“Management is the manipulation of others for personal gain. Leadership is the responsibility to see those around us rise.” —Simon Sinek.
These days if you Google “manager” or “leader,” you’ll be bound to see lots of articles and graphs outlining the difference between the 2 words. And while I love me some Simon Sinek, I don’t really think there’s many managers out there who only want to manipulate others (at least not any that read this blog). We want to lead, but we have this title of “manager” that sits on our desk or at the bottom of our emails. And honestly, sometimes the title can make our job more difficult.
So, while we want to inspire others to rise to their fullest potential, here’s the #1 problem with managers: most managers don’t understand the process of rising to one’s full potential. Sadly, in their entire lives, some have never even been in the presence of another human being who is really, truly in the process of working to become a better version of themselves. When they got trained to be managers, no one taught them how to support others in improving.
If this is the case, then how in the world did so many managers land their jobs in the first place?
They were good at the first job they got hired to do.
Come on, give yourself a little brag—you were awesome at your job. Then one day, the manager seat was open and you excitedly applied for it. And because you were so stinking good at the job you had been doing up to that point, you got promoted to be “the manager.” Congratulations!!!
Do you remember that exciting time? I sure can! I remember going necktie shopping because I had to start “dressing up” for work and bought a bunch of office supplies for my new desk. I even got one of those cool letter openers that looks like a knife because managers can’t be bothered with opening envelopes like lesser mortals, ripping and tearing the paper into chunks.
So we all landed the job. We got the title. Maybe someone even showed you how to “manage.” Run reports. Follow up with employees. Check on their work. Make someone feel bad if things are going worse than before. Make someone feel good if things are going better than before.
Here’s the thing about becoming a successful manager that we have since (hopefully) realized: it’s all about managing relationships. Not things. Not processes. Real, live people. And interacting with them in a way that inspires them to do the best work they possibly can. And that is a ridiculously tough job.
The bottom line is this: most managers struggle at managing relationships and leading people because they don’t know how to manage themselves. Having been good at the last job doesn’t mean 💩 when it comes to being good and being the “manager” of a department of people.
So, now what?
Any manager who is worth their weight in letter openers will realize that the path forward is all about helping people to become better.
More than likely, that means you’ll have to do a lot of learning.
In my experience, most managers should dial back how much learning they do about the industry and the actual work that’s being done by their company, and dial up that research they do on how to influence others.
And that starts with learning how to influence yourself first.
On a scale of 1 to 10, how confident am I that I’m personally in the process of improving (at my job or as an individual)?
What specifically am I currently working on to become even better? (If you don’t have an answer, or you said “everything,” go back to the previous question and give yourself a 1 out of 10.)
In what ways am I modeling the process of improvement for the people around me, both those working on the stuff I manage and those who supervise me?
Where can I turn for help in becoming even better personally and as someone with the responsibility to support my team in becoming better?
What might be the absolute best next step to take from here?
I hope giving these things some thought challenges you and moves you to action. I hope you move on from this post determined not to be like all of the other managers out there—those who got their position handed to them just because they were good at the first job they got hired to do and who don’t care at all about their own personal development or that of their team.
Just like the airline attendants tell you to put your own oxygen mask on before helping someone else in an emergency, make sure you take your personal improvement as a manager and a leader seriously first. Then you can really help others to rise as you support them.
And then #1 problem with most managers won’t be your problem.
If you’d love to take this conversation further and improve your self-coaching skills, check out my free course for superhero managers at manager.yourevenbetter.com/hero.
At Even Better, we know being a manager is the hardest job there is. Feeling stuck and overwhelmed is the enemy. If you’re ready to get more out of work and life by showing up as a Hero Manager, send us a message by clicking HERE.