Manager Development

Some years ago, back in the time before TED Talks, I was at a conference when a woman named Connie Podesta spoke. While I don’t remember everything she talked about that day, the title of her book has never left me: Life Would Be Easy if it Weren’t for Other People. This was easily ten years ago and yet I haven’t forgotten Connie or her book. I’ve forgotten all sorts of important things in the last ten years. Why haven’t I forgotten this? There’s only one reason.  Because it’s funny – and it’s funny because it’s true!

Life would be easy if it weren’t for other people. Those words ring especially true when I think about the role of a manager. How much easier would it be if we only had to manage projects or processes without the pesky people part? Go ahead and try that one on for a moment. Blissful, right? If only it were real. But when it comes to being a manager, people are part of the package – and it’s a package that doesn’t come with an instruction manual or guidebook or six simple rules for success. We’re left to figure out on our own how to lead the humans – and well, that’s not easy. It’s hard. Really hard.

It’s so hard, in fact, that we managers do this thing to protect ourselves. We tell lies. Big ones. But don’t worry … we tell them to ourselves, not our bosses, teams or customers! Yet, nonetheless, the damage is real. Check out a few of the biggest and most common lies managers tell themselves.

The 10 Lies Managers Tell Themselves

Lie #1: “I’ll get to it later.”

You know this one, right? This is what you do with all the stuff that seems too hard to deal with when it comes at you. So you tell yourself it can wait. But what happens when you wait until later? The problem gets bigger. You have less time to solve it. It stresses you out more than it otherwise would have.

Lie #2: “It’s better if I just do it myself.”

The busy manager’s mantra is always some version of this. You avoid delegation like the plague because you think it will take too much precious time. Meanwhile, you are actively stunting the growth and development of your team by doing it all yourself. Even more, you’re wasting your precious time on things you could get off your plate with a little time invested in delegation.

Lie #3: “They’ll come to me if they have questions.”

Really? And what if they don’t even know the right questions to ask? The project, task or assignment you’ve given to them won’t be what you need in the end. It might even fall back in your lap. Worse, it can have a negative impact on your team members who worked hard on something they thought was what you wanted, but ended up being all wrong.

Lie #4: “It doesn’t matter if I reschedule my 1:1s again this week.”

Think twice about this one. You may be buried in projects and deadlines. It happens to all of us on occasion. But “occasion” is the key word here. If you’re guilty of doing this regularly, think about the message this sends your team. What does it feel like for them when everything else you’re doing comes first?

Lie #5: “The team understands why this is so important.”

How do you know this? Be sure to ask yourself how you can be so sure. Think about what’s at risk if you don’t take the opportunity to underscore why they are being asked to do something. If it’s important, it’s always worth repeating and checking in as you go.

Lie #6: “Our team works well enough together.”

Here’s another example of the hard stuff. Team dynamics require care and feeding. This is your culture at play and as the leader of the team, you’ve got to have some skin in the game. “Good enough” won’t get you through the hard times – and that’s when you need your team to work together the best. You need to invest in your team and help them build the relationships that will get you all through the tough spots.

Lie #7: “My boss knows what we’ve accomplished.”

No, she doesn’t. Your boss is operating from a different altitude day in and day. She may have a sense of what’s going on with your team, but unless you make it an intentional practice to share team anecdotes and successes, she does not have a full appreciation for what you – and the individuals on your team – have accomplished. It’s your job to toot the horn for your team. Don’t miss an opportunity.

Lie #8: “Joe found a better job. It had nothing to do with me.”

If you believe this, then you’ve never heard the most common phrase uttered in the halls of Human Resources: people join companies, but leave managers. Think about it … I bet you’ve even done it yourself. In fact, according to a 2015 Gallup study, half of us have quit a job to get away from our managers and 70% of US employees don’t feel engaged or inspired in their jobs. Guess who’s at the heart of that, as well?

Lie #9: “I’ll save the celebrating for the big stuff.”

Waiting to acknowledge individual success until something monumental has occurred is like waiting until report card time before acknowledging a child’s success in a class. What about the pop quiz they aced? Or the 30-page research paper they slaved over? Celebrating the little wins goes a long way to motivate, encourage and inspire bigger and better results. Do whatever it takes to make this an authentic practice with your team.

Lie #10: “Sandy handled that meeting really poorly. I’m sure she knows it. She’ll get it right the next time.”

You may convince yourself that you’re saving Sandy’s feelings by not offering feedback in the moment. What you’re really doing is saving yourself from the discomfort of having a difficult conversation. Being a great manager means having the courage to listen, offer feedback and coach in the moment so that no one has to worry about what will happen next time.

Stop Lying to Yourself

While it may be true that life would be easy if it weren’t for other people, for managers, people are what it’s all about. When you embrace what’s hard about it and stop telling yourself these all too common lies, you’ll find the rewards far outweigh the frustrations: team success you didn’t know was possible, seeing someone you took under your wing start to soar, freeing up time to challenge yourself and being able to grow in your own role. All of this is pure gold.

Can you relate to the 10 biggest lies managers tell themselves? What are you guilty of? What would you add to the list? I’d love to hear what you’ve experienced and better yet, what you’ve done to navigate the hard stuff when it comes to leading people.

January 19, 2017


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