Last week, I did my very first Facebook Live session sharing and then debunking some of the most common myths of management that I come across in my work as a coach and facilitator. If you missed it, you can catch the replay in the One Eleven Leadership private Facebook group.
If you prefer to get your information the old-fashioned way, here are the topics I covered along with concrete strategies to help you shift your approach.
Myth 1: I have to be the expert on all aspects of my job (and everyone else’s job too)
I am in the middle of listening to the audiobook of the Obama memoir, A Promised Land, and was reflecting on how he was the Commander-in-Chief of the military as the and yet he never served a day in his life. However, he surrounded himself with experts who were on the ground and had been in the trenches and trusted them for their guidance and counsel. Even though he may have had the final word on difficult decisions, he was never doing so in isolation.
Managers are responsible for hiring, onboarding, cultivating, nurturing, and supporting the people that they are working with. Your role as the leader is to figure out how to extract the best from your colleagues, trust their expertise, and allow them to contribute in a meaningful way. Your purpose as the leader is not to know everything about everything, but identifying talent, understanding the strengths of your team, and then giving them what they need to be successful.
Myth 2: Vulnerability is Weakness
I am a big groupie of Brene’ Brown’s and she is really the preeminent scholar on research in the field of vulnerability. I would encourage you to check out her TedxHouston Talk which catapulted her to the public domain and take a look at her books, especially Dare to Lead. This definition of vulnerability comes from a glossary she has as a free resource on her website: “Vulnerability is having the courage to show up, fully engage, and be seen when you can’t control the outcome. We are not vulnerable for the sake of being vulnerable. We are open to uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure because that is the path to courage, trust, innovation, and many other daring leadership skills.”
I conducted a poll recently in the One Eleven Leadership Facebook group asking people what they would identify as the most important metric in assessing the success of a team. The number one response was – far and away – having a sense of belonging. Vulnerability is an essential ingredient in building trust, connection, and loyalty in any relationship, whether it’s personal or professional. I also wrote about this in my blog post, Rupture. Repair. Repeat, emphasizing the need to have moments of vulnerability in order to develop intimacy and genuine connection with others. It doesn’t mean sharing all of the details of your personal life and getting into a TMI (too much information) situation, but it is about demonstrating your humanity, fallibility, and willingness to be wrong at times. Having that vulnerability received and reciprocated enables you to build mutual trust and respect.
Myth 3: I don’t want to make people feel uncomfortable or create conflict so it’s better to avoid difficult topics
This is an important one to debunk, particularly given the current climate in our country. Always, but especially when thinking about Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) and anti-racism work, it is important that people feel seen, heard, validated, and whole. When things are uncomfortable, we have a tendency to brush things under the rug, to downplay them, or to avoid them altogether which just creates a culture of suspicion, anxiety, and mistrust. “I don’t know the right thing to say so I just won’t say anything” is just not an option and can no longer be an excuse for folks in power, especially for white folks in power. The truth is that it says a lot more about you than it does about the topic.
By the way, silence is a response, so if you haven’t been checking in with colleagues, particularly colleagues of color, and engaging in challenging conversations that reference the disproportionate amount of police violence against Black and Brown bodies that is very much on our hearts and minds right now, trust me, people are taking note. They may not be saying it to your face, but they are paying attention and they do notice. Being a leader means being willing to engage in difficult conversations, even if it’s on something you don’t know anything about. It means being comfortable with being uncomfortable, or at least being willing to tolerate the discomfort if you’re not quite at the level of embracing it. A recent study of HR practitioners reports that 80% of DEI initiatives are just “talking the talk” and are not actually moving the needle on anything. Their recommendation: listen, hear, and act. (Also acceptable: ask, listen, act which I what I shared in the live session.)
Myth 4: It is easier/faster/better to just do the work myself
This is a very common one that I see in my practice, and I know it comes from a good place. There is certainly good intention associated with not wanting to burden others or adding work to colleagues’ already full plates. The problem is that not sharing the work or engaging others in the process often leads to people feeling undervalued, underappreciated, and not trusted. Although you may be seeing it as a way to buffer or shelter folks from some of the more laborious parts or less glamorous aspects of the work, it’s also a missed opportunity for others to learn and get involved.
Reframing the task as a chance for people to develop new skills, gain exposure to things that they otherwise wouldn’t, or to contribute in new ways helps to take some of the pressure off of you having to do it all yourself. It’s the “teach a man to fish” concept where it may require more time and effort in the short-term, but will yield dividends on multiple levels (better outcomes, investing in your human capital, building trust, etc.). It allows you to access diverse perspectives, fresh ideas, and new approaches that may not otherwise get airtime. Plus, it allows you to shift some of your workload so that you can better prioritize your time and energy to other projects in order to better support your team. Win-win!
Myth 5: Talking is the way to assert authority
Although “assert authority” may not be a phrase that resonates with you, perhaps you find yourself talking a lot in team meetings, supervision meetings, board meetings, committee meetings (so many meetings!) to make sure that people know that you know what you’re doing and so you feel confident that they understand what you’re saying. But, good leaders listen more than they talk. For the Hamilton fans out there, “Talk less. Smile more.”
Being genuinely curious allows you to better understand the needs and assets of your team, and enables you to be more intentional and strategic about how to optimize their potential. Asking questions that start with “what” helps to get people talking without feeling the need to justify or go on the defensive which sometimes happens in response to a “why” question. A great trick to remember before you speak is to W.A.I.T. (Why Am I Talking?) to see if you’re about to say is really necessary to add value and move the conversation forward. If that doesn’t work and you notice that you’re rambling on, put your hands on your hips as a tangible reminder for W.A.I.S.T. (Why Am I Still Talking?), take a deep breath, and check-in with yourself to see what may be going on for you in that moment.
If you (or someone you know) could benefit from working with a certified coach and trained facilitator who will provide customized, holistic, and tireless support as you or your team identify and take action towards your goals, please reach out to One Eleven Leadership to set up a complimentary consultation.