I asked the young man taking me on a workplace tour about his company’s management team, admitting that I had not met all of them yet; “What are they like?”
We’d been walking and talking for a good amount of time, and so my question was not entirely out of context or noticeably surprising to him.
His response was one I hear relatively often, careful and safe, but not usually offered unless it is mostly true. He said, “They are very well liked.”
It’s an answer which doesn’t tell me much at all, for as I see it, a well-liked manager isn’t necessarily an effective one.
Better to be liked than unliked; no question there. It’s great if people feel you are approachable, and your likeability does factor into your relationship building, and into the coaching that a team will readily accept from you. However the acid test is this: Do people consistently perform for you?
Alaka‘i managers channel available energies into best-possible workplace productivity which is values-centered, customer-focused, and mission-driven. Their popularity can make the effort easier, but you and I both know “nice” managers who simply don’t get much done, and don’t inspire others to get meaningful work done either.
Ramping up that acid test, I also want to know if workplace performance is reliably consistent, whether or not a likeable manager is even around.
The most effective managers I know, are those who are pushing their teams into extraordinary levels of self-direction, frequent collaboration, and productive messiness in the workplace cultures they are fostering. Do sparks of creativity occasionally fly, sizzling their way into leaps of passion? Are new ideas regularly germinating in a fertile environment, often rooting and bursting into bloom?
If you feel your people like you, ask yourself why that is.
By all means, congratulate yourself for the human face you put on management, and the good revealed within your likeability factor, for I have no doubt you’ve worked hard to achieve it.
Then to be a great manager, and be Alaka‘i, dig deeper, and ask yourself just how much your team is performing for you, and how much progress they are steadily making toward that vision you have both deemed important, and have committed to.
Ask yourself if your people are enthusiastic, and if they have a positive expectancy of each and every day they clock in. Assess how much people have grown while you have been on watch and in charge. Chalk up a score which details their new learning, and how they have applied it.
Be honest with yourself about how much of their growth was because of you, and because you know this to be true:
“Treat people as if they were what they ought to be,
and you help them to become what they are capable of being.”
~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832),
German writer, scientist and philosopher