Would you prefer your people to like or respect you?
Contrary to the opinios of some team members, managers are people too! Which means that managers want to fit in, get on with other people and feel that they are liked just like anyone else in the workplace.
Of course, this can create a real dilemna for managers because many of the things they need to do have the potential to make people unhappy with them. Often managers feel they have to choose between the leadership qualities that will make the team happy and those that will get the job done.
Would you prefer your people to like or respect you (transcript)
What kind of manager are you? Are you the kind that would prefer to be liked or the kind that would prefer to be respected? My name is Simon Thiessen, I’m the CEO of the Real Learning Experience. In this short video, I plan to share with you some tips that might help you avoid having to make that choice.
I should start by emphasising that there is no guarantee that you’ll get either of these. You may not be liked or respected, depending upon your leadership style.
The difference between like and respect
However, given the choice, many managers decide they want their people to like them. The problem is that being liked without being respected can be incredibly superficial. That kind of like can be very fleeting and can last as long as you keep your people happy.
Respect on the other hand almost always leads to being liked at some level. Now, it may not be the ‘best buddy’ kind of like; it may mean that you’re not in on things like everyone else is: the team gossip, the team discussions. However, being respected is far more enduring and far more real.
Let’s deal with the one to do with the team first. Have you noticed that when you’re trying to assert yourself, when you behave as a manager, there’s a temptation for some people in the team who are used to you being a colleague to suggest that you’re ‘getting too big for your boots’, ‘the position’s gone to your head’, etc?
What they are really trying to do is bring you back down. They’re uncomfortable with the structures you’re putting in place, with the fact that you’re holding them accountable. That doesn’t mean that you’re doing the wrong thing.
Now let’s talk about the two reasons this is difficult from your perspective. And the first of them is that you’ve actually spent a lot of time learning habits and skills that you now need to unlearn; specifically you’ve learned really strong skills in fitting in, in being one of the team. You now need to change strategies a bit. Instead of trying to be one of the team, you have got to lead the team. Sometimes that means setting yourself apart from the team.
The second reason is that you’re used to being in on things. All those little discussions, all the gossip, all the jokes in the team you used to be part of. And potentially as a leader and particularly if you’re a leader that’s trying to be respected rather than to be liked you might find that you’re not in on things as much as you’ve used to be.
Don't over correct and become a tyrant
I am going to share 7 quick tips with you that will help you be a leader that’s respected and not just liked. The first of these is based on you having emerged from the team to lead the team. It’s a difficult transition and some leaders, some managers, particularly first time mangers are tempted to over-correct. They go from being one of the team to being a dictator of the team.
If you feel tempted to take that really dominating approach, it’s often based on a lack of confidence, on some insecurities about this transition you’re making from being a team member.
Very often, managers in this position tell us that they’re concerned that their team won’t respect them. What we can guarantee is taking a dictatorial, taking an overly directive style is not the way to win their respect.
There are many other strategies, there are many other leadership styles you can use that will help. But whatever approach you use, you’ve got to retain that camaraderie that you had with the team. Of course, when we say “camaraderie” we don’t mean being their best buddy. We don’t mean always pleasing them.
It's not a popularity contest
That leads us to the second strategy, which is all about doing the right thing, not the easy thing. Sometimes, you’ll obviously need to say no to your people. Sometimes, you are going to need to do something that won’t be popular. Leadership is not a popularity contest. Leadership’s all about doing what you need to do, regardless of the fact that it will temporarily displease some people.
Make them appropriately unhappy
That links very closely with our third tip. Our third tip is: don’t avoid the difficult conversations. The most difficult conversations are those that you have to have with people you are close to about performance that isn’t acceptable. These can be really, really challenging but it is a true test of whether you want to be respected or liked as a leader.
Some years ago I saw a parenting expert, Steve Biddulph, talk about raising boys and something he said in that presentation really stuck with me because I believe it applies equally to leadership as it does to parenting. His comment was that as a parent, your job is to make your children appropriately unhappy two or three times a day.
While he may have said that slightly ‘tongue in cheek’, the message is clear: if you’re always telling people what they want to hear, if you’re always keeping them happy, then you’re probably not holding the appropriate line, you’re not building discipline and accountability.
Be prepared to tell your people things they don’t want to hear but do it respectfully. Either avoiding those conversations or handling them badly will lead to a reduction in respect.
Don't play favourites
My fourth tip is whatever you do, don’t play favourites. Many years ago, I worked for a sales manager who had favourites in the team. It was clear, it was well-known that those were the people he had lunch with each day, that those were the people he gave favourable treatment to.
Ironically, neither those people nor the rest of us had any respect for this manager. We realised that he was making decisions based on that favouritism and not based on what was appropriate, what was right, what was effective or what was likely to produce productive outcomes.
Of course, it’s inevitable that you will end up leading some people that you like more than others. That’s just human nature. However, a great philosophy for you to adopt as a leader is that all of your people are equal, but different.
The way this concept of equal but different might play out....it could be, for example, with one staff member who needs a bit of flexibility with their arrival time because of family circumstances. You may not give the same flexibility to another person, but you may cut them some slack in another area.
Involve the team in making the transition
The fifth strategy is probably again one for people who have emerged from the team to lead the team, and it’s all about communicating the difficulty that you’re having.
You can bet that if this transition is difficult for you, it’s difficult for the people that used to work alongside you.
I suggest that you sit down and have an open, honest conversation with them about the transition, about the challenges that both sides are experiencing and about potential ways to move past them.
Be consistent - no 'flip flopping'
The sixth thing to work on is all about consistency: consistency in your fairness, consistency in temperament and consistency in your decisions.
Going back temperament for a moment...Are your people coming to see you wondering which you they’re going to discover that day or are they fairly confident that whenever they approach you they’re going to get a similar sort of response?
Looking at the consistency of decisions, this is about not ‘flip-flopping around’, about not giving people answers they want rather than the answers that are right.
The challenge you have if you get into that pattern is you’ll give one person an answer to keep them happy, you’ll give another person a completely different answer to keep them happy and that comes across as weak and wishy-washy.
Stick to your guns
Our seventh strategy is all around sticking to your guns. This doesn’t mean being bloody minded. This doesn’t mean refusing to accept ideas, options, suggestions, etc, but it does mean making decisions that you feel are right, that you’ve made with your best intentions and on the best available evidence and then sticking to those decisions rather than changing them too easily, again, simply to please people.
If you apply the seven strategies we’ve talked about in this short video, I’m confident that you’ll be a leader who’s both respected and liked.
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