What I often hear from managers is, “I feel pulled in so many different directions.”
What they mean to say, is that they are trying to please a variety of different people, and it never stops: They will get some short-term results, but they know they have simply bought some time, and soon the juggling act will start again, where they weigh the sensitivities with who to please next — Boss? Subordinate? Peer? Customer? Supplier? Spouse?
They feel caught in a vicious circle where stress and pressure might ebb and flow, but it never ends.
They need a long-term solution to the “pulling at me” dilemma.
The sad thing, is that they usually aren’t even asking me for help; they’re just making a statement to explain “the way things are” without expecting that it can be different.
Managing doesn’t have to be that way; there IS a solution.
It sounds counter-intuitive at first, but the answer is in getting more selfish. They need to answer the question, “Who do I want to be with these people?” and that usually requires new work with relationship building, one person at a time, until a healthier, and more productive relationship is in place. That relationship is the long-term solution to the tendency short-term issues have with repeating themselves in shades of never-ending variety.
Let’s look at the manager-subordinate relationship as an example.
Usually, that ‘with’ word is critical, because instead of defining “Who do I want to be WITH this person?” managers — and they are managers with the best intentions — actually work in a way that is about who they need to be FOR that person. In reality, they need to work with their subordinates, and not for them, eliminating as much pinch-hitting as possible so that people can stand on their own in the work they do.
For after all, they were hired to do their work, not you.
Stars want to work with other stars. People want to believe that they are working with the best people in their field, and not with others who are second best.
— Lead with Compassion, then Manage for Competence
Managers who operate as salaried pinch-hitters aren’t managers; they’re extras. Most businesses today (and all good businesses, for that matter) don’t employ extras.
The most effective managers do not have co-dependent relationships with other people, not even with those on their team. Great managers coach people to be stars, working toward a goal of that star being individually indispensable in what they do, and in how well they do it. A great manager isn’t “one of the boys (or girls)” and doesn’t want to be: A great manager wants to be supporter and teacher, skills trainer and talent groomer, learning and/or influence resource, coach and mentor — NOT co-worker.
The key word is ROLE, and it’s individually relevant.
You may want to be a co-worker for a peer (and be specific about what that means in that relationship), but not for a subordinate who needs you to be their coach and mentor.
What is the role you play with each person who “pulls at” you? What is it now, and what should it be? — What should it develop toward, so you both grow in your relationship? Your daily work together should be the way your new and improved relationship plays out and progresses: In the instance of their next pulling, work within the steps necessary so that self-development begins to happen for each of you.
Managers are the people in an organization who channel available human energies in the best possible way. When managers work WITH someone, results should be exponentially greater — learning and people-development is somehow woven into it, and the manager isn’t just another pair of hands increasing or speeding up production: When a manager is involved in work with someone else, the process of that person’s work gets tweaked at the same time.
Work on this one person at a time, to do WITH them whenever you’re together, and not FOR them, and you will have your long-term solution of a newer and better relationship between you. The juggling will stop, because it gets replaced with consistent progress.
The prize of course, is that you will now be freed up to work on the role you are meant to work on within your calling: The Reconstructed, Rejuvenated, Newly Respected, and Never Underestimated Role of the Manager.
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Talking Story is the blog home of those who are learning to be Alaka‘i Managers — those committed to managing and leading with Aloha. Read a preview of the book which inspired this movement, and visit our About Page.