You're a manager. Congratulations! You have been bestowed with the marvelous opportunity to manage others while simultaneously managing yourself. Feel free to replace marvelous with any plum word of your choice. Overwhelming, frustrating, irksome, impossible, or exhausting? Work life spiraling out of control, anyone?
Take solace. You are not alone. Most leaders don't discuss managerial-related angst, out of concern for appearing ineffective, weak, or incompetent. Yet the majority of managers struggle with managing others. In a 2011 Berrett-Koehler survey of 150 leaders, 68% of managers confessed they really don't like being managers.
What is the genesis of this trauma? Like you, the vast majority of managers did not sign up to be managers. You pursued a career of interest, thrived, and—voila! You got rewarded with a promotion to management. Becoming a manager adds a facet to your job that, more likely than not, you were never trained to do. In fact, nine out of 10 leaders believe they do not have the necessary skills to manage.
Burnout intensifies when attempting to assume a style of management out of sync with your temperament. Unfortunately, many leaders have been brainwashed by a well-meaning, misguided herd of consultants to follow a singular set of "rules" about how to manage. Futilely attempting to squish yourself into a template that wasn't designed for you leaves you wiped out, more convinced than ever that you really aren't cut out for management.
Yet believe it or not, you have all the raw materials needed to be a managerial superstar.
Managing well requires working with, rather than fighting against, your natural style. The only way to be a successful manager is by capitalizing on your strengths. Design a management style that enlivens you, and consequently, those around you. Being authentic increases your effectiveness, energy level, and credibility.
Why can't you just memorize a book on "How to Manage People" and emerge a top-notch leader? Why is leadership such a daunting task?
For starters, people come equipped with this pesky item commonly referred to as a "personality." Personalities are infuriating. Particularly when yours differs from mine. Once we get to know each other, yours can be intolerable even when it is quite similar to mine. Just to keep things jumping, I can hardly stand my own half the time.
Much of the confusion and chaos lurking a millimeter beneath the surface of any well-functioning organization owes to the potentially cataclysmic clashes of personality.
As a leader, there are endless variables that factor into how to manage most effectively, and these factors differ with every single person on your team.
If that isn't an exhausting thought, I don't know what is.
How about this one: You cannot directly control other people, yet you are now mysteriously accountable for their output.
Understanding people's behavior at work will reduce your frustration and increase your efficiency. This frees up time and energy, while making you a more confident and successful leader.
The only way to achieve real success as a manager—and to garner the rewards and benefits of managing—is to lead from a place that is authentic to your core. There are no hard and fast rules.
Okay, so there is one rule. And I get to set it. How convenient for all of us. Ready?
Simple, yes, and yet...
There are a plethora of steps and skills involved in being yourself. The very first step on the path toward being you is knowing you. Understanding your unique personality enables you to harness the best you have to offer as a manager.
From too many years specializing in personality assessments, I am acutely aware that there are a plethora of traits that combine in complex ways to make you you.
One dimension, the Thinker–Feeler continuum, is a prime indicator of how to best navigate the stormy seas of management—in a way that is authentic to your core.
Thinker–Feeler is one of four aspects of personality highlighted in the Myers–Briggs Type Indicator and is linked to how we make decisions, communicate, and lead.
Let's start with the premise that, of course, everybody thinks and everybody feels. Plus, there are degrees of how strongly one identifies with either dimension. For example, some people are what I call "off the chart" thinkers or feelers while others are a nearly even mix of both preferences. Our focus here is what primary dimension we lead with when managing others.
Managing others requires doing what I call flexing your style. That means meeting others where they're at. Just to stave off boredom, each person you manage comes equipped with his or her own specific personality. Such fun! Go ahead and assume none of them are capable of meeting you where you're at—few people are that gifted. In fact, feel free to expand that assumption to your peers and supervisors as well. Although we'll save that Pandora's Box for another time.
While we're at it, drop any expectation that others will change their basic personality to suit your whims. They won't. They may learn new skills, expand their reach, deepen their commitment, and increase their productivity—all with your expert guidance. However, fundamental personality traits are more or less here for the long haul.
This is where flexing your style kicks in. Armed with a solid handle on who you are, you now get to be on high alert for the subtle yet constant bombardment of cues and clues your staff sends out about how they like to be treated, what motivates them, the type of language that resonates, and the way they process the world. Naturally, these will vary from person to person—so get busy!
Once you get a general handle on individuals' styles—from a conglomeration of their professional style, favorite (and least favorite) projects, work habits, behavior, conversations, and the rest—you can fine-tune how you motivate and communicate with each team member. Everyone remains equally accountable for the work product. Yet how you contribute to their professional development varies.
What works for one person may not for another. For example, a feeler will crave a lot of positive reinforcement while collaborating on a project. A thinker will want a clear schedule and guidelines. Feelers generally value an open-door style of management. Thinkers don't put much emphasis on that policy. If your routine as a Feeler manager is to "make the rounds" on your staff every morning, that could make the feelers feel cared for and the thinkers perceive you are "checking" on them. The same intention and behavior can have vastly different impact based on the recipient.
Our aim is twofold. First, to discover a version of management you don't hate because if fits who you are. Second, to learn how to adapt your style to customize how you manage and motivate your team for vastly improved results—productivity (if you're a thinker) and morale (if you're a feeler).
According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, the typical manager spends seven hours per week sorting out personality conflicts. The heightened, personalized attention you pay to your staff will more than pay off. You will be able to manage employees more efficiently and with greater success, all with less effort. You'll form stronger rapport while increasing your team's dedication and output. You'll feel better about yourself as a manager—and may even start to believe you're darn good at it after all.
For more from Devora, read "How To Manage Thinkers, And Feelers, Effectively."
[Image: Flickr user Christian Guthier]