Keeping it Real, even when it sucks
JULY 18, 2008
On a recent post about 5 skills for hiring , frequent reader and commenter Chain Smoking Blue Monkey had the following comment that really challenged my thinking: In defense of “Mopey Murphy :Â That very well might be the result of a bad manager that someone has had to toil underneath for years.Â Additionally, a realistic point of view (mind you, not necessarily a pessimistic one) can often come across like this as well.Â Yes, ideally we see challenges like budget crunches and shortage of staff as opportunities to try and make things better with limited resources, but you can’t always put a smile one when the world has been telling you you can’t dance for a long time.Â (see [link] for the reference). I have often wondered where the balancing fine line between being realistic and being pessimistic or optimistic lies.Â The constant “EVERYTHING IS GREAT!Â WE HAVE NO PROBLEMS! WE HAVE GREAT CUSTOMERS!Â YOU ARE ALL EQUALLY WONDERFUL! cheery attitude that I see in a lot of managers comes across as painfully insincere, and worse, obviously insincere.Â It is done in the service of not wanting to appear negative or biased or whatever, but the end result is often the opposite on employees. I admit that I question a lot of the catch-phrasism I see here on Slacker Manager.Â You guys do a great job at looking at a lot of different ways to be good managers and on how to motivate employees you are supervising, but there are certainly times when I see something here that strikes me as a little less than genuine and a little more pie in the sky everything is wonderful optimism. That brings up some very important questions about how you remain who you are and remain sincere to not only your employees but yourself.Â How do you remain realistic without being saccharine?Â How do you acknowledge the darker side of things while also keeping a positive but not delusional attitude? Great questions! How do I remain a realistic manager without being saccharine? How do I acknowledge the darker side of things while keeping a positive but not delusional attitude? I’ve had to ask myself this a LOT this year. This has been my toughest year as a manager and as a person for a number of reasons I won’t get into here. I think that gives me some interesting perspective to share. First , I let my team know things are tough right now. Admitting we have a problem has been absolutely critical to not seeming fake or saccharine. Second , I focus on solutions and provide status updates. HOW are we going to make things better? Right now, the answer is time, so that doesn’t help right now, but that we will get through it, little by little, and though some days may be worse than others (like the day only 3 of my 7 people showed up to work), for the most part, if we focus on what we CAN do, and not on what we can’t, we can “keep it real and still move forward. Third , but most importantly, is I ask the team how they feel we can make it better. I even invited in our HR partner in to get a more objective feedback mechanism so folks could speak freely without fear of retribution if I found out Sally said I was a bad manager or whatever. Sure we got some complaining. But we not only heard what they had to say, but I am actively working on an action plan to address their needs, which we will present back to them as soon as it’s done (2-3 weeks for a complete plan, 3 or 4 days for the first part). Lastly , I find ways to celebrate our successes, one client at a time. While not everyone is their usual elated self when they complete an interaction with my team, my team still manages to occasionally find ways to wow their clients, and wow each other, and we celebrate those successes in a very public way. We celebrate them in front of the entire IT team when possible, or at least our department, and that public pat on the back works for many folks. Some get it in email to me, my manager, and my manager’s manager, and I always make sure to say thanks to both the associate for recognizing my team, and to the associate for providing outstanding service. So those are 4 ways right now I can provide realism to my team, to provide optimism to my team, and to not come off as delusional. Perfect solutions? Heck no, and I’m sure everyone reading this has some even better suggestions. Dear readers: How do you remain a realistic manager without being saccharine? How do you acknowledge the darker side of things while keeping a positive but not delusional attitude? Original photo found on Flickr, credit to lonely radio. Share This.