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Beware the Power of Perception!

As managers, we have a variety of things coming at us in the run of a day. We have deliverables (product, strategy, etc.) that must be accomplished. We also have to deal with all the other ‘stuff’ that comes along – vendors, phone calls, impromptu meetings, boss’ urgent requests, etc. All in all, our working day can end up going by pretty fast.PerceptionIt is important though that we keep in mind our single most important duty, or core function, as managers. That is, to manage our people. Just as we have deliverables, time constraints and pressures on us, our people are feeling the same thing. That is why it is so important to realize the power of perception in our roles as managers. Specifically, I am referring to the times when your staff asks to speak with you about something or requests some of your time to discuss a workplace issue (project, interpersonal, etc.) How often is the response something other than, “yes?” Now, I am not suggesting that every time an employee needs to speak with you that you drop everything for an immediate discussion. However, how you respond to this seemingly innocuous request will drive how your staff perceive you, how they respond to your management style and how engaged they will be in the work that they do for you.

In my HR experience, I have seen far too often complaints that employees have about managers that never have any time for them, never give guidance, are too aloof, don’t care and on and on. The truth of the matter is, when you peel back the layers of the onion, most of these managers are not like this, they are overworked, victims of circumstance – caught up in the squeeze of having to deliver with fewer and fewer resources. The awkwardness of it all is that the gut reaction from these managers is that the solution is to spend less time with their staff (i.e. but not meeting with them to address their concern) so that they can continue to grind it out and get things out the door. Let me tell you – this PERCEPTION is damaging your credibility as a manager!

Nothing turns your staff off more than when your door is always closed (literally or figuratively). Additionally, nothing is worse than a manager who commits to meeting with an employee (they have set a date/time) and the manager either no shows, or runs late on their previous meeting. The promises of “tomorrow” and “for sure next time” ring hollow after a while with your staff, so much so to the point that they will devise their own workarounds based on their perception that you simply aren’t available or do not want to deal with them. Even worse is the manager response, when they need to get out of meeting with their staff, “I have an important meeting/issue to deal with…we will have to reschedule.” Translation – “I have to deal with something that I think is more important than you.” Nice message/perception huh!?

As a manager, meeting with your people is your single most important function. Don’t view meeting with your staff as simple Q&A moments, or worse, interruptions to your day. Treat these moments as coaching opportunities. This is your job as a manager – make your people better. If it is a work project issue, before you meet with them, ask them if they have made an attempt at solving it. Over time, your staff will start approaching you for validation (quicker meetings) as they are coming to the table with solutions not problems. As managers, you also need to make sure you are properly delegating to your staff – not only work, but in authority and accountability. They need both elements to be able to deliver for you.

By using these moments as coaching opportunities you are also feeding into your overall performance management system. Coach your staff on outcomes and how to meet their goals and objectives. Make the upfront investment time – the payoff is that your employees will become more self-sufficient over time and not need to come to you as much. If they continue to do so, than you either have a performance issue OR there is something else more deep seeded that you need to meet with them about. Either way, by making the time and focusing on the most important part of your job, you in turn will become a better manager – and yes, you will meet your deliverables because you will have a higher performing staff – one that has a positive perception about you. They will see you as a manager who makes time for their people, one who is there to support them.

What about you? Do you see the need to be aware of the power of perception? What other ways does it affect your role as a manager? As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Image courtesy of Bigstockphoto.com

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One Response

  1. […] Managers: Make time for your team “As a manager, meeting with your people is your single most important function,” says the Armchair HR Manager. So when they want to talk to you, don’t put them off. And treat those moments as coaching opportunities. It will make them better employees, and you a better manager. Beware of the power of perception! […]

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