The Manager’s Challenge
We have all been around a manager who lets their emotions go, and takes their workplace frustrations out on their team or leaders. Sometimes it shows in blaming others (usually someone junior), or the “us and them” language, and in the worst cases even violent emotions such as shouting or swearing can even be put on show. Sometimes it can be very hard to imagine how some managers and leaders got promoted to where they are now!
A “Manager” is a person whose primary job is to deliver results through others. This changes the game completely. There is a delicacy to the art of shepherding a diverse group of people in the same direction, and creating synergy and unity. Managers who fail to identify this as THE primary deliverable for their role, end up with an unfocussed and uncoordinated team, and very soon, no matter how hard everyone works, the results just won’t show!
With the added diversity of tasks, and increased responsibilities, managers need much more resilience and maturity than the team members they lead. A lack of results is the manager’s responsibility, and if not resolved, results in negative exposure of the manager to his or her seniors.
Resilience comes in when managers become pressurised both from above, and from below. They have to both manage the downward pressure from their own manager’s expectations, which they feel heavily as an individual person, and then selflessly buffer their team from the direct effects of that pressure all the while feeling it themselves!
They also have to handle the pressure of internal team dynamics affecting performance, and should not expose those internal issues to the direct view of senior management. It is their job to resolve those issues, not to sidestep their responsibilities and blame team non-delivery on those internal dynamics!
So in testing times, a manager is genuinely feeling it from all sides. A good manager can absorb pressure from multiple directions without their team even noticing that the pressure exists.
So, if we battle to demonstrate resilience, and too easily fall foul of stress or emotions as a manager, what should we do? Some thoughts:
- Deal with any stressors that are not work related. Get them out of the equation.
- Decide to give grace to your colleagues. That basically means you count to ten before reacting, and while you are counting, find a kind way to say what you need to say.
- Your team wants to succeed. They are trying. Nobody wants to fail. Help them to succeed by unblocking the processes and workflows that are keeping them from it.
- Stress is often caused by lack of clarity and a sense of being overwhelmed. Spend time planning and regaining a bird’s-eye view of your team and the project.
- Create a plan to bring things back on track and own it. Realistic plans bring confidence. Confidence brings calmness.
- Be accountable both upwards and downwards about where things are at and how they will be fixed. Own the issues, don’t make excuses. (Every single good boss I have worked for has appreciated honesty and a commitment to fix things. Every single good boss I have worked for has hated excuses.)
- Its your job to get this done. Own it. It’s your job to take the heat for your team. Do it with grace and courage. They will repay you with results.