My Leadership Frustrations

“Congratulations you are now a manager”

..said my boss. Words that I’d worked long and hard to hear as a billing consultant.

Like many before me I instantly emerged from my chrysalis as a fully fledged leader, ready to inspire and lead my team to victory……apparently.

It did not take long before reality set in – my success was now defined by the actions of others. I was expected to enforce things that I did not always believe in and frustratingly, my team would not do what I told them!

No one is born as a complete leader. Leadership is often more art than science and it takes you on an emotional rollercoaster that never really ends.

When I compare many leadership books or biographies of successful business leaders to reality, I want to return the book to the shop and suggest they place it in the “fiction” section.

So what are the things I wish I had been told would be hard, frustrating or just unenjoyable about leadership?

1. You Need to Lose Control

To be a manager you normally have to be great at what you do as a technician first whether you are a recruiter, lawyer, accountant or sales person. Typically a large part of this success is is down to your ability to personally control the variables in your role, market and organisation to achieve your desired level of personal performance.

Trying to maintain the same level of personal control through your team will lead to extremely high levels of frustration on your part. It will also make good people want to leave as they feel like they have no capability to act on their own, instead you need to focus on influencing behaviour.

Lesson: You can’t control everything – you can only influence.

2. You Are a Tool of the Executive Team

We often think that becoming a manager means you have the ability to do things your way. The reality is that as a manager, you are the messenger of the executive team and are there to execute their plan. This means that you will spend time and energy doing things that you do not think are right, or things that you know will be unpopular with the team.

The transition from thinking from a biller’s perspective to a director’s perspective is one of the hardest mental leaps to make, but critical if you are to be authentic in how you promote change and performance in your team (and yes, this may mean your former peers will call you out on your change of direction).

Lesson: Learn why the Executive Team do things, instead of tring to fight them

3. Emotional Conflict, Tension and Frustration

You quickly realise as a leader that your role is not to be everyone’s friend, it’s to say what needs to be said. I think that Karen Brady said it best when she says being a leader is about

“Saying what needs to be said, when it needs to be said , whether you like it or not”

For some this comes naturally, personally I struggled with having the courage to say what needed to be said, fearing people may not like me, or their jobs. They key is to avoid procrastination – say it as clearly and quickly as possible.

Lesson: Learn how to say what needs to be said, when it needs to be said

4. The Challenges & Frustrations Never End

We kid ourselves that leadership is a destination we can reach. In truth it’s a never ending journey. Even the most experienced and successful leaders still struggle with the emotional challenges leadership. There will always be a stretch target to reach, a top performer with too much attitude, people to hire and things to be rolled out that you disagree with. As Steve Jobs said:

“The journey is the reward”

Your goal is to fall in love with the process of overcoming challenges and solving them, more than hitting your targets.

Lesson: Learn to love the journey as there is no destination

Getting your head around being a leader and the challenges that come with being in a leadership role are key to any managers success.

Do you manage managers? Do you know what challenges they are having with their roles? How often do you have coaching rather than performance conversations to help them overcome these challenges?”

What are your leadership frustrations?

How to tell your Boss they suck!

On Sunday evening in 2014, one of the world’s greatest golfers, Phil Mickelson, gave the world a perfect lesson on how NOT to tell your boss they suck (http://youtu.be/b4_5A8cPgdY).

Three reasons why what Phil Mickelson did was a bad idea:

1: It certainly doesn’t make him look good.  It makes him pretty much un-selectable by any future leader.   Who would want to have someone in their team that is just looking to rub your, and others, faces in their mistakes the moment things get tough. A great book that talks about this is (http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Asshole-Rule-Civilised-Workplace/dp/0749954035 )

2: No Respect: He showed little respect for Tom Watson or his team who were undoubtedly hurting.  Tom had undoubtedly made mistakes,  he had also tried his best.  His team mates were undoubtedly hurting and reflecting on what mistakes they had made over the two days.   His behaviour encouraged everyone to focus on the negative rather than the way forward.

3:  Abdication of Leadership:  Phil may not have been the Captain this week but he is, without doubt, a leader for the US team; embarrassingly, he abdicated his position of leadership.   His stature will have been diminished in the eyes of the younger team members who saw the way he behaved.   Even worse some may copy him in future years, which will only serve the European cause further.

Four fool-proof ways of telling your boss he sucks.

1:  Look at yourself first:  Before you point the finger of accusation at your boss, remember that when you point there are three fingers pointing back at you.  Ask yourself “what have I done to contribute to this situation?”

2: Think about “why” this is happening:  More often than not, your boss is carrying out a strategy dictated from above.  Most things happen in an organisation because they are needed to help the achievement of a strategy or objective.   Try to separate “what” your manager is doing (probably led by his boss) with “how” they are doing it, which reflects their abilities to communicate and execute change.

3:  Constructive Feedback:  Borrowing a simple technique from the centre for creative leadership (http://www.leadingeffectively.com/feedback-you-can-fathom/sbi-model-graphic-for-social-media/),   use the SBI (Situation, Behaviour & Feedback) method to provide objective feedback.   i.e.”John, do you remember in the team meeting this morning,  you cut across my answer in a way that seemed dismissive.  It made me feel like you did not value my opinion.  What can I do differently next time?”   WARNING:  Remember that if you are going to be giving feedback, you need to be prepared to take it back as well.

3:  Focus on Solutions:  Everyone can point out what is being done wrong.  Being constructive with ways to make things work, will open your manager’s mind to alternate options.   If all they see is you throwing blocks up at every turn, they will be much less open to your ideas for improvement.   If you have no suggestions for how things can be done better then you may be part of the problem…….!!!!!

What approach would you take if you had to tell your boss “you suck”?

Alex Moyle spends his time helping leaders of sales teams build high performing self sustaining teams.   His customer centric approach to consultative selling helps sales professionals elevate themselves above the competition.

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