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The Risks of Misreading your Team

Usually, articles are written about how the employee wants to improve, wants to develop, and the manager is standing in his way or not helping him enough to develop.

There are cases however when the manager actually wants to promote his or her team. The manager does his or her best to give his team exposure and is the ‘wind beneath their wings’, taking responsibility for their mistakes and giving them credit for their efforts by creating a ‘mistake acceptance culture’ which as Renee Braun says is highly conducive to growth.

However there is a fallacy behind this – it assumes the employee has ambitions, is willing to work hard, commit, and eventually take responsibility. This is not necessarily true but in my career I have never seen an employee admit this to his or her boss. I have never heard of someone saying openly ‘thank you for this opportunity but I am really not up for this’ or ‘thank you but I am very happy with my current position’. Instead there is always an overreach stated in Annual Reviews and in very few cases have I seen employees ask for lateral positions – its almost always up.

The risk is that the Manager (who is not always the bad guy) may actually have more ambitions and higher targets for the employee than the employee himself. I have a couple of cases which have surprised me :

· CASE 1

o 45 year old employee complains incessantly about salary, about being on the road 20 days a month, etc etc. He / She gets promoted to a managerial position, leading two people, receives significant salary adjustment and better car. The new position doesn’t require any travel and is mostly office based. The employee realises the ‘freedom’of being on the road, suddenly understands that the people in the office are not ‘just hanging out’ and in fact appreciates that for the first time he now ‘takes work home’… result : resigns 2 months later, finding a job exactly like the one he didn’t want in the first place.

· CASE 2

o Employee feels his boss takes all the credit whilst he does the hard work.. feels he/she has no exposure. Manager decides to turn the tables around.. at Management Reviews each Supervisor is required to do his own presentation, present his work, his aptitude, and his successes to higher management. Not so easy really.. suddenly employee understands what Management reviews are, how every number is scrutinised, how everything needs to be defended..its not just about glamour finally, its about results. Exposure has a price : you need to prepare, know your facts, defend your decisions, admit your failure, and accept scrutiny even for your successes. Next time ‘maybe you can do my presentation ?’

So Management is a strange thing – empowering is not always easy, and understanding what your team wants is not necessarily what you think they want, or indeed, what you want.

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