upstart thoughts on talent and leadership

2010: Expand the pie

In ! Jen, General Work, Leaders, Manager Tips on Sunday, February 7, 2010 at 5:55 am

A friend gave me an unusual compliment in 2009–that I was one of few in her circle who did not see our collective success as being zero-sum. At first this struck me as a strange thing to say, as the archetypes of “success” that immediately come to mind are indeed zero-sum: gold/silver/brass medals, one CEO per company, a finite pool of dollars within a budget, a finite number of people in total headcount.

But within and between relationships, it’s a different story. At least, it should be. Specifically, I’m thinking of three relationship categories: bona fide friendships, life partnerships, and employee/manager.

Bona fide friendships and life partnerships should be a no-brainer but I don’t think they always are in this respect. We all have people with whom we hold back a bit, cautiously second-guessing their motivations, wondering how they will use a statement out of context. Or even, keep meticulous score.

Here’s a challenge for 2010: move these people into the “colleague” or “acquaintance” column. And for those with whom you’ve chosen to be with as a life partner, or with whom you’re friends with for the long haul, expand the pie. View their successes in 2010 as desirable as your own and provide coaching and counsel to help them. If you can’t do this, it may be worthwhile to honestly reexamine your own motivations. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

A dear girlfriend shared with me a story of consultants–differentiating, via story, between eggs & bacon. With eggs, the chicken is an involved party–but with bacon, the pig’s ultimately committed–it has skin in the game, so to speak. Be the pig.

And what of managers? Ah, here’s where I expect I may get some pushback. To the extent to which Employee X is reporting to Manager Z, I posit that Z should be engaging in this same type of relationship behavior. Z should be pushing, coaching, counseling X to achieve his best. Z should be seeing her success as contingent upon X’s. And vice versa. What does this look like? I could go on literally, forever, but here are 16 things managers can do to show that they see their success and their employees’ as shared–not zero sum:

1. Support your employee if/when they want to move on to another position. Managers who lack confidence often see their employees’ desire to wander to other pastures as disloyalty or a diss on themselves. Find out their reasons for wanting the other position and offer your support. And concurrently, seek ways to enrich their job with you.

2. Don’t stay away. This is the best thing I took away from a valuable two-day coaching workshop. One of the rules of attraction they talk about in social psych 101 is propinquity, or nearness and frequency of exposure. Managers can use this to their advantage. Stop by in the morning to say hi, asking about the weekend, or sharing a fun piece of information about a department win. This can create comfort in familiarity and an openness that will be reciprocated.

3. Take time to get to know your employee on a personal level. Get invested. Most importantly, care. This, I believe, is the huge differentiator between managers who “get it” and managers who don’t. This is one, however, that can’t be faked.

4-16. Coming in a future post. This one is getting too long. In the meantime, please comment and let us know how you show you’re wholeheartedly invested in your relationships.


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