This is what I think about…leveling up the gaps of managers
When I think about people that managed me I have fond memories and not so fond ones. I really appreciated it when my former managers talked with me about my world and incorporated my ideas in projects. Shout out to Paul Burneko at Close Up Foundation!!!! And then there was the poor manager who shared my work and did not give me credit. So what I believe makes the difference between novice, developing and winning managers fall in the areas of relationship, skills, bias and racism. These are not in a set order. It is a matter of being attuned to which area you need to level up in.
A. Assess Relationships. Managers need to have a clear picture of the relationship with those who report to him/her/they. Perception is not always reality. I learned this principle years ago during a training. Do you know there are 2 meetings? The meeting you have with your report and the 2nd meeting they have with co-workers about your meeting. What can you do to level up? Support your Personal Professional Development (PPD) in learning how to build authentic relationships with people you work with. This could look like 1:1 check ins to learn about interest, shouting out team members for how their work led to the success of a goal, or Instacarting a favorite snack to your team. My teams appreciated when I have lunch delivered just to say thank you, used our meetings to ask about their lives, owning feedback from them and specifically shouting them out every week tied to a core value. At the core is getting to know people and treating them with respect.
B. Consider Skill Will. Managers who have high skill and high will are the absolute best to work with! Yet, managers may miss opportunities to recognized they lack skill or lack will or have an imbalance of both. I appreciated learning about the skill will matrix. This is a tool I used to determine the best approach to coach adults and grow them. If a manager has high will and low skill, then you can model how to do “the responsibility.” On the other hand, if a manager has low will and high skill, then you coach around “the mindset.” For example, when I coached adults with low will I have to get to the root cause. You may have heard things like, “I don’t need help,” “I already know how to do it,” or “I have always done it this way.” How can managers level up in this area? First, ask for feedback “What am I doing well? I would be even better if…” If you cringe at what was said then you need to work around your will. Secondly, look at the data. In these cases, numbers are your best friend because data tells a story about the growth you or your team needs. Ultimately, it is a win for all employees when managers pay attention in their work with others so there is less turnover. And more joy.
C. Work to build out bias. You have to live under a rug if you have not heard of the Implicit Bias Test from Harvard, taken any of the LinkedIn courses or workshops by BIPOC individuals. See the problem with bias is that it is built in us so managers have to work harder to built it out. Why? Because you are leading people. Bias is a tendency to believe that some people, ideas, etc., are better than others, which often results in treating some people unfairly. Employees build perceptions about managers-positive or negative. And, this is the gap. Bias can have you leaning in towards something or leaning against something. Managers don’t always realize bias when it’s happening live. Here is an example: I love my city of Houston so if someone is from Houston I automatically lean in towards the person or their idea. But is my bias in the best interest of the company or organization? Since I know this I work to interrupt it. It also shows up when managers listen to ideas of 1 report versus another because of favorite bias, hiring a identifying person (she/her) as a culture add to the team versus a person with pronouns (they/them) because of gender bias, and so on and so on. The reason this is a problem because employees or reports may or may not feel comfortable calling it out. I have heard so many times, “I need to keep my job” so they don’t call out the behavior. They should not have to.
D. Dig to interrupt racism. Bias and racism are not synonymous words. It appears as though people are more comfortable using the term bias because it’s not as uncomfortable as saying racism. In order to have a true conversation, we know the meanings of words are important. APA defines racism as “a system of structuring opportunity and assigning value based on physical properties such as skin color and hair texture. This “system” unfairly disadvantages some individuals and groups and damages their health and mental health.” I would add wealth health. Over the years I have heard and seen firsthand managers say, “Don’t talk about race,” preventing employees from having conversations about race with each other and the infamous microaggressions, microinsults, microinvalidations and environmental microaggressions. Yes, I have evidence in my own professional life. How can managers level up? Audit your personal history with race, walk back to ways you have perpetuated or ignored racism, engage in race conversations to learn and embed self assessment for self. You will be glad you did. And your reports will respect you for doing so.
I fully believe every work environment should be a place where there is joy, people like the work they do, enjoy people they work with and managers who lead well. This is what makes people want to stay and meet the vision. I am LaTonya Davis and I shift people with good intent to exceptional impact through speaking, consulting and training. Follow me on IG @K12TonyaDavis, LinkedIn or here.