5 most common misconceptions about ‘being human’ as a manager

By Mark LeBusque. Published at Sep 11, 2020, in Features

We have been fooled for too long about the best way to succeed as a manager, earn respect and get results. It’s as if everyone is given a secret managers rulebook with the ‘do’s and 'do not’s’ clearly spelt out for them.

Here’s my five misconceptions about management in 2020:

Don’t get too close to your people

This has been rolled out in every Management 101 handbook since the days where humans stood on a production line undertaking purely transactional based activities. They’re only outputs, not worthy of a manager’s time to build a human relationship with. Why would you do that? It only makes it harder when you have that difficult conversation and maybe even fire them one day. Oh, and remember you're the supervisor or boss and can’t be seen to be soft in any way. How wrong we have been on this one. Building deep relationships helps to create a connection and level of trust that takes away the “us and them” mentality, inspires and motivates humans to tap into their discretionary effort and even come up with innovative ideas they are willing to share. Oh, and from first hand I know it makes the so called “difficult moments” easier when there is openness and honesty between two connected humans.

Being Human opens you up to showing weakness

Once we strip away title, rank and serial number, all we have left is a human being. That’s what organisations are made up of. Too often we hide behind our titles and adopt a suit of armour that has been handed down by generations of strong managers. If we were to lose that suit of armour, and become human, then surely we will show weakness that will be exploited. On the contrary the human managers are the strong ones. Those who step into their vulnerability and are prepared to say “I don’t know the answer”, “I screwed that up” or “I’m having a tough time right now”. Doing this in a more modern world brings respect and a level of empathy that builds a truly human connection. It will also give others permission to step into their vulnerability. When we strip it all back, it is what we have in common.

There are two of you – a manager and a human, don’t mix them up

There’s a real absurdity about this idea that we have to show up as two different humans dependent upon the environment. You know how this goes. Be totally professional at work, roll out the corporate lingo, impress the boss, be the boss, display uber-intelligence and above all just keep hitting those damn numbers. Once you leave the office, it’s ok to relax a little once in a while (as long as you’re also up for swapping back when that email or call needs attention late at night) and get around in your daggy clothes pursuing some strange hobby. Here’s my tip. Just turn up as you. We as humans have great BS detectors and can smell the stench of this flip-flop role-playing from a mile away. Anyway, it takes too much energy to try being two human beings. Just be you in any environment.

You need to know the job technically to gain respect of the team

Here’s another old corporate fable well out of date.

You’d better know the technical aspects of the job in order to be respected by those who you are managing. This might have been the way when we treated (some say we still do) humans as purely outputs and promoted the best technicians into supervisor or manager roles. We also micromanage based upon the technical stuff we’ve got good at over our careers.

Who likes being micromanaged?

There are humans today who have future-proofed their careers by developing transferable skills. These skills are used to inspire, engage with and motivate other humans to do the technical work they love doing. Listening, curiosity, creativity, emotional intelligence, people management and cognitive flexibility are just some of the skills the progressive managers now have in their kit bag. It’s not about how many widgets you’ve sold, made or designed anymore. It’s about how you use a human approach to allow others to do this important work.

There’s no way to measure the “human stuff”- show me the data and I’ll be Human

“If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it”.

These nine words are almost the final resistance to accepting that in order to be successful, we don’t have to measure everything to its minutia.

When you hear this, be sure that it is the old management system nearing its last stand. The thing is this. Why would we want a KPI sheet to capture how many times we were helpful, thankful, caring and open to having fun, or even worse showed empathy or vulnerability. Measurement is important, don’t get me wrong, but we should be very careful to use it as the only way to gauge success.

The traditional numbers happen so much easier when you’re not focussing daily on your progress to achieving them.

Stop hiding behind the outdated rulebook and ‘human up’.

Those who you have the privilege of managing will appreciate you for it.

Be Human.

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