Marcus Aurelius said, “Waste no more time talking about great souls and how they should be. Become one yourself!”
A client of mine, Jack, worked for a small software company. Like many of these businesses, it was started by a young, serial entrepreneur. The company grew fast and hired faster. Neither the founder nor her young managers had much real world management experience.
The founder was passionate and tough. While she inspired the team on many levels, when she was frustrated or disappointed everyone knew it. Clearly. Jack and some of the other managers longed for direct communication, clear goals, and controlled emotional responses. They wanted her to be the legendary, great manager for them and their direct reports.
At some point in time, most of us spend time wishing our managers were better. We want them to trust us to be professionals, recognize our successes, and provide constructive feedback that empowers our growth.
My guidance to Jack was simple: be the great manager you want. He had the reactions one might expect. He was unsure if he could be that manager. He was worried he was being chided, that I was taking a soft approach to the “it’s not as easy as you think” response. Most importantly, he didn’t know where to start.
Fun fact: this morning, the road to your job and the path to climbing Mount Everest all began the same way: deciding to go and taking that first step. Yep. You could have started an epic journey today. Fortunately, you can make the same decision tomorrow morning.
The “deciding to go” part is crucial. You don’t casually toss out, “I’m going to climb Mount Everest.” That’s an excellent way to never go. For Everest, you must internally commit yourself to doing an untold number of challenging steps. The same goes for deciding to be a great manager.
When you do make that decision, here are some steps to get you started:
- Check out this list of skills leaders need. There are 16 areas rated, and they vary by your level in an organization.
- Compare this list to what you know about your organization. If your team were to rate you on these items, where would you score lowest? If you’re stellar in all of those areas, you should either be writing books on management or you’re not seeing something about yourself.
- Pick one or two areas, at the most, to focus your efforts on improving. Just like climbing a mountain, you’re going to climb smaller peaks and reach lower plateaus to get yourself ready for the next level.
- Share your efforts with your team. Few things are better at keeping you in check than the fear of failing in front of those you lead. Now, you don’t have to make some big production out of it. When you’re truly committed to, say, communicating better, you can say, “I’m committed to communicating better. Let me know if the email I sent about the new policy is clear.” Trust me. Your team will hear what you said and will hold your accountable. And that’s a good thing.
Being a great manager is harder than one thinks but it’s worth the effort. It requires commitment and holding yourself accountable to yourself. Given that an alternative is possibly being the manager you don’t want to have, challenging yourself is an obvious call.