Do you understand your true relationship with the people that work
for you? If you are a manager of others, you are given power simply by
having the title of manager next to your name. This title comes with
great responsibility. Dr. Paul Hersey wrote in “The Situational Leader” that,
“Power is influence potential. Power is the resource that enables a leader
to gain compliance or commitment from others.” Earlier in my career, I
knew people “had” to listen to me because they reported to me, so I took
advantage of it. I wasn’t cocky or arrogant. I took advantage of what I
thought were my responsibilities to provide feedback and make people
better. The feedback pointed toward me at times was that I was often too
direct and to the point. My intent was never to belittle, but to make my
people better. I had not established a solid enough foundational relationship to be this direct. I was learning to be a manager, but I was not learning to be a leader.
I once walked into a new hire classroom and was asked a business-related
question. My answer contradicted the trainer, who was not in the
room. I instantly blurted out that she was wrong. The shocked looks on
the newly hired employees said all that needed to be said. A so-called
titled manager of this company had just taken away the respect that
the trainer had been working so hard to gain. There were better ways
to handle that situation. I could have said, “Let me check on that and
get back to you,” and discussed it with the trainer. Regardless of the final
“right” answer, we both were in positions of authority in the eyes of the
employees, and I abused my power and potentially adversely impacted
the credibility of both myself and the trainer. I may have also left a lasting
impression on the new employees’ opinions about their decision to stay
with the company. They may have asked themselves if all managers were
Some people feared me. I grew to realize the fear wasn’t because they
would get yelled at. I made people feel badly for not performing at a level
I thought they should be. I did not account for their individual circumstances, such as tenure, experience, and confidence. I would push everyone the same way, with the same intensity. This method worked for a few people, but not for most employees. I followed policies to the letter of the law, and people did not see me as someone who would listen to all sides. I was their manager and not their leader. One day, I placed someone on corrective action for a customer situation. I based it on the side of the story I heard from others.
When the person chose to supersede my authority and went to see my
manager, I was upset that he had gone over my head. He told a completely
different story from my interpretation. What I learned was that I thought
I knew all of the answers, knew the policy, and had the authority to make
the corrective-action decision. I soon found out I was missing facts and
needed to listen more. When the situation settled down, I realized that
I could have supported the employee by listening to his side prior to
making any decisions. We all would have been better off. My manager
gave me simple feedback that stuck with me: “You need to be sensitive to
the power of your position.” That day, I put a note on my desk that read,
“P.O.P” to remind me every day of the power of my position.
Managers and leaders must decide how to effectively use the authority
given to them when they start managing people. There are times when
managers must make tough decisions to use their authority and position.
However, everything is not about reprimanding. There are positive uses
of authority, such as issuing rewards and recognition. What’s important
is the person in the position of power understands and assesses each situation as being unique.
A manager also may have the power of having more information
at his or her fingertips than people may want or need. Managers have
natural power that comes with the title and how they wield it becomes
important in the eyes or their employees. Sometimes, I might just need
the person to listen to me. If there is a fire in the building, that may not be
the best time for a group discussion. However, I weighed too heavily in
the past on this type of management style as a way to send my messages
to employees about what to do, as opposed to them learning on their own
or coming up the learning curve at their own pace. I had to understand
how to adapt my style based on what was required at the time for the person, the situation, and me. This learning moment was critical to my own
development, for my effectiveness as a leader, and for the earned respect
of the people who worked for me.
Every move a manager makes is watched. As a manager, you are on
stage whether you like it or not. You may not always be respected, but
people feel the requirement to listen to you due to a fear of losing their
job, repercussions to their job or responsibilities, or impacts to their compensation.
You have the power of your position and must be careful in how this power is exercised. What kind of reputation do you have? I didn’t know my reputation except for what was coming to me through focus groups and some feedback from my managers. I wish I had listened—I mean truly listened—because they were always accurate. Do you want respect because of the title, or do you want respect because of the work you and your team are able to accomplish? The power to move the business and gain the respect of the people around you is greater when that respect is earned and put to good use. We should make the effort to make the most of the influence we are given.
Thomas B. Dowd III’s books The Transformation of a Doubting Thomas: Growing from a Cynic to a Professional in the Corporate World (Honorable Mention at the 2012 New England Book Festival) and From Fear to Success: A Practical Public-speaking Guide (2013 Axiom Business Book Awards Gold Medal Winner and 2013 Paris Book Festival Honorable Mention). Audiobook version of “From Fear to Success” is also available! See “Products” for details on www.transformationtom.com. Book and eBook purchase options are also available on Amazon- Please click the link to be re-directed: Amazon.com
MP3 Downloads of “From Fear to Success: A Practical Public-speaking Guide” are available at Apple iTunes, Amazon, Rhapsody, Emusic, Nokia, Xbox Music, Spotify, Omnifone, Google Music Store, Rdio, Muve Music, Bloom.fm, Slacker Radio, MediaNet, 7digital, 24-7, Rumblefish, and Shazam “From Fear to Success” MP3 on CD Baby