How Not to be a Small “m” Manager

how can I become a better manager If you are asking, how can I become a better manager — not a small “m” manager but a big “M” Manager, you are asking the right question. The real answers, however, are hard to find, less visible and more deeply hidden in today’s climate.

The New Context

In addition to how can I become a better manager? You may also be asking why is management so hard? Nothing is easy today. This new workplace context is not only more complicated, but it’s also uncertain, ambiguous, and fraught with deep-rooted, pervasive problems.

You may have noticed; the work environment is more complex and more diverse today. There are more generations in the workplace today than at any other time in history. Competition is fierce, money is tight, and maybe you’ve experienced, the impatience, curtness, tension, and even anger that is in the air today.

As you begin, keep this top of mind:

The overarching thought to remember as you begin is, more is required of managers today. The best managers have and abundance of personal resources. Give yourself time and space to improve. You become a better manager, not in a day but every day.

*It’s hard to become a better manager in a volatile work environment. The same way it’s hard to become a firefighter inside a raging fire.

*The composure, diplomacy, and finesse needed today takes a lifetime to build.

*Leading with presence, not coming unhinged, losing yourself or commanding your way out of a situation is overlooked and undervalued.

*One more thing, role models and mentors are few and far between. You’re not alone in being alone.

Now that we have an accurate idea of the context managers operate in let’s look at ways to grow and improve.

The first thing to grasp is that you make the difference. There’s bad management and good management. The difference is not some technical skill. Planning, organizing, leading, and controlling will not make a difference in your team. The underlying energy you bring informs how you plan, lead, and “control” and that makes the difference.

Bob the Small “m” manager

When Bob started as the new manager, he came in likethe new sheriff in town.” He held a vociferous “everything is going to change meeting.” His team squirmed in their seats during that meeting, and they recoiled into inaction. Employee engagement dropped. Morale hit rock bottom. But Bob didn’t stop there. He eliminated telework, rewrote the policy to exclude dress-down days, and made supervisors in charge of documenting excessive time spent in the break room.

Bob dug such a deep hole that climbing out — well let’s just say Bob’s limitations and lack of awareness hold him back from climbing out of the quagmire that he created. The sad part is he also dragged his team down with him. Now, everyone’s on the Titanic, and it’s not good.

Rachael the Big “M” Manager

When Rachael started as the new manager, she held listening sessions. Rachael used generative listening to listen with intention and purpose. She wasn’t clairvoyant. She just sat still, listened, and didn’t talk. Her team taught her everything she needed to know. She learned their pain points and what she needed to do to increase employee engagement, increase morale and cultivate progress, productivity, and profit. Rachael grasped the energy of her team and used that toward enhancing team spirit.

She didn’t create any holes or deficits to dig out of. Rachael didn’t need to be a masterful manager. She just listened. Her team showed her the next steps to take. The energy she created was upward and additive. This team was glad to have Rachael as their manager. Their boat was underway.

Three Things You Can Do to Make a Difference as a Manager

Avoid Being a Small “m” manager like Bob.

It’ so embarrassingly evident that Bob was lost. He didn’t know what to do as a manager, so he relied on position power. This is a common occurrence in the workplace. There are far too many “Bob’s,” managers with a small “m” in the workplace. That’s why I always encourage the managers I work with to invest in themselves, learn what to do, and become the change we all want to see.

Listen More Than You Speak

I recently read an interview with retired Army General Stanly McChrystal. He was talking about who he admired and who made a difference in his life. He said he was always impressed with Secretary of Defense and former White House Chief of Staff, Leon Panetta. When pressed for the why, McChrystal said, “he always listened.” There is evidence! The big U.S. Government, probably the world’s largest employer, and what makes a difference at the top? The same thing that makes a difference everywhere, something as small as listening. That’s the trick; listening isn’t small.

Develop Presence

It takes a lot of presence to just sit still and listen. Don’t roll your eyes, frown or sigh, be there and listen to your team. But you don’t have to be intimidated by the thought of “being present.” Do it just one time. Practice not reacting or speaking. Try it, get through it once, and begin building your emotional muscles.

I hope that you are grasping that the power to be a better manager —to be more than a small “m” manager is within you. There is no power in learning how to plan, organize, lead, and control. Invest in yourself and discover the manager within, the latent leader.

A Final Thought to Carry With You

As a manager, you know your people can achieve more. You could grow in the double digits annually. YOU must show your team how much you believe in them and how much they can achieve. Hold up the vision you have for what your team can become and get them involved with what they can accomplish.

When your team sees your certainty and commitment, their uncertainty will evaporate.

You will be amazed at what your team will do to give life to your vision. They will work feverishly to maintain the high opinion you have of them. And the more they see your commitment to them, the harder they will work to hang on to your regard.

 

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© Brian Braudis 2019, All rights reserved

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