One of the services I provide for my clients is something I call myth busting. I want to describe it to you, because all managers grapple with a need for it, and naming it can help. It’s also something you can start to do for yourself once you identify it and take it on — as an Alaka‘i Manager, myth busting should be in your arsenal of skills too. As an employee and partner in an ‘Ohana in Business, you may be the myth keeper your manager needs to talk with, and better understand — you can be the one to initiate this conversation, and help them, ending any frustration you may need to work through as well.
Add ‘myth busting’ to your value-verbing
My clients don’t call my service ‘myth busting’ either, not initially. They usually call me for another reason. The phrase ‘myth busting with ALOHA,’ another example of ‘ing’ value-verbing, came about as an internal reference point for me in identifying what I need to achieve for them first, in order to achieve what they say they want done, achieving it completely.
For instance: They’ll call me because they want a Mea Ho‘okipa class in customer service, or my ‘IMI OLA workshop for managers in goal-setting and conducting effective performance appraisals, and the myth busting comes with the territory in doing those things for them: It clears the way for the training they want me to deliver, so that training can actually take hold, and be effective.
As you already know, the value-verbing “with ALOHA” part of this, refers to the value alignment we seek in everything we learn to do. The value-verbing is your how-to, and “with ALOHA” is your why-to.
If you want to plant a strong and beautiful tree, start with a strong graft, not a mutant seed.
Myth busting is a kind of problem solving. It looks for root causes which stem from faulty assumptions. When your employees, team members, and other partners hold onto faulty assumptions which concern you, they have expectations which you can’t always fulfill.
Sometimes you don’t want to fulfill them: It’s far better to correct the assumption.
Best way to describe it is with a common example. I find this myth in nearly every workplace I visit where there is a disgruntled employee chomping at the bit, ready to tell me about how unqualified their manager is. The myth:
“How can my manager presume to manage me, when he/she can’t even do the tasks I’m expected to do?”
The myth, and it’s a long-standing one which sours nearly every industry I can think of, is the assumption that you can’t manage work you have not accomplished yourself. Completely untrue. Great managers can, and do supervise work they’ve not done themselves, and there are a multitude of examples how they do this every day, and do it well. Sadly, it’s a myth of self-sabotage too, for there are managers who also believe it: They initially held the myth as employees, and now they suffer from Imposters Syndrome because they never stopped believing it.
Those managers, and those employees, need to replace their faulty assumption with a healthier belief, and thus, a more realistic expectation.
I surprise that employee with my answer nearly every time, for I respond by saying,
“They don’t need to do the tasks you’re expected to do, and they shouldn’t. Those tasks are your job, and you need to be the one who does them. Isn’t that why you’re here?”
I continue to explain,
“I’m guessing that you were selected for the position you hold because someone believed you were, and are, the best person to do what you do. Your manager’s job is to make sure there are no obstacles standing in your way of doing your best possible work, and your most satisfying and rewarding work. If you face an obstacle that your manager isn’t helping you with, you need to explain it to your manager, and ask for their help. If you’re aware of the form of support you need, let them know exactly what it is, so you both aren’t working in yet another faulty assumption or expectation.”
“Unfortunately, empathy doesn’t work as well as we normally want it to, and hope it will, not even when you have a manager who used to do what you do now. Things change in all sorts of ways, and we often wanted them to change, and are glad they did! No one will ever be as close to your work as you are now, and if you want your manager to help you in some way, you have to ask, and ask well: Invite them in. Believe me, they’ll appreciate it! If you just wait for them to figure things out on their own, you’ll continue to feel frustrated.”
This is a conversation I seek to have with them one-on-one. When just the two of us, that employee will nearly always nod their heads in agreement, and just keep listening. They may challenge me with their examples, yet they do so because they actually want me to be right. They want to understand me completely, and get the affirmation that they ARE the person best suited for the work we’re talking about.
So wait — what about my manager?
In many too many workplaces, the fact of the matter is that employees opine on their manager’s performance because they aren’t quite sure what their manager actually does — the true role of the manager, and managerial performance is the biggest myth of all!
My best service to both the employee and that manager, is to get them talking to each other enough so that expectations are completely clear, and so the expectations they both hold are in LŌKAHI agreement. So that’s what I’ll do: I look for my opportunity to get them to follow-up with each other. Sometimes it’s as simple as ending that conversation by saying, “Promise me you’ll talk to your manager about this, okay? Do you need my help with getting the conversation started?”
When you start to do your myth-busting for yourself, my best advice to you is this: Learn to ask this question in your day-to-day workplace conversations with each other:
“Why do you think that’s so?”
Uncover the faulty assumptions and muddled up expectations in play as your root causes of any problem which exists.
Learn to listen in an open-minded way, for the moment you respond with a “yeah, but” or other “let me explain!” rebuttal, the conversation will falter. If it falters, you run the risk of never solving your problem because the other person retreats before you can completely identify it. Ask more questions that help you arrive at the clarity you need — questions that never get sarcastic or condescending, and will genuinely convey that you care about the other person, and want to understand so you can support them better.
In my workshops, the myth busting will usually come in the second or third hour after the training is presented, for the training is what everyone had walked into the door expecting: It remains the primary expectation I must fulfill, being there as their coach. I watch my audience carefully, for that arm-crossing and other body language that might mean, “I really don’t see this working for us, not here in our culture.” as the silent self-talk I’m up against. It may be verbally silent, but as a manager who teaches I’ve learned to read it loud and clear.
Myths come in a variety of workplace strains, and I’ll usually identify them by asking, “Will you have any challenges in adding this training to your skill set? If so, let’s talk about them. What are you expecting to face when you work on getting this done?”
Myths come tumbling out, mixed in with other challenges: Both are very real. To be clear here, I will not call them “myths” at that time, for the word has the not-real connotation to it: Myth is the way I categorize their challenge as a problem-solver wanting to help them get past it as the faulty assumption or muddled up expectation it is, and myth busting is my proactive verb of value-mapping action as their coach.
Lighten the load: What’s in your baggage?
Sometimes the myths will tumble out from the managers themselves, usually in the debrief coaching I hold for them. We all carry this baggage of old expectations with us, and we can proliferate our faulty assumptions until the day comes we talk about them more openly, being willing to change or replace them.
Each myth represents a problem to be solved, whether large or small, and I know you can handle them. Sometimes you’ll need to tackle systems and processes. Sometimes you’ll need to bridge interdepartmental concerns with other workplace teams which spill over into yours. Sometimes you’ll need to deep dive into the culture building work of value alignment, just as I normally do. More often than not however, you just have to talk story, and make more conversations happen.
When you are an Alaka‘i Manager, you are a problem solver — with ALOHA.
Key 4. THE ROLE OF THE MANAGER RECONSTRUCTED:
Managers must own workplace engagement and be comfortable with facilitating change, creative innovation, and development of the human asset. The “reconstruction” we require in Managing with Aloha is so this expectation of the Alaka‘i Manager is both reasonable and possible, and so they can channel human energies as our most important resource, they themselves having the time, energy, and support needed in doing so. Convention may work against us, where historically, people have become managers for reasons other than the right one: Managing is their calling. A new role for managers must be explicitly valued by the entire organization as critically important to their better success: Managers can then have ‘personal bandwidth’ for assuming a newly reinvented role, one which delivers better results both personally and professionally, and in their stewardship of the workplace culture.
Read more: The 9 Key Concepts of Managing with Aloha