hello lovely world people out there, decided to finally start writing little stories, honest stories, stories i go on and on about in my head and sometimes stories that i don’t have an answer to.. hope you like reading it and get a bit of a spin for your own day by day// life story
back on track and determined to share a new story. curious what it does to you after reading. i believe it might convert your idea of leadership. so are you ready? well, then here we go :-)
in my past i was managing teams for more or less 10 year in total and have myself been managed by several people as well as have seen others around me managing people too. i had opportunity enough to observe well. and let me summarize it like this: in a nutshell i have seen the good, the bad and most of it, the ugly. along my career there were times where i was managed so poorly that it taught me how i never want to be as a manager towards others. simple truth: the way of managing was so wrong on so many levels. but hey, also these are huge lessons for life.. and sometimes you start lessons by learning what you definitely DON’T want, right?
it taught me a lot and i wouldn’t retrograde any of it. the only advice i have to my past self is to walk away much earlier from those shitty situations and do not suffer for such a long time. if you feel like running against heavy walls every single day, please see the signs that this situation is simply not serving you. be strong enough to know your value and walk away from this kind of shit in your life. staying surely made me stronger but i am much clearer about it nowadays. and if things are not as they should be, i walk away from them. the idea is to work with like minded people at ease and not to run down walls.. this is not what life is about..
but first let’s take a look at me as a manager because i am not scared to take the blame: so please don’t think i am insulting others without sweeping my own hallway first. means i don’t want to say i was a saint because i simply wasn’t. i made very many and horrible mistakes along the way of gaining experience in becoming a manager and made several people cry, needed to fire some and made a couple wrong decisions eventually.
what i did is, i took all my personal setbacks and went back to the drawing table. to reflect, be ashamed, apologize and learn. with the result of moving on to be a better leader. this, for me, was and is the only way to grow. if you are able to admit your mistakes and apologize, you will be able to learn from them and your team will see that you are not perfect either. this will create a safe space for everyone of not being afraid to make mistakes and a comprehensive platform to learn from them. it took me some time to figure out how strong your impact on your team and others is. same as what huge responsibility lies in being a role model who is willing to open up and allow yourself to be seen with all of your flaws.
ok, so let’s take a look at a very simplified view on management in first place
because, if you know me by now, you might know that i really like to keep things simple. so let’s do the simple exercise here: there are two types of people within the management craft:
TYPE 1: keeps people small. delegates only by giving little fragments and never a full picture and is and will always be THE one in charge. THE one who never lets go of total control. THE one who will stalk you secretly and check if you accomplished your tasks. and every time he/ she finds a mistake, he/ she will make a big scene out of the situation and usually make you feel like having committed a serious crime. furthermore he or she is the type of manager who knows better anyway and has all the answers in place. all in, the real deal.
the ideal team scenario for this type of manager is to have a team of copycats who are “idolizing” him or her and who would never question any decision. same as they would, under no circumstances, speak up and come up with a different opinion. this person really enjoys to be consulted for any tiniest decision as this gives them the feeling of being THE ONE in charge.
it gives him/ her the feeling of being ALWAYS in the driver seat. ALWAYS on top of things. ALWAYS the smartest person in the room. of course this typology of a manager believes that if he/she is not accessible, shit will ultimately hit the fan. the whole team is usually driven by fear of making the tiniest mistake and by all means never empowered to take the smallest decision. you could also call this type a micromanager on all levels and honestly i could go on with giving you examples but i guess you get my point clearly.
to all the people out there: you hear me?
TYPE 2: as you can guess this is pretty much the opposite. someone who believes in growth and empowerment of people. someone who sees potential in a person and is determined to create a space for this person to nourish and flourish. the type 2 most probably doesn’t have all the answers but is open to have a conversation to see how the team members are thinking and evolving along their ideas and what other perspectives there might be to consider before making a decision. because there is not only ONE solution but different point of views which might create the best solution not seen before.
because of the awareness of not being the smartest person in the room, you create a safe space for people to share ideas and possibly come up with some really brilliant approach and solutions. he/ she knows that by listening first, the team feels empowered to build a line of argument and come up with a conclusion by themselves. now and then a type 2 guides a team member closer for a while, especially if the stage of development requires to be managed closer, which is often the case when starting a new job.
a type 2 has the empathy to read between the lines and see how far people can be stretched in their abilities. a type 2 seeks the moment when someone is ready without feeling ready and simply pushes the employee “down the cliff”, well aware that you can only realize you have wings when you dare to fly. and that we all are not able to see the potential in us and now and then need a gentle push from the outside. let me put it like that: it’s not a simple thing to be a type 2. a type 2 seems easy “replaceable” as this manager is very eye-leveled with their team. he/ she is fully aware of own flaws and willing to admit mistakes, apologize and learn. he/ she is also fully aware of not having all the answers but at the same time that this is totally ok, because there is a team to figure out the best solution possible. the interesting fact is that this person shows a high level of empathy and vulnerability by admitting to not have all the answers. but by being very selective in hiring the right people to go beyond what was ever considered possible.
whenever i meet type 2 people in life, i get goosebumps. they inspire me, they light a fire in me and they make me hope that there is a new wave of leaders with exactly this mindset on the horizon. it is still quite rare but these are the people who are role models on all levels. keep it up people, you are my true heroes!
looking from a broader perspective, people don’t go to work because of the work itself. even monetarial incentives are apparently low in creating motivational momentum. it might sound too simple for some, but people want to belong, they want to be seen and they want to be acknowledged for the kind of added value they bring to the team effort. they want to feel they are part in building something bigger and far more outstanding than just doing a 9 to 5 cookie cutter job.
people want to feel empowered and having a say. they want to be heard no matter how little or much experience they have. they want to discuss across hierarchy levels and everyone to be open minded to listen to ideas. if you are part of such a team, you will know what i am talking about. you feel this special bond and this makes you go far beyond. this is the kind of job that makes you jump out of bed in the morning and smile when you think about all the opportunities and results you as a team are able to achieve.
there is a beautiful anecdote about three bricklayers who were asked why they do the job they do. the first one said he is just a bricklayer, he enjoys what he does, no more no less. the second one admitted he is doing it purely for the money. and the third one said he is seeing himself as being part of building a cathedral. i love this one, it is so simple but so powerful to frame the story.
but what now? what is the outcome? if you are a leader, you might ask yourself how you can achieve this kind of team spirit? and if you are really able to create this kind of drive within your team. so somehow the question is: are we equipped with just one type of skill set? type 1 OR type 2?
i don’t think so, i strongly believe that we all have both opportunities on hand. we surely have a preference towards one of them, as usually in our personality traits, but we can always decide towards which mindset we want to put the work in. apparently it’s about the consciousness of the decision which path we choose.
but how to approach a change: it’s surely not easy to walk into the office one day and just change, but you can start by “tiptoeing” into a few components. but if you are willing and determined to make a change, you will be able to make it. whatever you tell your mind, is what the outcome will be. and even little steps sum up to a bigger journey, right? but here is a disclaimer: this process and consequently the change in mindset is most likely about to change you much. so i guess you should do the homework first by asking yourself if you are ready for this kind of revolution :-) just saying!
so if you decide you want to go all in, i have you some ideas to share:
1. do the inside job first. start to analyze where your controlling urge comes from, why do you need to feel in charge. why do you think that you have it all figured out. what would it feel like if you would lose your job tomorrow? would you still be the same person or would you feel useless and replaceable. how would it feel if your direct report would take on your position right after? would you be happy to see people grow into your shoe size? if not, why not? if you are truly willing to question every cornerstone of your mind you will eventually get there. analyze and become aware of your average and low performance skills. this will allow you a first glance at the true idea of a future manager. again, it might sound really opinionated but i believe that you cannot build a great team when you are not able to face your achilles tendon.
2. next step is the call to action: if you have an existing team you can start with small empowering steps like for example giving more responsibility in daily tasks. they will recognize a change but even though you are afraid, they will never judge you. i promise you will realize a shift in motivation and mindset. and it will give you so much back in return. you will see that you have less work to do and you don’t need to juggle everything in your head. you will be stunned by what you can achieve resultwise.
3. if you are expanding or building up a team, this is a great opportunity to create the right mindset from day one. think about how to put together the best team of the future. what qualities do you need to be present? start by asking yourself about what kind of criteria you look for when you hire new people? take some calculated risk. step out of your comfort zone. try to read between the lines of people’s CV and listen to your intuition and see if there is potential rather than the perfect skill. people who are not there yet but are invited into growth opportunities, are willing to go the extra mile. when you have faith that people are able to top up their game when being empowered, they will proof you right. meanwhile be a good captain, a guide, a support and let your people shine in the front row. show them that you have trust in their capabilities. and don’t point your finger on someone when something goes wrong. take the blame and turn into a shield when a shield is needed. you are there for them in good and in bad times.
i believe the time is right for a new generation of leaders, young or old and bold, partly inexperienced but willing to take huge risks. being aware of their incapabilities and following their intuition on how to strategically build a team who outperforms beyond. i say a mindset shift is the only way to lead in companies of the future.
we need leaders who are not only aware of how to spell empathy but who are fully committed to embrace and live empathy and vulnerability at the same time and create a powerful role model of our times. i envy each one of you people out there who are willing to make a change. no matter how slow or fast. no matter how bumpy the road is. go for it big time and be the change you want to see in the world.
this is not a revolution to come, the revolution is already here. are you ready to take on this challenge? it might change everything you think you are..
and in order to reinforce the message, i offer 3 times a 3 hrs coaching session either via phone or at your company if you are willing to pay the travel costs for me. at least those of you who managed to read until here might consider this a quite good offer :-) think about it if you are touched by the words in this essay. it took long time for me to finally bring onto paper what was going on in my mind for so many years. i believe we need a mindset shift, we need a new force, we need each one of you to lead into a better future. and if you are willing to, i can help you along the way. i count on you.
thank you everyone along my journey who - consciously or unconsciously - was a part in my development and made me develop the managerial mindset i owe now. it makes me the most humble and grateful person.
thank you for reading until this point, means the world to me..
much love, K