Do you know how to manage yourself?

It is a fact that people in every type of community want the same things. They try to avoid the bottom of the hierarchy and they try to gain the strength and the insights to lead. That doesn’t mean that they can do it, or that they are able to. But whatever the case, the thing is that people tend to sabotage themselves and they are holding themselves back.

So we are talking about people with the tendency to lead or to manage and it seems that whatever the community or sector or team, the problems seems to be the same. So what makes people hold back? I have my personal experience, but there was an analysis at HBR that made this clearer.

Overemphasizing Personal Goals

True leaders make other people better so they can achieve their own goals. But that doesn’t mean that leaders don’t have an agenda or they don’t have personal goals. But that’s the point. If you want to lead, “get over yourself and make another person or an entire team better. When you do that, then you can go back for the skills and resources to pull it off.”(1)

My experience: When I became IT Manager (before advancing to CIO), what I did was to be an example to the team. I lead them in a way that the company realized the high value of work that each one individual in the IT department was offering to the company. I helped my peers to achieve their best level, even when I wasn’t there.

What to ask:

Do I spend most of my time as a manager thinking about what other people in the organization need to succeed?

Does the “best version” of my employees show up in my presence?

Does their best version endure in my absence?

Protecting Your Public Image

This point is more obvious. People who lead tend to give much attention to their public image and that’s distracting. Whatever you do needs energy and you need to put that energy to the real work of leadership and now on how it makes you look. At some point in their leadership trajectory, ambitious people must choose between image and impact, between looking powerful and empowering others. They must choose, in effect, between impersonating a lead and being one.

My experience: When I was a junior Systems and Network engineer I was so unexperienced that many silly mistakes came on my way. Even though I did my job perfectly I couldn’t defend myself against bad-mannered colleagues. My then manager never defended me, even when he new I did everything right. He was always checking his image and his public relations with other managers. When it became the manager, I had to look bad in some occasions in order to protect my team. I had to go against people from other departments in order to showcase that MY people did the best work possible. I always took under consideration my team’s ideas and opinions and that’s why I was praised so many times for the way I kept my team working.

What to ask:

Do I ever stop monitoring myself and simply do my job?

Have I been willing to “look bad” in the service of my team or organization?

Do I explicitly model the attitudes and behaviors I want others in my organization to adopt?

Turning Competitors into Enemies

In a business environment it’s not unusual to have competitors. But turning a competitor into an enemy just because you don’t get along, makes it a toxic behavior. Find the time to get to know those people and you might find great collaborators on the way. So, take a look at how you interact with colleagues whose agendas seem opposed to your own. Recognize that these colleagues are real people who may even become your allies.

My Experience: Couple years back a new Sales Manager join the company I worked for. She was to lead all sales departments and she wanted to prove herself as one of the best in the market. Her actions made me dislike her after a month. She was bossing everyone around and she was giving me orders, thinking that she could. She also started presenting as her own ideas, things that me and my team proposed and developed. You could say that she made my life difficult, but I didn’t let it that way. One day the company took us on a trip where me and her sat next to each other. Till we get there I realized why she acts like this and we managed to plan a way to work better together. I made her my ally, even though she did kept trying to take all the credits in many occasions.

What to ask:

Is it rare for me to feel defensive, insecure, or judgmental?

If it rare for people to feel defensive, insecure, or judgmental around me?

Is my environment generally free of people I can’t stand to be around?

Going it Alone

Being a leader is an unsafe job and that is the reason that many managers opt out of leadership. Many people doesn’t have people around them that can advise them wisely. The think is to create your own team of people you trust, either they are family members, friends, mentors, old teachers or whatever, as long as you trust them and your judgement. Try to have a regular meeting with all of them and share your problems. A core team like that will give you the boost you need to get through difficult situations.

My Experience: When I started my career I had no one that I could discuss and take advice from. My family and friends had no clue how they could help me take better decisions and how I could overcome some problems. They couldn’t share my insecurities at the time. But later on I created my core team. I became an IT Manager and then a Chief Information Officer because my core team boost my morale and helped me decide what is best for my career. Till now, I have some specific people that I share my thoughts and my considerations and they know me well. You can’t achieve that level of leadership on your own.

What to ask:

Do I have a core group of people who help me make important decisions?

Do I have people around me who can handle both my audacity and my insecurities?

Do the most important people in my life participate in my leadership dreams?

Waiting for Permission

Leaders just act. People who know what they want in life don’t wait any authority to give them permission to act. Management loves people that take initiative, whatever the risk, and try to do what they think right. There are so many examples around you in everyday life that embrace that.

My Experience: When I started Hood Groove Management, many people told me that I it was a stupid and a childish idea. Even people I know that work for big organizations found it a stupid idea. Four years later NIKE, Red Bull, Heineken, TEDx, FILA, Cosmote, WIND, the Olympic Games Committee and many other global brands think otherwise.

What to ask:

Is it possible to make a difference from my current position?

Do I have control over when I’ll be able to have a meaningful impact?

Could I become a leader before other people see me as one?

1) Harvard Business Review –
| JANUARY – FEBRUARY 2011 – Managing Yourself: Stop Holding Yourself Back

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