Stephen is a very busy manager in the corporate world. He cares about his team and his family and friends. But he’s feeling frustrated at the moment because all he really wants to do is deliver on his KPIs and do a good job. But he’s constantly held back by a shortage of time, workload and not getting what he needs from his team in terms of productivity and autonomy.
He feels like he’s constantly running to stay still or even going backwards. He’s also worried that he’s so stressed that he’s going to burn out or get ill or that he might lose his job if he can’t cope.
He has a great team but gets frustrated with them. They often seem too dependent on him and don’t use their initiative enough but he thinks this might be partly because he doesn’t delegate to them properly. Or maybe he doesn’t really understand what they need, especially the younger generation. They’re not really like him when he was their age, they need different things but he hasn’t yet worked out what. He knows many of them are also struggling to get things done. He and his team regularly drop plates or miss deadlines. He worries that some of them put in very long hours, just like he does, and he doesn’t want them to end up as a stressed as he is.
Stephen told me that what he wants more than anything is to be a good manager so that he can achieve his goals and lead a happy team. He wants to spend more time with his children, do things with them at the weekends instead of being tired. He wants to feel healthier and less stressed. He likes his job and doesn’t want to leave but his stress levels are on the way to being dangerously high – or maybe they are already. He came to me because he wants to get some control over his working life. He want to help his team to perform better so that he can be less hands on and work more on attracting and developing clients.
Do you recognise yourself in Stephen?
The workplace is changing rapidly, with employees expecting more flexibility and many geographically dispersed, often transient teams. This puts a lot of pressure on managers like Stephen. Supporting team members that you don’t see regularly can be difficult. It requires a high level of interpersonal skills and trust in your staff. It means letting go of the old ‘command and control’ type of management and adopting more of a coaching approach which can be tricky and challenging for some people.
What did I tell Stephen?
Start with yourself. If you can’t manage yourself, you can’t manage anyone else. So, if you are in a position of trust or leadership you need to be aware of what you are ‘transmitting’, the signals we all send out all the time – how you are coming across to others.
I encouraged Stephen to begin by developing his emotional intelligence, and to encourage this in his team. This will help to build stronger more trusting and effective relationships. The self-awareness and self-management that comes with high emotional intelligence also helps when it comes to resilience and stress management. It brings clarity and awareness so that he can change unhelpful behaviours that get in the way of him being the inspiring leader he wants to be.
Emotional intelligence is a set of skills that helps us to understand and manage ourselves more effectively. Daniel Goleman, who brought emotional intelligence into the common consciousness, defines it as a set of skills including self-awareness, self-management, relationship management and social awareness. In my emotional intelligence workshops, or when I am coaching someone one to one, I encourage them to start with self-awareness as I think this is the fundamental skill.
Being more self-aware means recognising what we are feeling and thinking and becoming familiar with how this affects our actions. After all, we can’t change what we don’t know.
Following this we looked at other management skills, for example, does he give feedback in a way that the younger employees, the Generation Ys, relate and respond to? Is he aware of the drivers and expectations of the younger generation? How effective is his time and energy management? What other ‘stuff’ gets in the way of him and his team performing at their very best?
With the self-awareness and insight Stephen gained from the emotional intelligence exercises he found it easier to look at how he had been managing himself and his team. This meant that he could identify areas where he could make some changes that would make life a whole lot easier for him and his people – and get more done.
The way we work, who we work with and how we do it is changing all the time – do you have the skills you need to keep up?
I help very stressed, very busy managers and their teams to perform better under pressure so that they are more productive, effective and happier in work. By underpinning my work with emotional intelligence I enable clients to experience a real shift in mind-set and behaviours for more positive outcomes.