managers as facilitators

By now, most of you who are also subscribed to the TIGERS 6 Principles ™ newsletter know that I am a passionate organic gardener and also TIGERS 6 Principles developer of managers as facilitators.

What I understand about gardening is that most native plants are effortless.  If the pandemic lockdown made you sprout a green thumb, you know that a bit of sunshine, a handful of compost, and perhaps an occasional watering are enough for most flowers and foliage to spruce up a garden.  But some plants (specifically those with the most beautiful flowers) can test your mettle.

The Gardenia (Gardenia jasminodes), for instance, is said to be the litmus test for horticultural prowess. Gardenias are evergreen shrubs that bloom with cream-colored flowers throughout the year and are prized for their deep fragrance.  But boy, what a garden diva they are.

Stress them out (by neglecting a need or two), and their leaves and flowers wilt, turn yellow, and die.

It may be farfetched to discuss managers as facilitators in the same breadth and length as gardenias, however …

If we can go out of our way to find what works for “difficult” plants, we can find what works in raising future managers and leaders.

There isn’t much material to work with when it comes to what type of “environment” works best for managers.  We see a lot of what work culture works best for employees, not so for managers.

As such, it isn’t surprising to see newly-minted managers perform exceptionally well as subordinates but fumble their way into positions of responsibility.

If employees thrive when the work culture fosters trust and interdependence, what counterpart work environment works for a manager?

Framing the question differently, what work culture characteristics allow managers as facilitators to thrive?

Here’s what I’ve gathered.

The work culture must allow managers as facilitators to demonstrate their competence.

Nobody will admit it, but everyone keeps tabs on their colleagues’ competence.  Does Mr. New Manager understand the work?  Does he really know how to get the resources and visibility for the team to be successful?  Is Ms. New Manager an effective coach and does she facilitate the development of talent?

People  judge results.  For new managers to succeed, they must be allowed to produce good and effective results – FAST.  Leadership transition experts recommend prioritizing three simple but well-defined problems that truly matter to the team. Once these problems are identified, they must be solved right away and in a manner consistent with company culture.

Another is to create favorable conditions. For instance, getting a notoriously difficult executive to sign a request is a great boost.  Or perhaps persuading other department heads to revive a project that has been forgotten on the back burner.

Most important, allow the manager to be candid about what they do or do not  know.

Nobody can possibly know everything and it never pays to fake it.   If nobody is given the elbow room to be “human”, serious problems can arise.  However, when managers are allowed to be honest about areas they need help with and their decision turns out wrong, at best they’ll just look silly.

Another example is to help managers arrange backup.  Remember that trust is shaken during transitions.  Beneath the surface are frustration, ill will, and even resentment.  Allow managers to approach people whose opinions matter.  Encourage these people to support them.  If there is nobody within the organization, cite outside sources or hire an independent specialist.  Persons of responsibility have to establish credibility.

The work culture should provide training to equip managers as facilitators with emotional steadiness and self-control. 

I discuss emotional intelligence in length within TIGERS™ Leadership training.  Emotional steadiness and self-control guarantee a manager’s integrity.  Effective leaders should be equipped to moderate their impulses so they can decline ethical temptations.

No one can completely avoid conflict. Everyone will come across situations that will test your patience and moral fiber — especially when you’re barely hanging by a thread. The key to all this is gaining familiarity with emotional intelligence.

The five components of emotional intelligence are:

SELF-AWARENESS (the ability to recognize one’s own moods, emotions, triggers, and motivations)

SELF-REGULATION (the ability to control one’s disruptive impulses and moods. This includes the ability to defer judgment while emotions are high)

MOTIVATION  (One’s reason for work, beyond money or status.  It’s also an individual’s  tendency to pursue goals with vigor and persistence.)

EMPATHY (One’s ability to understand other people’s emotions.  This involved engaging with people according to their emotional reactions.)

SOCIAL SKILL (A person’s ability in managing relationships, building networks, and establishing rapport.)

If I may safely say, managers’ jobs are 80% of the time, management of emotions – theirs and others.  Observe closely. Teams tend to react to their leaders’ moods.  If a manager is pessimistic and depressed, don’t expect the team to behave otherwise. If managers are cheerful and positive, their team will be too (even if being spirited isn’t their natural disposition.)

This is because moods are passed on at the physiological level via an open-loop system that involves cardiovascular functions, sleep rhythms, and immune functions. Bodies involuntarily respond to these signals and all these physical changes combine in an all-embracing emotional experience – which may be good or bad.

Remember that impulsive actions don’t need to be illegal to compromise management.  Going back on your word, uttering an inappropriate joke, or even sleeping with a colleague can affect employees’ respect and confidence.  Self-control is so underrated and yet highly invaluable.

The work culture allows managers as facilitators to exercise both positional and personal power

Managers must be able to exert influence. Influence is a combination of two kinds of power: positional and personal.

Positional is the power that comes with the job description and title (the ability to hire and fire, approve a budget, etc.).  Personal power, on the other hand, refers to social capital (relationships, reputation, informal know-how, trust, and goodwill). For instance, managers’ positional power allows them to secure bonuses for the team. But their personal power enables them to sway team members with little resistance.

While this kind of support may upset other managers of the same rank, (especially where competition is involved), a work culture that allows for influence is beneficial to the organization’s brand and image overall.

Many managers avoid nurturing a network because it reeks of self-promotion and workplace politics.  But professor Linda Hill of the Harvard Business School and co-author Kent Lineback (Being the Boss) write that avoiding the political dynamics altogether can limit effectiveness as a manager.

The relationships you forge allow you to obtain information easily.  We take news from the grapevine with a grain of salt.  But information gathered from trusted colleagues can give us a better understanding of what is going on when nobody seems to be looking.

Circling back to the gardenias … when these diva flowers don’t bloom, we don’t chastise the flower. Instead, we investigate what keeps them from blooming.  The same goes for managers as facilitators.  Develop them and watch your operations bloom through cost savings and productivity improvements.

Copyright, TIGERS Success Series, Inc. by Dianne Crampton

Leading with empathy and support

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