Managers are responsible for other’s performance and growth. It’s part of the gig. You can’t deny it, avoid it or hide from it. This means when we take on this role we must shift our perspective in a big way.
As a Full Potential Coach, I coach leaders at all levels. Over the years, I’ve noticed four habits that can stall and often completely derail what was a high-potential, fast-tracking manager to result in confusion, frustration and eventually burnout. Let’s explore these four habits and what you can do to bypass them and stay on that fast track.
1. The habit of being right.
Right or wrong, people create their own perceptions. As a manager, you are often perceived as a person with the authority to influence the careers and lives of others. This can be scary. It might not be obvious to you because you see yourself as just the same ole’ you. But, others might see you differently and will likely withhold opinions and ideas that are different than or in opposition to yours.
Whether you’re a person who likes to be right or not, you need to explicitly break the habit and more importantly, ensure your team knows where you stand. After setting those expectations, which should be done early and often, you have to make it safe for people to follow through. One way you can support this is to replace the habit of being right with the habit of being curious. I love hearing a leader say, “I reserve the right to be wrong so I am asking you to challenge my thinking and assumptions as much as possible.” Ask everyone you work with open-ended questions and listen to understand from their perspective rather than your own. This doesn’t make you weak, it makes you stronger. Only strong leaders put in the work to create a vulnerable environment where others feel empowered to speak up, be real and take risks. All this results in stronger relationships and extraordinary results.
2. The habit of solving the problem.
You are likely good at solving problems. The big habit shift here is not doing all the work. As a manager, your role is to teach others how to solve problems and then give them the credit. It starts with your mindset. If you believe you are the only one who has the right answers you will likely behave in alignment with that thinking.
Does this sound like familiar circumstances you find yourself in? Your office is a revolving door. You can’t get anything done because you are constantly being interrupted by people to whom you have delegated work. You do all your own work at night because you can’t ever get things done in the office. You think, “I’m not good at delegating. It’s easier just to do it all myself rather than take time to answer all these questions.”
It’s likely your issue isn’t a delegating skill gap, it’s your problem-solving habit. You have created a cycle of dependence, with low empowerment and probably very little accountability. The antidote? Coaches don’t tell; they teach. The coaching habit builds on the curiosity habit. You can’t coach if you think you have all the answers. Walk your team through the thought process, guiding and teaching them along the way. They will then be able to replicate that thought process and work more independently as they trust themselves more, and you trust them more too. "The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever" by Michael Bungay Stanier is a great book and a quick read with practical tips that even provides seven core questions to get you started.
3. The habit of saying "yes."
Imagine you have just inherited a large sum of money. Nothing crazy but a substantial amount of cash nevertheless. Soon after, your phone starts ringing. People you haven’t heard from in years call just to “see how you’re doing” and “oh by the way, I am looking for some help buying [fill in the blank].” Out of the goodness of your heart you say, yes. And yes, and yes, and yes, and yes until you have nothing left but the taxes to pay on the inheritance. This is a preposterous story. Especially for the accountants who are likely reading this. So, if it’s so crazy to say yes to creating a deficit financially, why would we say yes to the point of creating a deficit with the most valuable resource available to us? Our time.
As a manager, you must create a habit of saying, "no." If you are not doing this, you are creating unrealistic expectations that are not sustainable for you or your team. It is not possible to answer every call, text, email, social media comment, etc. within five minutes while still meeting project deadlines, growing your business, and developing your people. What are you saying "no" to so you and your team can execute what is most important? If you say "yes" to everything, one day you will pull your weary, sleep-deprived head off your desk and look around to see no one. Because no one will follow a leader who cannot (or will not) take a stand. And for all those people-pleasers, trust me, I get that and am wired that way too. But now, you’ve got to get over it! Your life and the lives of your team depend on it. Replace your habit of defaulting to “yes” with the habit of leading a professional conversation to discuss with intentionality of what and why you need to say, “no” or “no for now.” Negotiate your priorities so you, your team and your clients can reach their full potential.
4. The habit of failing to plan.
Most people have watched at least one football game. I’ll admit I have limited knowledge in that arena but I can see there are a lot of players on and off the field and things move quickly. What if the head coach said, “I’m just going to make this up as we go?” What if there was no game plan? I’m guessing the coach might be able to wing it for a while, but it would soon become obvious that he was completely unprepared and ineffective.
As we have discussed, managers are like coaches. They have a game to win for their clients and a bunch of team members on the field day-to-day by executing work. Despite this fact, it is amazing to me how many managers come to work and wing it every day. Yes, there might be a project plan in a system but the manager hasn’t really planned out what exact work will be executed that week or that even day. As a result, they don’t know if they’re winning or losing because they have no benchmark to compare against.
Without a plan, you don’t know what you’re saying "yes" to which means you can’t say "no" or "not now." You also can’t delegate or create an environment of accountability where team members can hold themselves and each other accountable for staying on task. How do people know when they can flex in or out when they don’t know if they’ve really finished the work needed that week or day? Managing people requires a habit of planning the work and working the plan every single day. Do you feel you are not good at this? Find people who are and try new strategies. At the end of the day, it comes down to having a planning process and discipline. Help your team succeed by having a plan.
Don’t let these 4 major habits sneak up on you. One alone can take you off course but more than that can completely derail you. Your team members need you to be curious, they need you to coach them, to say “no” when it matters and to plan ahead.
About the Author
Tara serves as the Full Potential Coach at HORNE where she helps team members navigate through various stages of career and personal development to reach their full potential.