Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Blink, says that “we learn by example and by direct experience because there are real limits to the adequacy of verbal instructions”.
To illustrate this point I would like to carry out an experiment with you. Think back to the time you supervised someone for the first time. It could be recent or many years ago. Honestly, how did that work out for you? I bet that with the responsibilities and added stresses in this new role your default management style was similar to your then or previous supervisor’s management style? So your first management role was either a success or a disaster?
Whether you like it or not, you subconsciously mimic your superior’s behaviour. You follow their lead and depending on how influential or dominant they are, you often fall into the trap of becoming a “mini-me”. An unwritten rule develops that certain behaviours are tolerated within the organisation, whether they are good or bad, and a “that’s how things are managed around here” culture develops. It gets passed on from one manager to another through direct experience and example setting. Incorrect behaviour is justified and made acceptable, just because a superior behaved in that manner.
Remember that you are not just influenced by your direct superiors, but you also influence the people you are suppose to manage, lead and support.
Are you happy with how you are influencing the people who look up to you? If not, how do you break the cycle?
Perhaps consider the following pointers, which will encourage you to become more self-aware:
- First and foremost you need to realise that you are permanently on stage within the working environment. Your conduct is continuously on show for all to see and is being imprinted in the minds of your trusting employees. The behaviour at the coffee station is just as important as the behaviour in the board room.
- Ask yourself these question.
- “If I behave in a certain way, what will the consequences of my actions be?”
- “How would I like to see my supervisor handle this matter?” – Then do that.
- “The behaviour I see in my subordinates, is that my behaviour?” – Stand back and evaluate yourself. Look at improving your own behaviour before trying to change everyone else’s.
- “Does my behaviour reflect my core and aspirational values?”
- “Am I able to recognise the difference between my own behaviour choices vs. previous behavioural influences?”
- As Vikor E. Frankl says in his book Man’s Search for Meaning, “Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom”. Remember that “the space” is your ally use it to your advantage. Think before you act.
- Ask a trusted and respected colleague to provide honest feedback should there be a need for it.
So think before you act or react and always put on a good show!