Management Contradictions

Learn about major contradictions managers encounter on a daily basis and offers suggestions for finding the right leadership balance.

Early in my career, I made a number of mistakes as I was learning how to manage people. While learning from your own mistakes is sometimes the best way to develop, when I advanced in my career to the point that I had newly appointed managers working for me, I tried to assist them in avoiding some of the same mistakes that I made.

Over time, I came to recognize the constant contradictions that you need to balance in order to be a successful manager. I started primarily sharing these realizations with new managers, but have come to recognize that these concepts apply regardless of your experience level.

Management is great (except for the people)

A successful manager needs to recognize that your people are what make you a manager, not just the title. Your people can give you great joy, but can also give you your greatest headaches, as your well-planned day can be thrown askew by an unexpected resignation, performance issue and/or difficult personal situation.

Be friendly with your employees (but not their best friend)

It’s extremely important to establish and maintain a positive relationship with your employees, but true friendship makes addressing difficult situations that much harder and could lead to signs of favoritism. It’s important to attempt to understand each person’s personal situation so that you can respond to their needs accordingly. Regularly sharing personal Facebook updates with your team might not be the most appropriate thing.

Recognize that you can be a colossal failure

But don’t let anyone else know you ever think this

Managers need to maintain a type of controlled paranoia. You need to always think about what might go wrong in order to avoid as many negative situations as possible, but you can’t portray a continually negative attitude/outlook to your team without risking low morale.

Meet all of your commitments

but don’t overcommit

Maintaining your personal integrity/credibility with your managers and team members is critical to your long-term success.  It is imperative to develop a tracking method for commitments you and individuals on your team make and develop a process to ensure these commitments can be met. Even more important, you need to ensure that the work is distributed appropriately amongst your team and that you don’t put all the “monkeys” on your back simply because you feel/know that you could handle something better yourself.

The One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey” is a great quick read for any new manager to better understand this concept.

Train your replacement

While this doesn’t follow the wording of the others, this is often the most important aspect for someone looking to continue to advance in their career. If you’re afraid of having someone on your team who might eventually be able to do your job, then you’re most likely ensuring that you’ll be unable to move into another role. A true leader needs to be comfortable enough with their own skills that they bring along someone else to eventually replace them, allowing the current manager/leader to move on to bigger and better things. My personal experience was often one where I would still maintain ownership of my existing team (while still providing guidance to the new manager), while simultaneously taking on responsibilities for other teams/functions.

Overall, it’s important to recognize the contradictions that you will encounter on a daily basis as a manager, and continually strive to find the right balance.