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Top 10 Signs You’re Lying to Yourself as a Manager

Top 10 Signs You’re Lying to Yourself as a Manager

All of us are at times tempted to lie — tempted by the lure of both deception and self-deception. But when you as a manager fall to that temptation, it’s especially evil.

Here’s how to spot your self-deception and overcome it — and why you need to.

Why We Lie

We lie to manipulate how others will respond to our actions and behavior.

If we think their response to the truth will be unpleasant, so we’re tempted to provoke a nicer response by providing that person with outright falsities, selective facts, or selective omissions.

Why We Lie to Ourselves

Lying to oneself is a special category of lie. We primarily lie to ourselves for these reasons. Self-deception makes it easier to:

  • Lie to others
  • Ignore unpleasant facts
  • Postpone scary decisions and actions

Since all humans face the temptation to lie to others, and to lie to ourselves, who cares if you lie to yourself as a manager?

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Lying to yourself as a manager is especially evil, for two reasons:

  1. Managers, due to their role, have a unique combination of high power and low accountability.
  2. Managers are the ones who must confront unpleasant facts, make scary decisions and take action.

High Power and Low Accountability

Managers are unique among all professions, says Henry Mintzberg in his classic Structure in Fives: Designing Effective Organizations, because managers have the broadest and least clearly defined jobs, compared to all other professionals. Managers both define work for those below them, and judge its quality.

This is a potent combination that gives a manager potentially huge power over their own work, the success of the company, and the work experiences of their subordinates.

Power Creates Self-Focus

Experiments show that the more powerful we feel, the less we regard other people’s opinions and feelings. We also (based on the Fundamental Attribution Bias) judge others on their results, but ourselves on our intentions.

Moreover, the powerful are often disconnected from reality.

If we lie to ourselves and then judge ourselves on our supposed intentions, we can give ourselves as managers permission to do things we’d never tolerate in others — anything from dominating meetings, to humiliating subordinates, to theft.

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Common Signs of Managers Conducting Harmful Forms of Self-Deception

1. It’s Not That Bad

You’re putting off an uncomfortable change that is necessary. You’re saying things like “it’s not that bad” and “I think it’s getting better…”

2. Judging Yourself on the basis of Motives, Others on Outcomes

This is also called Fundamental Attribution Error, a classic cognitive bias. It is toxic when you as manager pass judgment on your subordinates without bothering to learn the details of a situation; this is worsened when it comes time to interrogate your own decision-making process, and you are unwilling to accept responsibility for failures.

3. Blaming the Worker for the Results of the System

W. Edwards Deming famously said 95% of the variability of a worker’s output was caused by the worker’s system and were totally beyond the worker’s control. When you as a manager blame workers for variation you haven’t investigated, and tell them to “try harder” or “pay more attention”, and so forth, you’re falling into this error. It destroys morale without fixing the problem. Solution: systems thinking.

4. Assuming Low Performance Means Low Motivation

When a worker isn’t performing, never immediately assume it’s connected to a lack of motivation. (For example, Iiagine someone put a gun to your head and told you to jump to the moon. You’re motivated; you just have no way to comply.) This assumption is toxic and distracting: you’re blaming the blameless while NOT focusing on things that could help, such as: training, templates, job aids, a shared definition of “good work,” samples of good work, and a comprehensive understanding of the system of production.

5. All Your Subordinates Are Idiots

This unhelpful managerial attitude is characterized by thoughts like “I can’t delegate” and actions like ignoring all employee ideas. When you treat people like idiots, you rob them of the ability to be anything else. This is on you.

6. You Have All the Answers

Insecurity and power can lead you to get your emotional needs met through being (or feeling) like you have all the answers. If you’ve created or inherited an environment of low emotional safety, workers may be hunkered down into a “tell me what to do” mode that makes you feel like you have to have all the answers. Don’t fall for it. Get out of this by using a structured system like that set forth in the excellent book Turn the Ship Around! by L. David Marquet. (I’ve interviewed David twice: listen here and here.)

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7. High Turnover Isn’t My Fault

It’s almost entirely your fault. Gallup found that 68% of voluntary turnover is caused by that person’s direct manager (also known as: you). Look at indirect influences and it rises above 80%.

8. They Won’t Get It Right Unless I Review It

Also known as “They Don’t Care About Quality As Much As I Do” approach. Re-doing someone’s work can rob them of pride in their workmanship. Is the quality standard clear, documented, and buttressed with samples and a step-by-step process for reaching it? That’s another example of the system determining outcomes. Of course you can and should review work — enough to ensure it meets a quality standard that your people are trained and equipped to reach without your redoing it.

Also, the negative expectation that “they won’t get it right” will corrode their self-esteem.

9. My Style Got Me This Far

Your strengths inevitably become your weaknesses, as amply documented in the excellent What Got You Here Won’t Get You There by legendary executive coach Marshall Goldsmith. (This book is itself a compendium of managerial self-delusion, and worthy of a close reading.)

10. I’m Not Them (Management)

Also known as the “My Direct Reports and I Are Friends” approach. No, you’re management. To paraphrase the gurus at www.manager-tools.com (my favorite site for management advice), when you’re management, you are “the company” to your directs. Don’t ever tell your team how you disagree with “those people” above you. You’re them. If you try to build solidarity with your people by throwing your boss or senior management under the bus, all you do is make the team afraid. Your role power as a manager makes you ‘The Man’.

How to Fight Self-Deception

Given these risks to your success as a manager, what can you do? There are actually a number of things, and they include:

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  1. Developing Self-Awareness
  2. Focusing Less on Goals, More on Prevention
  3. Becoming a Servant Leader
  4. Becoming a Systems Thinker

Develop Self-Awareness

The number one cause of a failed management career is a lack of self-awareness. Develop greater self-awareness through developing mindfulness and by regularly conducting anonymous 360-degree assessments. You could also hire a professional executive coach.

Focus Less on Goals, More on Prevention

Research by Professor Andy Yap shows that if you feel powerful, and are focused on prevention (of harm and loss) instead of ambition, you’re more likely to do the right thing. (On the other hand, the combination of feeling powerful and focusing on personal goals leads to rule-breaking, cheating, and corruption.)

Become a Servant Leader

Excellent guidance abounds for those who are willing to embrace the values of the Servant Leader. Such leaders bring out exceptional performances from their teams, which leads to personal advancement and promotions — not to mention the other benefits of building up others (instead of tearing them down).

Become a Systems Thinker

The ultimate in self-awareness and contextual awareness comes when you realize that you are embedded in a system, and that you are responsible for the system that your subordinates are embedded within. When you become a systems thinker, take ownership of that system, and begin to act on it intentionally, you’ll deliver outstanding results to your boss, and create a motivating and enjoyable work environment for your subordinates.

Featured photo credit: Bury your head in the sand by Sander van der Wel via commons.wikimedia.org

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Published on March 20, 2019

How to Write a Powerful Mission Statement for Your Business

How to Write a Powerful Mission Statement for Your Business

Have you ever felt lost in the minutia of your job?

As a business owner, I can relate to getting bogged down in the day to day operations of my business. Things like inventory, payroll, scheduling, purchasing and employee management take up the bulk of my day.

While these things are important and need to get done, focusing too much on the details can make you lose sight of the big picture. This is why having a good mission statement comes in handy.

What is a Mission Statement?

Put simply, a mission statement is an internal document that provides a clear purpose for the organization. It provides a common reference point for everyone in the organization to start from.

In other words, after reading your company’s mission statement, managers and employees should be able to answer the question “What are company’s main objectives?” For example, Southwest Airlines mission statement reads:[1]

“Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.”

In this single statement, Southwest conveys the company’s goals of providing the highest level of customer service as well as providing a good working environment for their employees.

Mission Statement VS. Vision Statement

While the mission and vision statements are related, there are subtle but distinct differences the you should be aware of.

First of all, a mission statement is designed primarily as an internal company document. It provides clarity and direction for managers and employees.

While there’s nothing wrong with sharing your company’s mission statement with the outside world, its intended audience is within the company.

While a mission statement provides a general framework for the organization, the vision statement is usually a more inspirational statement designed to motivate employees and inspire customers. Going back to Southwest Airlines, their vision statement reads:[2]

“To become the world’s most loved, most flown, and most profitable airline.”

This statement inspires good feeling from the customer while motivating the employees to achieve that vision.

What Does a Good Mission Statement Look Like?

When coming up with a mission statement, it’s important to take your time and do it right. Too often, people (especially entrepreneurs) just write down the first thing that comes to mind and they end up with worthless or (worse yet) a generic mission statement that is utterly useless.

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Remember, a mission statement should provide a common framework for everyone in your organization.

When writing a mission statement, you should always try to incorporate the following;

  • What we do?
  • How we do it?
  • Whom do we do it for?
  • What value are we bringing?

Now, you can see how tempting it is to just come up with something generic that ticks off those four boxes. Something like “We provide the best widgets available online for the consumer.”

After all, that did check off all the boxes:

What we do? Provide widgets.

How we do it? Online.

Who do we do it for? The consumer.

What value we bring? The best widgets.

The problem with this mission statement is that it could apply to any number of companies producing the same widget. There is nothing to distinguish your company or its widgets from any of your competitors widgets.

Compare that mission statement to this one:

“We provide the highest quality widgets directly to the consumer at an affordable price backed up with a 100% satisfaction guarantee. If our clients aren’t 100% satisfied, we’ll make it right.”

What’s the difference?

Both mission statements answer all the same questions of what, how, whom and value. But in the second statement, they are differentiating their company from all other competitors by answering the question “what makes us unique”.

Another way to read that is, “Why you should buy from us.” In this example, it’s because our widgets are of the highest quality and we stand behind them 100%.

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You might have noticed the statement didn’t say that we sell widgets at the lowest possible price. That’s because we are emphasizing quality and satisfaction over price.

A different company’s mission statement may emphasize selling widgets at the lowest possible price with little to no mention of a guarantee.

Hallmarks of a Good Mission Statement

1. Keep It Brief

Your mission statement should be no longer than three sentences. This is not your company’s magnum opus.

You should be able to distill the what, how, who and why questions into a succinct message.

2. Have a Purpose

A company’s missions statement should include the reason it even exists.

Make clear exactly what the company does with statements like “We strive to provide our customers with …….”

3. Include a “How”

Take this as an opportunity to differentiate your company from its competitors.

How do you provide a product or service that’s different or better than how your competitor provides it?

4. Talk About the Value You Bring to the Table

This is where you can really set yourself apart from the competition. This is the “why” customers should buy from you.

Do you offer the lowest prices? Fastest delivery? Exceptional customer service? Whatever it is that sets you apart and gives your particular products, services or company an advantage talk about it in the mission statement.

5. Make Sure It’s Plausible

It’s okay to shoot for the stars just to settle for the moon, but not in a mission statement.

Being overly ambitious will only set you and your employees up for failure, hurt morale and make you lose credibility. You will also scare away potential investors if they think that you are not being realistic in your mission statement.

6. Make It Unique and Distinctive

Imagine if someone who knew nothing about your business walked in and saw how it was operating, then they read your mission statement. Would they be able to recognize that mission statement was attached to that business? If not re-work it.

7. Think Long Term

A mission statement should be narrow enough so that it provides a common framework for the existing business, but open enough to allow for longer term goals. It should be able to grow as the business grows.

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8. Get Feedback

This is very important, especially from managers and employees.

Getting their input can clarify how they currently see the company and their role within the organization. It’s also a good way to get people “on-board,” as studies show that people are more likely to go along with an idea if they feel included in the decision making process beforehand.

9. Review Often and Revise as Necessary

You should review the missions statement often for two reasons.

First, as a reminder of what the essence of the company is. It’s easy to forget when you are in the day to day grind of the business.

And two, to make sure that the mission statement is still relevant. Things change, and not everything can be anticipated at the time a mission statement was written.

For example, if a mission statement was written before the advent of the internet, a company that use to sell things door to door now probably has a website that people order from. You should always update the mission statement to reflect these changes.

The Value of Mission Statements: Why Go Through All of These in the First Place?

It may seem like a lot of work just for a few sentences that describe a company, but the value of a well written mission statement should not be discounted.

First of all, if you are an entrepreneur, crystallizing the what, how, whom and value questions will keep you focused on the core business and its values.

If you are a manager or other employee, knowing the company’s basic tenants will help inform your interactions with both customers and colleagues alike.

Strategic Planning

A relevant mission statement acts as a framework for strategic planning. It provides guidance and parameters for making strategic decisions for the future of the company.

Measuring Performance

By having the company’s mission in a concrete form, it also allows for an objective measurement of how well the organization is meeting its stated goals at any one time.

Management can identify strengths and weaknesses in the organization based on the criteria set forth in the mission statement and make decisions accordingly.

Solidifying the Company’s Goals and Values for Employees

Part of a well run organization is nurturing happy and productive employees.

As humans, we all have an innate need for both purpose and to be part of something larger than ourselves. Providing employees with a clearly defined mission statement helps to define their role in the larger organization. Thus, fulfilling both of these needs.

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Now I’m not saying that a mission statement can overcome low pay and poor working conditions, but with everything else being equal, it can contribute to a happier and more productive workforce.

To Hold Management Accountable

By creating a mission statement, a company is publicly stating its highest values and goals for the world to see. By doing so, you are inviting both the public and your employees to to scrutinize how well the company lives up to its ideals.

So if you state that you only provide the highest quality products, and then offer something less, it’s fair for both the public and the employees to question, and even call for a change in management.

If management doesn’t take the mission statement seriously, no one else will either; and the legitimate authority that management rely’s on will be diminished.

To Serve as an Example

This is the opposite side of the coin from the previous statement. If the highest levels of management are seen taking the mission statement seriously and actively managing within the framework of the statement, that attitude filters down throughout the organization.

After all, a good employee knows what’s important to their boss and will take the steps necessary to curry favor with them.

Finally, use the company’s mission statement as a way to define roles within the company. You can do this by giving each division in the company a copy of the mission statement and challenge the head of each division to create a mission statement for their respective departments.

Their individual mission statements should focus on how each department fits in and ultimately contributes to the success of the company’s overall mission statement. This serves as both a clarifying and a team building exercise for all parts of the organization.

Final Thoughts

Developing a mission statement is too often just an after-thought, especially for entrepreneurs. We tend to prioritize things that we perceive will give us the biggest “bang for our buck.”

Somehow, taking the time and effort to sit down and think seriously about the what, whom, how and value of our business seems like a waste of time. After all, we got in the business to make money and become successful, isn’t that all we need to know?

That mindset will probably get you started okay, but if you find yourself having any success at all, you’ll find that there really is such a thing as growing pains.

By putting in the time and effort to create a mission statement, you are laying the groundwork that will give you a path to follow in your growth. And isn’t building long term success what we are really after?

More Resources About Achieving Business Success

Featured photo credit: Fab Lentz via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Southwest Airlines: About Page
[2] Fit Small Business: 10 Vision Statement Examples To Spark Your Imagination

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