My first management experience was a disaster. I had a poor manager myself and was told to “be in charge” of a group of my peers, who did not report to me and had no particular reason to do what I told them to do. It turned into a backstabbing circus within hours.
What I learned from that experience is that “management” comes in all forms and that reporting relationships are only one of many dimensions that matter when it comes to getting things done and building a professional reputation.
Over the years, and working with professionals in many professions and at levels I have come to understand that the very term “managing” can be misleading if we assume that it has much to do with “control.” Sometimes we do control resources, budgets, job descriptions and other assets, but we never control people.
What we do control is ourselves.
So managing people, below us, alongside us and above us, is strictly a function of developing a relationship with them through which we can influence their actions in the direction of our own – and preferably our combined – objectives.
Easier said than done, especially when they believe they are in competition with us. And maybe they are.
Here are a few lessons I’ve learned and taught my clients that seem to work about managing people all around:
Staff – Know what’s important to them, and help them get it.
Peers – Know what’s important to them, and help them get it.
Superiors – Know what’s important to them, and help them get it.
See any patterns?
There are plenty of reasons you might not want to put your energy into helping other people get what they want, but whenever you can align your interests with theirs – and make sure they know you’re aligned – you will have more influence and ability to “manage” them.
With respect to superiors and bosses, there is one other dimension that I think matters, which is the ability to gain a level of trust. The boss needs to believe and know you’re really on his or her team. How can you do this? What can you do when s/he perceives you as competitive? This is exactly the kind of thing we talk about over at the InPower Coffee Break. Come join the discussion!