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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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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

How to Be Happy at Work and Find Fulfillment in Your Career

How to Be Happy at Work and Find Fulfillment in Your Career

If you’re going to spend 1/3 of our life at work, you should enjoy it, right?

Trust me, I know that’s easier said than done. Difficult coworkers, less-than-desirable tasks, or even just being in the wrong position can all lead to a lack of enjoyment and fulfillment in your work.

But what if I told you it doesn’t have to be this way? Or better yet, if you struggle with all of the above (and then some), what if I told you that enjoying your work and finding fulfillment regardless of those obstacles is possible?

Don’t believe me? I don’t blame you because I was there too. Before implementing the tips below, I struggled to get through each day, much less find real fulfillment, in the office. Now, even after the toughest days on the job, I still come away with feelings of pride, accomplishment, and fulfillment. The best news is, so can you.

If you’re ready to make those hours count and find happiness and fulfillment in the office, then read on to find out how to be happy at work and find fulfillment in your career:

1. Discover the root(s) of the problem

For this first step, we’ll need to think back to 8th-grade physics (humor me). We all know Newton’s 3rd law, “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” When you think about it, the same can be said outside of physics, and we see this law play out in our daily lives, day after day.

Simply put, all the issues we deal with in the office (and life in general) affect us in a noticeable way.

If you’re appreciated at work, like the work you do and receive frequent praise, promotions, or raises, then this will probably have an altogether positive effect on your life in the office.

But what if we reverse this? What if you feel under appreciated, get passed up for promotions, or get denied raises? This is sure to affect the way you feel at work on a negative level.

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So, before you can implement the steps of feeling happy and fulfilled at work, we first have to discover the reasons why you don’t feel that way already.

Think about it, write a list, or make a mental note. Run through all the reasons you’re dissatisfied in the office, and don’t hold back. Knowing the exact obstacles you’re facing will make overcoming them that much easier.

In fact, as a side-challenge to this article, I recommend picking the top three reasons contributing to your dissatisfaction at work and using the following tips to tackle them.

2. Practice gratitude for an instant uplift

Did you know the simple act of feeling grateful can increase your happiness and make you more fulfilled at work?[1]

Well, it’s true, and it’s scientifically proven.

Dr. Lisa Firestone notes that practicing gratitude “reminds us of what we lacked in the past.” Meaning, it serves as both a boost to happiness and a bit of a wake-up call that things have been or could be, much worse.

Trying to conjure up feelings of gratitude can seem almost impossible when your work situation seems bleak, but hear me out: There are incredibly easy ways to get started and it doesn’t involve trying to “force” yourself to feel grateful about things that stress you out.

For an instant pick-me-up, try this:

Find a loose piece of paper, a blank sticky note, or anything you can write on, be it physical or digital. List just three things that you are absolutely without-a-doubt thankful for in your life.

Now here’s the trick: Don’t just list what you’re grateful for, you have to list why you’re grateful for them, too.

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For example, simply saying “I’m grateful for my kids” will probably make you feel good, sure, but what if we could amplify the warm, fuzzy feeling into real, lasting motivation?

Instead, write the reason you’re so thankful for your children. Is it because they make you laugh and forget about other stressors? Or maybe they help to remind you of why you go to work every day in the first place?

Whatever your reasons may be, jot them down and keep your list somewhere you can see it while you work. A quick glance at your gratitude list throughout the day can provide powerful, positive motivation to keep going.

Bonus:

If you can find just three things to be thankful for that specifically relate to your job, and list why those things make you grateful, your list can also help you find fulfillment in your work itself which can give you an even bigger boost of positivity throughout the day.

3. Take meaningful time for yourself

We all know creating a strong work-life balance can be crucial to feeling satisfied in our jobs, but rarely do we ever address how we’re spending our time outside of work.

Many of us survive a 9-hour work day and commute home only to find ourselves busy with our personal to-do lists, running a household, and taking care of a child (or 2 or 3, and so on).

If you spend all your time working, whether in the office or within your household, you’re going to feel drained at some point. This is why setting meaningful time for yourself every day is highly important.

Look, I get it: I don’t know anyone in the working world who can shun all responsibility for a 3-movie marathon or happy hour with friends whenever they feel like it. But finding time for yourself, be it just 30 minutes to an hour, can really make a difference in how you feel at work.

This works because you’ll have time to actually relax and let the day’s stress melt away while you enjoy something just for you. The to-do lists and stressors will still be there after you’re refreshed and ready to tackle them.

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No time for me-time? Try this:

If you have a busy household, you’ll need to capitalize on a block of time you know will be completely uninterrupted. The easiest way to do this: try waking up 30 minutes to an hour earlier than usual (or push bedtime back an hour if you’re a night owl, like me) and take time to do something you enjoy.

This could be reading with a cup of tea, catching up on Facebook, spending time on a passion project—anything! As long as it’s meaningful to you, it works!

Bonus:

Starting your day with meaningful time for yourself can set you up to have a positive mood that lasts well into office hours, and having your me-time in the evening can give you something positive to look forward to during the day.

4. Get productive and feel accomplished

Don’t you just love the feeling of checking the last item off of a hefty to-do list? That’s because self-motivation can be a huge driver of positivity and success.

When we accomplish something, no matter how small, it makes us feel good, plain and simple. Applying this tactic to your daily work can be the motivator you need to find fulfillment during the daily office grind.

While there are tons of steps to get more done at work, I’ll share my personal favorite: Prioritizing.

Now, many people handle prioritizing differently. Some like to tackle the little tasks first so they can spend focused time on the big to-dos. Others like to knock out the big items first and get to the smaller ones when they can.

No matter which camp you’re in, you may be missing one crucial step: Time management.

So how’s this work? When you factor in the amount of time your priorities will take, it can transform your productivity ten-fold.

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Say you have three top priorities for the day. You might jump into the smaller ones or the bigger ones depending on your preferred method, and then find yourself out of time and bringing work home with you at the end of the day.

This is prevented when you factor in time. Knowing how long each item will take, or deliberately setting specific blocks of time for your priorities can help you accomplish more in the same 8-9 (or 12) hours that you typically spend at work.

Try this:

Take a look at your priorities and consider how long they should take. Pop into your Google calendar (or Filofax, whatever works for you) and schedule time to work on your priority items around any important meetings or events of the day.

The most important thing to remember is to stick to your dedicated time.

Often, when we know exactly how long we have to work on something (and honor this time limit), we’re motivated to get more done on time to avoid taking work home at the end of the day.

The bottom line

There’s no need to waste 1/3 of our lives feeling unsatisfied at work. Luckily, you now have the tools to get started, take back your time, and become happy and fulfilled at work again.

The only question is — which tip will you try first?

Featured photo credit: Ellyot via unsplash.com

Reference

[1]Psychology Today: The Healing Power of Gratitude

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