by Mark Solomons, managing partner
Following a recent experience I thought I would ask if you all know or have worked with an ‘I’ manager? You know the one – you read their CV or LinkedIn profile and see all their amazing achievements and these are predominated with ‘I’. “I took the business from £10million to £50million turnover in 2 years! I was the only person to…! I built a new business from scratch!”
Then when you meet them they talk in the same terms and when they meet you or even potential customers they present their view or way of doing things and never ask about your agenda or think about how to create opportunities that bring benefits for everyone – they just need to be in control and generate wins for themselves. You would think that they have never had a team around them or had others support them on their journey.
When they arrive at a new place they don’t hang about and talk to people first – they take immediate action and most importantly they implement all but the basic tasks themselves – not understanding or trusting others to play their part. They quite simply take over and have to be involved in everything. They usually have high levels of drive, one of the two key ingredients for good leaders, yet lack humility, which I believe is the other key ingredient (okay Jim Robins also talked about this first in his book ‘Good to Great’ and you will see other references from this excellent book too).
Or perhaps you know the other type of ‘I’ manager? The subtle one that says they are inclusive, that asks questions, that professes humility, that involves others…and yet at the same time they want things done their way and take action behind the scenes to ensure they get what they want. These are harder to spot at first, though over time it becomes easy to see.
Both these ‘I’ managers look in the mirror when things go well, and like to take credit and be in the limelight, yet when things don’t go so well they look out of the window to find people or other things to blame. “It’s the market or the sales team…!” They never consider it might be them! By the way truly great leaders do the opposite…when things are good they look out of the window and acknowledge and praise the support of others and/or conditions and when things get sticky they look in the mirror and take responsibility.
If you have ever worked with or for an ‘I’ manager you will find that the good things you achieve are often overlooked, while the small number of mistakes you make are accentuated and amplified to make you look bad…or indeed they go out of their way to find or create mistakes you have made that don’t exist, often through asking very leading questions.
They look for ulterior motives and assume that you are often out to get one over on them or take advantage of some opportunity. No matter how innocent or supportive your actions or how much a team player, they look to find different reasons behind your actions. Why? Because they project their values on to you and as this is what they would have done, it must be what you are doing.
And the saddest part is that these leaders are usually highly capable and intelligent and despite their actions often successful to some level. Yet imagine what they would achieve if they were able to change their behaviours and become collaborative and inclusive leaders, able to harness the power of those they work with? The challenge for most is they don’t recognise themselves and tell themselves a different story…one they have come to believe after telling it for many years.
As all change starts with self-awareness it is unlikely they will seek to change without a catalyst or a push.
So if you lead or recognise managers like this start coaching them and if you are unlucky enough to work with or be lead by one then there may be ways you can support them to change. That’s for another day and another post. In the meantime if you have thoughts and suggestions I would love to hear them.