I have been described as a high achiever—and a lone wolf—for much of my career. After more than 20 years as an individual contributor, I finally succumbed to the pressure to become a people manager.
Here’s my problem. Most of my people are fewer than five years away from retirement and not very interested in growing and developing. It is clear to me that not everyone is as driven as I am or as willing to put the time in to produce the quality of work I expect. Am I too demanding?
I understand your frustration. Of course, I wonder what leeway you might have to replace a couple of your worst offenders. You don’t mention that as an option but I have never, not once, experienced a client having regret after letting go of a low performer. Jim Collins, in his research of companies who do well over decades talks about getting the right people on the bus, which sounds simple, but it is in fact really hard. So, shaking up your team and adding a little new blood might be an option. You will probably have to document substandard performance over a period of time to do this which means performance expectations would need to be crystal clear.
You might benefit from understanding temperament theory. It outlines the way in which people are different, why it matters, and what to do about it. I suspect you are a very specific personality type and your employees are not like you at all. Understanding how you approach work and communication—and how you are perceived by others—will almost certainly clarify things for you.
Your people might be roused by a compelling goal. Do they know how they are contributing the greater good? How important their hard work is? Do they know the why? It’s possible they are not in touch with the bigger picture—in which case, you might share it. Bear in mind if this is what’s missing, you will have to share it on a regular basis. It’s human nature to forget the long term in favor of focusing on short-term rewards.
You also might consider articulating and sharing your Leadership Point of View, in which you outline your values and what you expect of your people. In it you can state your standards—perhaps they have not been made explicit?
Finally, maybe you do need to chill out. I have worked with many perfectionist clients who have had to ratchet back their standards because they were causing themselves (and everybody else) unnecessary pain without adding any value. Are you too demanding? Very possibly. The person who might be able to help you with this is your boss. You might as well ask and see what he or she says about it.
You may not be able to stand being a manager for long unless you can inspire your people to be the best they can be. But if you can harness your drive to do just that, what a win that would be!
About the author
Madeleine Homan Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.
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