ranging from 3-6 years, more than a few years back, I didn’t really categorise it as a crisis. And you know… sometimes we in HR believe that because we have read about it, it somehow must mean that we can DO it…
Well… I began where most poor lost first time manager souls begin : i.e. by introspecting about our own managers. Native (or maybe naïve) intelligence tells us that if we can avoid the pitfalls of our previous managers and go with things that we desire in a manager , we should be ok. There is a sense of false security … till of course, you crash and burn!
I’ve always wondered about the abundance of literature on the ‘boss-subordinate’ relationship – some clinical, some diagnostic, some merely an attempt at sense, and some … well… let’s leave it at that. But most aren’t really experiential… about managers sharing their experiences and telling their future generations about the key to unlock this mystery. I may be presumptuous in attempting the impossible … but I do hope that this saves at least one lost soul out there and then, this would have been worthwhile.
In my experience, I have found that it is important to :
Ask yourself and your team how they have grown in their tenure with you
People want to be better than they were yesterday, they want to know more and be more than they were yesterday. If one is able to create learning opportunities, excitement and inspiration… you might just survive.
From childhood we learn to resent that extra cookie given to another because it makes us feel less than someone else … and undeservedly so. The corporate environment is no different.
‘Let the person be’
Do unto others as you would have others do unto you was not really spoken for the boss-team relationship, ‘cos then we might have clones on our hands. Here the principle is ‘Do unto others, as he / she would want’ because people are different, their dreams, aspirations and desires are different and it is important to respect that. As Gallup says, ‘different strokes for different folks’.
The ‘black dot on white paper’ analogy never grows old with me. And believe you me, nobody wants to only be a black dot.
Be the values you seek in your team
Values like ethics, commitment to the organisation cannot be taught through speech, it has to be taught through action – our own action. Remember how you disdainfully worked with the boss who was more concerned about furthering his career rather than benefit the organisation? It is easy to lose respect for ‘naked ambition’. I won’t stretch it so far as to say that our team seeks our selflessness… but , like it or not, there is some element of that…
Be the change you seek
Change , especially the difficult ones like culture, just like values cannot get a life only from speech. Their genesis is always in action.
Our whole civilization has passed information across generations through story-telling. It is an effective way of relating to people
The spine is a very important component of the body. Show some and stand up for your team when required, and they will never let you down.
Don’t ask your team member to do something you wouldn’t
They are just too smart for you to fob off your undesirable activities unto them. They may do it but will never forgive you for it.
Be open to being challenged
You just can’t always be right! So, it helps to have people on the team who will question you. I remember when I took over as a manager, my subordinate asked me if I had undergone any first time manager’s training! Well, she had a right to ask and I owed her a good enough explanation.
However, when all is said and done, and hopefully, more is done than said, I have to admit that I am a convert. Being a manager and being responsible for a team may be the toughest job around, but is probably one of the most meaningful and fulfilling as well… because of the opportunity to make a difference.
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