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What You Thought About Leading a Team is Wrong

This article was based on episode 207 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Amazon, and Stitcher. Get 20% off Deploy Yourself, a 6-month group coaching program for leaders starting July 15 and September 15, 2022. This program will help you create better results in less time, build strong relationships, and find meaning and joy. Get this discount when you become a member at themodernmanager.com/join.


How many books on leadership have you read? How many podcasts have you listened to? The advice on how to be an effective manager is seemingly endless, and yet, so many of us still struggle. One reason is because what we often believe to be true about good leadership turns out to be false. In many cases, it’s actually the exact opposite.


Sumit Gupta joins me to walk us through four (of the seven) common management paradoxes that confuse the average manager. Sumit is an engineer, entrepreneur, and leader in companies like Yahoo and booking.com, as well as a photographer and poet. He helps leaders merge the science of doing business with the art of leadership. If we can change our perspective on what works, we can fundamentally alter our entire management game.


FOUR MANAGEMENT PARADOXES


1. Build Trust By Trusting First


We’re used to a system in which we expect our colleagues to prove themselves as competent and successful before we trust their abilities. By doing this, we start off on the wrong foot. To build psychological safety, we need to start by fully trusting our team member’s intentions and skills. By trusting first, we reap the rewards of employees that feel empowered to get the work done.


Along that vein, leaders need to trust themselves. Unless you trust yourself to be successful and to make your team successful, it's impossible to extend that trust to others. This might feel like inviting chaos, but it’s not, as long as you set up the right structure. Don’t ignore any concerns you might have. Rather, trusting first means you’re transparent and open about any worries so they can be addressed up front.


It’s up to the leader to set clear expectations, values, and direction so that the team has a clear structure to follow. Then, give people the space to use their best judgment moving forward from the blueprint you set out for them.


2. Fear Is Your Friend


It’s common for fear to stop people from moving forward or achieving results. What’s worse, we pile guilt on top of that fear. We’re embarrassed or feel bad that we’re afraid. Instead of seeing fear as the enemy, we can embrace fear as an important feeling that is trying to tell us something.


According to Sumit, fear indicates when something feels like it's beyond the edge of our skills. It alerts us to the boundaries of our ability and competence. It’s natural to feel uncertain and afraid when doing something we haven’t done before. If we can recognize the reason behind the fear, we can take baby steps towards building our skills rather than shutting down and running away from a challenging situation. This allows us to grow and acquire new experiences.


Fear is also an indication that we are on the right track. It’s a message about what’s important to us. We only get afraid about things that matter. If we let fear be our friend and listen to it, we learn what we care about and what skills we need to stretch in order to feel safe moving forward.


3. Leadership Is A Different Kind Of Power


Leadership is never about the title. It’s about the result. Power isn’t about who has the authority/superiority/decision making control. It’s about creating a team that looks to you for guidance because they trust you. This is because real power is earned, not bestowed.


People want to follow leaders who think about the communal good and who deliver results. They want to be part of a winning team where they feel respected. Once you’ve gotten the respect of your colleagues, you must continue to harness it for the collective good or you’ll quickly lose it. Effective managers figure out how to use their power to benefit everyone and work together to achieve collective goals.


To build this type of power, ask yourself, “What is the next best step to take?” This could involve talking to your team or your superiors about an issue, and considering what actions would benefit the larger interests of the group. Even if you can’t control everything, you always have the power to consider the next best step to take on behalf of your team.


4. You’re In Charge, Not In Control


Similarly to power, being in a management role does not give you the authority to force people into submission. We can’t make people change their behavior or deliver better results. No matter how much we dangle rewards or punishments, inner change is a personal decision. We may be able to force compliance, but we cannot force creativity, openness, or trust.


People don’t like feeling forced into a corner of any kind. When we aggressively push our people, they push back. The best thing we can do is to create conditions for others to want to change. Lead by example. Show up in a way that inspires your team to follow your lead. Give them space to make their own decisions.


Be sure to also give your team opportunities to add their own perspective into the conversation. Our team members need to feel their own power and autonomy in the workplace. Plus, together you can build something even better.


When we change how we understand power, trust, control, and fear, we change how we interact with our teams. We learn that our teams listen to us when we listen to them. We achieve power and success when we are focused on the greater good. We stop wasting time trying to manipulate our colleagues’ behavior and spend more energy being our best selves and inspiring others. We listen to what fear is trying to tell us rather than covering up our emotions. If leadership is a full contact sport that includes the mind, body and heart, we need to understand the real rules of the game. When we do, everyone wins.


KEEP UP WITH SUMIT


Get 20% off Deploy Yourself, a 6-month group coaching program for leaders starting July 15 and September 15, 2022. This program will help you create better results in less time, build strong relationships, and find meaning and joy. Get this discount when you become a member at themodernmanager.com/join. Purchase an individual episode guide at themodernmanager.com/shop to help you implement the learnings and continue to enhance your rockstar manager skills.


This article was based on episode 207 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Amazon, and Stitcher. Never miss a worksheet, episode or article: subscribe to Mamie’s newsletter.

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