Simple Resolutions: Getting Better at Leadership this Year
“TBOG…My new year’s resolution is to be a more patient manager. But when I told my team members, they reminded me that I had made the same resolution last year. It punctured my resolve and guilt set in. I feel like a failure, even though somewhere in my heart I know I’ve become a better manager over the past year.”
While Reina struggles with self-regulation, she is actually an awesome manager. Her perfectionist tendencies make it difficult for her to keep calm when things are not done decently and in order so she has tried to improve her threshold for patience without lashing out. My initial response to Reina was that not many managers could boast of a structure as psychologically safe as hers. The level of communication Reina shares with the team she manages is quite interesting and it is the basis of my contemplations. How many managers are able to stay accountable to those they are designed to lead? And how many are able to withstand honest feedback that does not involve massaging one’s ego?
Quite a number of people stopped making New Year’s Resolutions a long time ago because they realized that they end up making the same resolutions year in and year out without the desired changes! But the fact that this happens does not in any way mean that you’re a failure. If anything, it shows how human you are. How willing you are to be better than you were. It means that you’re moving in the right direction and you’re willing to keep “becoming” until you “are”. But it also means that you’re not perfect. Yep! You’re not perfect. Fortunately, no one is.
Unfortunately, I’m sorry to be the one to tell you that you will not be perfect either this year. The good news, however, is you don’t have to be! Your team members do not need perfection from you their manager. What they need is a manager who is empathetic to their imperfections and is kind to them all the same. Your team members need you to model kindness and respect, and you both [i.e. you and your team members] should not be afraid to apologize and reconnect when things go wrong, as they will inevitably do.
This is no mean feat. You’ll have to master the art of regulating your own emotions especially if you’re a perfectionist. It is why it’s tough to work to resolve to stay “patient”. By the time you’re cautioning yourself to be patient, you’re most likely already in a “fight or flight” stance. But if you do want to become a more patient manager [or leader] and a joyful individual irrespective of what comes your way, it is possible. To create an organizational culture that is less drama-filled and full of love, here are four simple resolutions you can do right now. These tips are lifelong tools so you won’t be perfect in a year and that’s OK. You’re likely to make the same resolutions next year and that’s OK too. Here’s one thing I can guarantee though, you’ll be a more tranquil manager with cheerful and cooperative team members.
1. Become more in touch with your emotions by resolving to regulate them.
With the hustle and bustle of life and the everyday pendulum swing of work and life balance, it is so easy to get caught up in the ‘automation’ of behaviour that we forget to pause just to check how we’re doing — spirit, soul and body. The only way to become better and more patient this year is to be in touch with your emotions. Using the S.T.O.P. Principle as a strategy, you can become more self-aware. The STOP principle is an invaluable tool not only for managers but also for parents. So, if you have children trying your patience at home, this tool works perfectly for you as well.
If you want to be an emotionally generous manager then you have to constantly stay in touch with your emotions. The more stressors you’re able to eliminate, the more in tune with your emotions you can be. You can begin by making self-nurturing a daily habit: have a steady sleep routine so that you’re well rested in the morning, eat healthy so that you have adequate energy to run your day, replace negative inner thoughts and critics with positive affirmations, be kind to yourself even when you make mistakes, and don’t overwork yourself, it’s OK to take breaks. When you reduce the risk of being grumpy by eliminating or reducing stress inducers to the barest minimum, you’ll stand a better chance at regulating your emotions.
Every time you successfully restrain yourself from throwing a “tantrum” in response to an upsetting situation, you rewire your brain. And it positions you to do better in future situations. I can assure you that it may be the hardest thing you’ll ever do but you’ll be surprised at how possible it is and how rewarding it is. When you give in to the “fight or flight” nature that comes with impatience, you will see your team members as the enemy whereas they’re not. As long as you can refrain from taking any form of action when angry, you’re doing a great job at regulating your emotions. Here’s one hint I’ll leave with you — regulating your emotions is the best way to get your team members to “change” their behaviour.
“regulating your emotions is the best way to get your team members to “change” their behaviour.”
2. Commit to staying emotionally connected.
Your ability to connect before you correct will stand you out as a manager. This is primarily because people are more inclined to allow themselves to get led by you when they feel a connection to you. Of course, staying connected at all times is quite impossible. There will be moments of disconnect but when those separations happen, you’ll have to repeatedly reconnect. The reason this is key is that employee loyalty is born from a place of deep emotional connection to the organization and most employees interpret this connection through the lens of their relationship with their managers. So, when you correct your team members over an issue in a psychologically safe atmosphere, it becomes difficult for them to view that correction as an attack on their person. They will see it for what it truly is — an expectation and invitation to be better and do better. Of course, in this kind of work atmosphere, your chances of lashing out become even more reduced and corrections are done with empathy. Leadership is not difficult when you do this. Even if your team members disagree with your instructions, it becomes easy to disagree in an emotionally safe atmosphere.
“connecting before correcting will make it difficult for your team members to view your correction as an attack on their person. They will rather see it for what it truly is — an expectation and invitation to be better and do better.”
3. Respect must be modelled at all times.
As managers, we kind of feel that “we know what’s best” for our team. And we’re not wrong about that because we do know what’s best for them, after all, that’s why we are managers in the first place. It’s just that we’re also not right about ‘knowing what’s best for them’ in its totality because they are the ones handling the nitty-gritty of the assignment. Therefore, they also know what’s best for them. This is usually where power struggles come in and a manager might lash out when a team member is not executing tasks in the particular manner one is used to. In response, a team member can decide to be docile while waiting on instructions before executing tasks but this defeats the purpose of having a team in the first place as innovation, ingenuity and brilliant ideas will be lost.
You should realize that leadership is a partnership and until you realize at all times that the privilege of managing a team is only possible because your team members are willing to be managed by you, you might have constant ‘fights’. The best organizations and the most efficiently oiled teams are those who understand this partnership. How do you deal with partnerships? Respect! Managers must learn to respect team members no matter how low the ranks they are. We must show them consideration and treat them as we will like to be treated. We must remember that we are their models and they are likely to emulate our behaviour when interacting with other team members lower in rank than they are. So, when you speak condescendingly to those you manage, they’ll treat others [clients inclusive] in the same condescending manner especially if they cannot get back at you. Of course, this will stifle productivity and hinder growth. Toxic organizations are cultivated in this manner. To develop an organizational culture of respect, kindness and generosity, you must model it.
“Managers must learn to respect team members no matter how low the ranks they are.”
4. Investigate your team member’s behaviour to find out what needs and feelings are driving it.
Some time ago, I trained some parents on the topic — defiance is just a cry for help — and it was humbling to see how understanding and remorse dawned on their faces. I think that the same principle applies in the workplace. Sometimes, some team members are not performing below acceptable standards because they choose to. Sometimes, there is another problem [often emanating from work-life imbalance] that’s affecting productivity at work. I have seen this play out many times in my dealings with clients and I have come to a conclusion [that’s also data driven] that a breakdown in one aspect of life can directly affect productivity at work. Underperformance can sometimes be a cry for help and misbehaviours, a red flag that screams, “I need help to process my emotions”. This is one place where your ability to connect with your team members deeply will help you know when to redirect preemptively rather than punish and to set limits empathically.
I should give you fair warning though. You’ll make mistakes. Your team members will too. But that’s OK. There are no perfect managers anywhere in the world. There are no perfect team members too neither are there perfect organizations. Perfection is a journey we all must walk. It is not a destination. Despite the mistakes you’re guaranteed to make when you create a psychologically safe work environment, everyone will thrive. Love means when you make mistakes, you own up to them and make amends. The only way to improve your resolution for the year is to make daily choices that take you in the direction you wish. Build a club for managers if you have to so that you can all hold yourselves accountable. 2023 can be for you a year of constant correction, forgiving yourself when you slip up and getting back on track when life throws you off. So, don’t feel troubled if you’re making the same resolutions year in and year out. It only means that you’re deliberate about growth and you’re choosing over and over to take positive steps in the right direction. You’ll be surprised at how much growth you’ll accomplish and how far you’ll go. Your resolutions can make you manage with less drama and more love. Don’t give up!
Personal Note From TBOG:
If these resolutions sound too humongous, that just means you need more support. It’s a new tax year and you can very well make it a new year for you. For me, April is the beginning of my new year maybe because it coincides with my birth month. So, if you haven’t made your resolutions yet, it’s not too late to begin. Have you thought of subscribing to my newsletter which gives you a wealth of resources to transform your work-life? Giving yourself support is not selfish. It’s the best gift you could give yourself and your family. I also have a self-paced parenting Online Course that can transform your family. Using this link, you will have a 30-day free access to the course. I encourage you to take advantage of this. Thank you for all the hard work you do, every day, in your places of work and at home. I’m honoured to accompany you on your workplace and parenting journey, and I look forward to supporting you in making this new quarter the best yet for you and your family.