Well, not intentionally.
One of the skills that is hardest to develop until you are in the actual manager’s chair is how to read what is really going on – not what is being told to you. We can pretend that it does not happen and that all employees are so confident in themselves that they speak their mind but it does not often happen that way.
It is a fast learning curve. Prior to becoming a manager, you are part of the social group – you hear what others say when there are no managers around and you see people react from a different perspective. Developing the skill to know what is going on is an ongoing process in which you need to be able to look for the symptoms of slow decay in the communication of your team.
Develop your radar
First, you need to develop your management radar to identify when things are not in alignment with your team. Here are some subtle things to look for:
1. When the words don’t match the vibe of the room
2. When you don’t see the usual social patterns happening within your group
3. When people tend to be in more of a bad mood more than a joyous mood (or at least different than normal)
Sometimes things are not so subtle. If things are getting really bad:
1. When you ask for feedback and no one has anything constructive to provide
2. When you get feedback from your own manager and ask your team about it – and they claim it did not come from them
3. When things are not getting done and all the reasons are someone else’s fault
Find the Balance between performance and learning
Half of the challenge is balancing along the line between having a relaxed environment and getting things done. On one extreme, some managers are quite open to hearing reasons why things can’t be accomplished and effectively create an environment where as long as you have an excuse it is OK to not follow through. Other managers draw the line too far in the other direction where even events outside of anyone’s control are unacceptable reasons for missing any deadline – regardless of size of issue.
A path to the middle is not always easy but it very often starts with you being authentic. You need to create a comfortable environment where people can improve and still get things done. This means that your team needs to be able to make mistakes but you have created the environment where they will be able to learn from them. At the same time, the greatest skill in order to accomplish this is to know when to push harder and when to pull back.
We all grow only when pushing outside of our comfort zone. Setting the tone among the team that we need to be getting better all the time is often a challenge over creating a comfortable environment for performance but that is where the true value of a great manager lies. Each manager needs to find their own way to creating that environment and often you will not find it on your first try – but never stopping until you improve that environment is what makes you a better manager.