This post is the first in a series of posts I hope to do , sharing some of the good and bad manager experiences I have had over the years. I’ve had the pleasure of working with some fantastic leaders who have been paramount in my success. But recently I’ve also come to appreciate how the bad Managers I have worked for also taught me a lot and could also be credited for some serious growth I’ve made in business. That said, working for these Managers was not fun, it was frustrating, de-motivating and hard. I found myself often wishing that my circumstances were different (why did I have to deal with this crappy manager when other people had great managers and seemed to be going onto better things) and crying in the toilets was not unusual for me (I know, not good form, but sometimes you just have to let it out)
Teflon is great for pans but terrible for managers.
When I look back, one of the most significant manager stories comes from several years working under a leader whom we nicknamed “Teflon”. She earnt this name because nothing would “stick” to her. She delegated with such success that she literally did nothing herself. When I approached her with challenges in my team she would simply say “what do you think needs to happen” and when I was at a loss, she just left me to figure it out. When I did create solutions which needed her support, she failed to support them across the leadership teams and many projects fell to nothing under her leadership. Not only that but she was dis-engaged and disconnected from what was happening in our business, she was literally absent from the office a lot and would not return phone calls or emails.
I was managing a team of my own at the time, through times of change and pressure. They expected my action and delivery, yet I felt stunted and unable to drive the things required. I just wanted to curl into a ball and give up.
Bring in the cavalry…
But I wasn’t willing to give up…just yet… So I started talking to the other managers in our team and I soon realised I wasn’t the only one in this situation, all my colleagues under the same leader were suffering the same challenges and frustrations. So we united, we collaborated and we promised to support each other. We set up regular meetings across our manager team (yep, without our leader, I’m sure we probably invited her but …surprise…she didn’t come). We talked about our challenges and helped each other figure them out. We started to understand each persons unique expertise and were able to call on different team members to help with certain issues. We made strategies, plans and we implemented them successfully by working around our leader.
And we laughed…oh how we laughed…
In coming together as a team, we started to feel like “we got this” and our perspective on the situation started to change. We were able to laugh at the circumstances and find humour in the challenges we faced.
Those were some of the toughest years in my career and yet I still look back at them as also some of the best years of my career. I learnt so much from those around me, I was forced to grow tremendously as a leader and became far more self sufficient. And now, in the new age of social technologies, I realise that many of the skills we used, around collaboration, sharing of expertise across silo’s and not relying on heirachy, are becoming the new way of working and my previous experience has opened me up to see the possibilities it holds.
So, thank you “Teflon” for forcing me to look deeper and in doing so, working with some of the most amazing people I have been able to learn from and helping shape the person that I have become today.
What strengths does your current Manager bring out in you? what can you learn from your experience …even if that experience may not feel ideal today?