They Never Taught Me This In...
Posted on August 01, 2010 by Tom Patterson, One of Thousands of Leadership Coaches on Noomii.
"People don't quit their jobs...they quit their managers."
Have you ever uttered that line? Maybe you finished it with “Sunday School,” or “college,” or “management 101.” The reality is that most of the things we get “educated” for don’t touch on the relational dynamics of the our various pursuits.
There’s an adage (I was going to say an “old adage,” but I have no idea how old it is) that goes: “People don’t quit their jobs…they quit their managers.” In other words, poor management, or poor leadership can spoil a person’s experience of a job they might otherwise enjoy and excel at.
We get well trained for the technical aspects of a job, for instance, without learning how to relate to the people we’ll be working with. We can find ourselves struggling to relate to our direct reports, our peers, or our superiors.
This is also a part of what’s behind the concept of “managing up” – the idea that you can help your boss do a better job of leading. Sometimes it’s spoken of in a condescending kind of way (“I have to ‘train’ my boss…”), but it can also refer to the understanding that you are helping him or her do a better job of what they were promoted to – even if their promotion was less about “people skills,” and more about demonstrated technical or entrepreneurial skills.
Parents also find themselves in this scenario. When their beautiful child comes home from the hospital, they discover in short order that they were pretty ill-equipped to deal with this new, distinct, demanding personality in the home. While good parenting miraculously happens, it’s also true that the “technical ability” to reproduce does not automatically mean we know what we’re doing beyond that! And all parents have stories they could tell, right? The difference with parenting is that we don’t necessarily want our three-year old to “manage up.” Although…come to think of it…maybe we’re encouraging them to do just that when we say to them, “Use your words…” (“Help me do a better job of helping you.”)
There comes a time, though, whether we’re talking about someone in the workplace or a maturing child at home, when we cannot wait for the people around us to think or behave the way we wish they would. We have to take responsibility for ourselves, and for what we will think and do.
Frankly, I find it so much easier to blame! Blaming is definitely the path of least resistance, and a most attractive option, you know?
A person who can “manage up” – in the positive sense of that phrase – is a person who is clear enough about who they are and what they need to do their best, that they can communicate it clearly, non-anxiously, and non-threateningly. Likewise, a leader who knows – and is comfortable with – who they are and what they bring to the mix can acknowledge that and seek out the contributions of others.
Good leadership, and good “up-management,” requires good self-awareness, and good self-management. These are the areas I love to coach leaders in (at home, or in business). I’d enjoy hearing from you, if you find yourself in that place.