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Knowing the manager you really are

Paul Glen | Dec. 15, 2016
We all have distorted self-perceptions, but that can be especially harmful in a manager

Personal comfort

The other common touchstone for managers’ self-assessment is their personal comfort level with their approach to the job. “If I remain true to myself, I will be a good manager.” “I treat my staff the way I wanted to be treated when I was in their role, so I am the manager I always wanted.”

Like all people, managers tend to keep doing what works for them. This usually holds true even when they move from their old role to their managerial role. They remain the people they were before and continue the behaviors that made them successful and comfortable in the past.

And overall, that’s not a bad thing. People who always valued honesty and fairness continue to do so. People with a history of treating others with respect don’t abandon their habits. But some accustomed and comfortable behaviors can diminish a manager’s effectiveness.

For example, it isn’t unusual for non-managers in the modern workplace to learn the value of avoiding conflict. You don’t draw a lot of negative attention when you chart narrow paths through tricky situations. But effective managers use conflict strategically. They know when to press issues, where to set behavioral boundaries and how to redirect employees’ attention to important issues. Confronting tensions that might be simmering below the surface can nip a team’s dysfunction in the bud.

Other managers value in themselves their mastery of the work at hand. They might believe that they were chosen for management because their competence outshone all others, but because they see their value as lying in their mastery, they have a hard time delegating to less capable people — and in their minds, everyone is less capable. Managers who feel that their mastery is what makes them successful end up leading teams that can accomplish very little.

Whether you are a new manager or an old hand, it’s important for you to avoid the common traps that lead to misperceptions about your performance. A realistic self-image is the essential starting point for improving your managerial abilities.


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