I received a phone call yesterday, from a business owner wanting my hiring recommendation; he knew his applicant had once worked for me. When I asked, “What are you looking for?” his response was long and detailed: “Well, besides the technical and tactical applications of our industry, she’ll need to handle the supervision and development of those who were once her peers, she’ll need to project and fulfill her own budget and do strategic planning, generating some fresh ideas in her department and correcting their existing challenges, she’ll…”
It began to sound like an entire business plan instead of a single managerial position, and I had to stop him. I could feel the heat rising within me, and couldn’t resist blurting out, “All that from a single person who will be new to departmental management? You are being completely unreasonable, likely to set her up for failure, no matter how great a candidate she is right now — and yes, I do feel she’s an exceptional candidate for you.”
Unfortunately, the lofty expectations this owner has of his managers seem to be fairly commonplace these days, a holdover attitude from recessionary downsizing and the slow recovery we’re in. Managers are getting stripped of their opportunities to excel, because their job descriptions and/or unwritten-but-very-real expectations are so unrealistic and unreasonable.
A manager who constantly juggles balls in the air, will never create a better ball. Her juggling performance will simply drone on — until the inevitable moment she simply stops of pure exhaustion, dropping each and every ball.
The coach in me couldn’t be stopped, and I took our conversation on a different track: “Let’s look at this in another way. She’s a wonderful person with the potential to be a fantastic manager for you. Are the job expectations reasonable enough, giving her the resources, space, time, and opportunities to succeed? What kind of support will she have, and will you be a good boss for her?”
If you’re a boss, please, reconsider the expectations you have of your managers. They cannot do everything, no manager can, and you must be reasonable. Ask yourself what it is you want them to do exceptionally well, setting them up for optimal success in getting that primary expectation accomplished in a stellar way. They can handle more than that one thing, but you must give them a momentum-builder, especially if you want an innovator, and not a juggler.
Be more empathetic: If you were in their shoes, would you want the job? Would you love the job, and relish it for the possibilities it represents?
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