SETTING THE STAGE: You just got promoted to oversee and manage a project team and you want to ensure that you keep your new position of power. You believe in your organization’s mission and plan to stay there long-term. You love your company and are willing to do anything to perform well for them; not just for you, but also for them. In short, you are the perfect employee.
ACT 1: You’ve been given your first project team and want to get to know them better and share your leadership philosophy and mission statement with them (if you have one yet--some new leaders take a year or so to develop one). Your team is as diverse as one can be. On it are people older and younger than you; some with less experience in the industry and some with a little more. Because you care so much about the organization’s success, your plan is to firmly tell them about how the way your team will be run and that, as the leader, you will be the one making all the major decisions. From that point in the meeting on, however, no one on the team says anything.
The Plot Thickens
ACT 2: As days go by, you work your team to the bone. At the threat of being fired, they come in early and leave late--well beyond the scope of the hours worked by their peers on other teams. Instead of encouragement, your team gets threats from you. You want to impose your belief system on them by force. (It works in Army boot camp, right?) When anyone smiles or laughs at the office, you scowl and tell them to get back to work; perhaps, you make some comment that, “perhaps you’d have more fun at home looking for a new job.”
One day, the day of a big presentation, the member of your team who took the presentation materials home to give it its final touches gets in a car accident on the way to work. While it’s not life-threatening, your team member can’t come to work and the presentation must be rescheduled. Instead of showing concern for your team member, you openly criticize her in front of the other team members for ruining the presentation. Later, you sit in your new, big office with your desk and your window and your painting and your fichus and wonder why the other members of your team don’t share the passion for loyally delivering for your company as much as you do.
Two days later, it’s time for your presentation. You wait in the conference room for your team to arrive and set up your presentation. Five minutes before the meeting is scheduled to begin, your executive supervisor enters the room. Before she can speak, you tell her that you don’t know where your team is and that you will “explain” to them the value of punctuality. She stops you and tells you not to bother because your team, together, all gave their two-weeks’ notices directly to her earlier that morning. Not understanding, your supervisor invited them into her office and asked them to elaborate on why they were all quitting together. An hour later, they all still had their jobs and your executive supervisor, agreeing that serious changes needed to take place, had to hold up her end of the bargain…
No, you’re not fired. Your executive supervisor knows that your heart is in the right place and that all new leaders need leadership guidance. Unlike horses, new leaders spring out of the gate and run in all different directions, and so far, you have been running in the wrong direction. Your team has been reassigned and you will meet with your new team later that day. Your punishment is that some other manager will take credit for being the supervisor of the team that developed your project--which really was quite good.
Your executive supervisor understands the value of human two-way interaction. If there is one person pulling rank and making all of the decisions, then why is there even a team? Also, treat your employees right and they’ll treat you right. If a little more work or extra hours is required to finish a project (which is common), it would be good if you were there, too, suffering through it with them. Lead your team by setting an example, not strong-arming them like slaves. If you’re a manager on some level, your employees are not your slaves. They are your hands and feet. Depending on your industry, they can also be your 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th opinion on a given issue or decision. They are your resources, and you’d be smart to use them.
Just remember that your employees are people, just like you. They won’t be perfect and they typically won’t have the expertise and holistic understanding of the industry like you do. That’s why it’s up to you to foster a positive work environment for them in order to maximize learning and productivity. It’s all about results, and an unhappy or abused team simply won’t produce them.