Moving from contributing to getting work done through others is a painful experience for many of us. In my work with managers over the years, here are 3 manager pitfalls that I frequently see:
#1: There are various kinds of power: legitimate, meaning you have the title and role of manager, lead worker, supervisor, director or the like. Reinforcement (Reward) and coercive typically are associate with legitimate power because we have responsibility to hold others accountable (+ and -).
Then there is expert power, you have strong technical or subject matter knowledge. And referent power, meaning you are likable, warm, and others want to follow you because of your interpersonal effectiveness.
When push comes to shove, and the work needs to get done, I observe that first time managers tend to resort to legitimate power quickly (a “do what I tell you to do” without questions or engagement). What I also see is the overuse of reinforcement power to reward employees. Or the other side of the continuum is overextending on the referent power, like we’re all buddies, friends, and people like me so they’ll do what they should do, right?
How do we appropriately balance power dynamics?
Power dynamics tends to be affected and managed by working on Pitfall #2, which is about expectations. Creating clarity in roles/responsibilities. And not only goals, your expectations as well.
And while you are using legitimate power (appropriately) to assign tasks and responsibilities, use referent power to explain the purpose and the why of the work. Take the time to explain the value of what each person is doing and what they are contributing to in a meaningful way. This will engage employees in their work far beyond what a doughnut, gift card or pat on the back ALONE will do.
I would bet that there is something that every manager is withholding an expectation and feedback from an employee. Something that they want to say, need to say and just cannot say. Get the thoughts on expectations out of your head and into the minds and practices of employees. And then focus on Pitfall #3, doing not delegating.
What problems does not delegating cause for managers?
Let go of the fears and excuses to provide employees with responsibility, growth, opportunities, and the engagement to contribute at a higher level. To explore this, including an action planner, check out Delegation: Lean into your fears.
Avoid these pitfalls:
1. Increase self-awareness: managing is hard, most are not trained to do it, and these pitfalls are very common.
2. Have clarity in your habits, practices and skills: Start by working first on clear responsibilities, including goals and expectations. This is the starting point of effective performance and team cohesiveness.
3. Focus on and overcome the obstacles that limit our ability to change. This is primarily our own brain, our bad habits, and the time/investment it takes for growth.
Summary: Start with pitfall #2, enhance with an understanding of pitfall #1, and complement your own growth and those around you by avoiding pitfall #3.
Choose confidence, choose success.