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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 November 19, 2018

10 Ways to Build Positive Work Relationships and Work as a Team

10 Ways to Build Positive Work Relationships and Work as a Team

Behind the corporate veil, the actual members who work towards achieving the company goals are the ultimate assets.

It is very important for every team member to maintain focused goals on a professional front, at their individual level and at the organizational level. With even the slightest discord between two employees, the entire team might suffer and have to adjust with the downsize in organizational success that they realize ultimately.

As humans, each and every employee is bound to have different opinion and feel inclined to meet their personal goals, just as much as they meet the goals of their company. Hence, it is essential that work relationships among different employees are friendly and cordial. This will help the fellow team members to work together as an efficient team. The ultimate outcome of which will be a capable work force, poised to gather the gains of organizational success.

Let us take a look at some of the ways to build positive work relationships and help employees work together as a team:

1. Respect Your Peer’s Time

No matter which specific domain you work in or in which your organization deals in, each arena entails performance of various jobs by the employees. Within this organization, there are a set of cumulative jobs which ought to be performed at a specific pace, and within a set period of time.

Sometimes, there might also be a sequence to the performance of actions and processes, so that the next process in the sequence can be performed. Some procedures are dependent upon the performance of an action by a certain member of the team, so that the other members can carry out the subsequent steps in the sequence. The ultimate target with this planning is that the work must be completed on time and there should be no delay in meeting the deadlines which have been set for the purpose.

Thus, in situations where you are placed in a role where other people are affected by your actions or performance, it is essential that you respect their time and effort, and ensure that the ball is not pent up in your court.

At the same time, remember that you should make yourself available for other people, should they require your help. Ultimately, your aim must be focused at ensuring that work is not pending and you get it done like experts doing the work.

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2. Ensure that You Are Cautious With Social Media

With the ongoing trend in the digital space, it is easy to feel compelled and drawn towards the idea of connecting with your peers and colleagues on the social media. Although there is not much harm in the practice, it is essential to observe caution while making these connections.

The simple reason behind this is that one wrong move can dampen your reputation or else, cause your peers to gather an incorrect impression about you.

It makes sense to ensure what the social media policy of your organization is before treading on this path. If such policies restrict the association of fellow employees, then you must respect them.

3. Communication is the Key

Communication is essentially one of the most vital keys which impact how your relationships with peers and other employees are. The role of effective communication cannot be stressed enough. It is vital in attaining the goals of working together in an organization and carrying out the jobs which will help in attaining success.

However, there is a very big danger with communication. As part of the human nature, it is easy to assume that the person ahead of us has understood what we intend to say. This might not be true at all times.

Therefore, taking feedback is important. This will help you understand if your message has been understood in the intended manner. If the message has not reached the intended party as expected, corrective actions can be taken at the same time.

Poor communication has the disadvantage of adding stress and distrust among fellow employees. It can sometimes causes crucial message failed to be delivered, leading to organizational turbulence, after which the blame game is hard to end.

In order to avoid the confusion and misunderstanding, communicate through a formal chain of command and follow formal mode of communication. Thus, communicating through mails or any other formal channel of communication would be the appropriate way to communicate in order to keep everything on record. This will help in referring to the communications later, should any dispute arise.

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4. Feedback is Important

As important as it is to take feedback from other people, it is also important to give your feedback. It is not just you who needs feedback but also your peers, in order to understand how well they are performing.

Your feedback will help other people progress in their work as much as it will help you progress in yours. Giving constructive feedback to your fellow peers at the right time and in the right state will help them advance, and ultimately lead to the success of the organization.

Your co-workers are bound to value your opinion and regard you in a positive light, if you provide them with the feedback that you require from them.

5. Make Use of Common Day Courtesies

Greeting a co-worker may sound like something so ordinary that you might wonder how it ended up on this list. However, as long as we are talking about ways to build a positive work environment, this one cannot be ignored.

You maybe surprised by bidding your co-workers simple common day courtesies! Being humble never hurt anyone, even if you do not exactly receive something in return.

Moreover, you must maintain eye contact with your fellow peers if you wish to gain their trust. This will provide the necessary infrastructure to build a capable team.

6. Get Into the Habit of Helping Yourself

While at work, accept that you are never going to receive the pampered behaviour which you do at home. No one at your workplace wakes up in the morning and makes themselves available at the  to hear you rant or constantly answer your questions. However, you might come up with situations nevertheless, which require you to ask for help or advice.

In this scenario, try to gather some information about your question, say, from the manuals which you receive upon joining, or from the web and equip yourself with some concrete information about the question which you may be ready to ask from someone else.

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At least when you approach someone with your doubts, along with the information gathered you’ve gathered, they will appreciate you for having made the effort to find out the answer.

This will make them feel important as well, answering your questions and helping you achieve your goals or tasks.

7. Treat Everyone as Equals

As a member of your team, it is not your job to point out who is better and who is not. Organizational politics can be a deadly game to play and as long as you are not a pro player, it is always risky to put yourself in a situation that will tarnish your image.

Gossiping is a strict no and spreading rumours is something you must avoid at all costs. Behave in a humble manner and even if someone tries to pull you into a conversation, avoid it in a respectful manner. Do everything you can to pull yourself out of that situation.

While talking behind people’s backs may sound like a refreshing fun activity initially, it will definitely come to bite you behind the back in the future.

Also, it will be wise to remember that no one in the organization is permanent. People change and so can their designation. It will be better for you to keep your personal views about someone in your head.

As long as you maintain the idea of treating everyone as equal, you will find yourself amidst a positive working environment at all times.

8. Acknowledge Your Mistakes

Mistakes happen and one of the more noteworthy facts about mistakes is that they can be made by anyone. The wisest thing you can do is to admit mistakes you’ve made.

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Playing the blame game will not only tarnish the name of your peers but also your own. It is always good to avoid getting into a tiff with others. Admit your mistakes and think of remedies or solutions to fix it. For a positive working relationship with your peers, you will need to adopt this quality.

9. Learn to Take on Responsibilities

Passing on your work load might be required when you are overburdened with work. However, when entrusted with a job, you should try to accept it as your responsibility and avoid putting it off to someone else.

Putting off work all the time will only end up creating a block between you and your peers, while they may start avoiding communicating with you at all. When you work in a team, your duty is to cooperate and build a positive working relationship with your teammates.

10. Engage in a Follow-up Routine

As a part of a team, it is necessary to express the fact that you care about your team members and you are also poised to achieve the targets set by your team.

Whenever you get the chance, do not hold back from asking your co-workers about your work performance and whether they think there’s anything you should improve.

Be prepared to be available to change and improve. This will go a long way in presenting yourself as a responsible and willing to learn employee.

The Bottom Line

These are just some of the ways in which fellow team members can build positive work relationships among themselves and work towards taking the organization to new heights. This attitude is  best to achieve overall success for the organization and create an environment of trust and honesty among the employees.

Featured photo credit: Mimi Thian via unsplash.com

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