Managers are usually unaware of how fear is driving their behaviour and preventing them from building productive teams and businesses.
Perhaps you can recognise some of these symptoms:
A need to be in control of every decision and activity,
An uneasy feeling of uncertainty around potential threats and risks,
A belief that another’s success can only be at your expense,
A greater focus on the competition than on your own strategy and vision,
Avoidance of delegating tasks because they ‘won’t be done right’,
Employees are either ‘good’ or ‘bad’,
A belief that success is precious and scarce,
Seeing differences in opinion as something to be avoided,
Avoiding change, even if the change is right and will work, avoiding being the first to do it, or
Avoiding talking about things that aren’t working.
It’s important to understand that all of these symptoms demonstrate fear. Some are more obvious than others. You have probably seen all of them at some time in your career. Perhaps you can see some of them in your current boss, your managers, or even yourself. There is a good chance you work with some of these most days and they possibly even cause you stress and make you uneasy.
So, what are we scared of?
At the heart of these fears is a desire to control. They’re driven by an often unspoken need to control how, when and what gets done, and by whom. Actually, often after being confronted about these symptoms, many managers become defensive and even more determined to control, by creating hierarchy and ways of isolating those that threaten their perceived control. Work places become increasingly political. This creates more unhappiness, higher levels of stress, lowers the fulfilment gained from work, and usually pushes out the most productive people. Unfortunately, it’s the best people that leave first.
So why does this happen?
It is a common perception that strong leadership is about ‘taking control’. Unfortunately we humans are not very good at judging control because we too often link it with our perception of ourselves. So the fear is that others will judge us as poor managers if we are not seen to be in control of every situation. The fear is that we will be judged to be bad at our job.
My own management journey reflects this difficulty and at various times I have felt every one of those fear symptoms. They made my life difficult. I’ve come to appreciate that to build productive teams and create value we need to re-focus that desire to control. It is better to concentrate on the opportunities before us, and the strengths we bring to realising them.
At The H Factor we call it the clarity of business purpose. We’ve observed that the best leaders drive why things are done, and trust that the what, how or by whom will be resolved best by their team. Let’s explore how this works.
When we are driven by a greater purpose behind our work we can start to focus on the opportunities available to achieve it, and how we can use our various strengths to leverage those opportunities. What’s more, it is easy to involve others because, when focusing on a purpose rather than a set of tasks, we can describe a desired outcome and thus allow others the freedom to bring their own skills, experience, and points of view. This is what we mean when we talk about creating work environments where people are part of something bigger than themselves.
When everyone is permitted to bring their own personalities to work and their skills are applied to achieving a purpose, then the application of those skills for particular tasks is based only on the desired outcome. You will hear people say “I will do that because I enjoy it and I’m good at it”. Others will nod in agreement and volunteer to help. Even unpopular tasks will get done because everyone can acknowledge the importance of them in achieving the greater purpose.
Can you see how this approach will make you a great manager? You will have a highly productive team of committed and fulfilled workers. They’ll “walk over hot coals” for you. Your working relationships will be trusting and engaging. The best bit is that those that don’t like the new model will leave – and they will be the worst performers.
If you doubt the effectiveness of this model then watch how your favourite sports team works. In the heat of the game there is no intervention to say how the play should be managed, it is assumed that every player knows their strengths, the objective of the play and the desired outcome. This is how great teams win.
One of the most satisfying areas of our work is when we clarify client’s business objectives and see their people connect with them. This is not a mission statement to be framed, hung on the wall, and then be left to gather dust. It is the human story behind the business and the values of the people driving it. It is the story that creates the way for managers to lead and others to willingly follow. We see the change in productivity and the fulfilment everyone gains from work. And that is the core of The H Factor.