A Managerís Job Is to Come up with Answers
Itís very common for manager to think theyíre supposed to have all the solutions for any problem that arises on their watch. That kind of thinking can get you into deep trouble. For one thing, it sets you up to fail because no one has all the answers. For another, it undermines your credibility because everybody knows that no one has all the answers. It also isolates you from your people. A big pitfall of managers at all levels is the notion that they have to be perfect. Iíve known supervisors that couldnít hold a meeting because they were afraid that someone would ask a question they couldnít answer. Iíve known CEOs who couldnít leave their office unless their ties were perfect and every hair on their head was in place. Managers like that wind up hating their jobs. They will soon believe they have to live up to an image, to be an idol, to be a representative of a position.
At the same time, theyíre failing as managers because they arenít doing what every good manager has to do, build confidence in other people. To do that, you have to show people that youíre human, youíre not God, you donít have all the answers, you make mistakes. You send the wrong message if you try and be perfect, if you always want to solve the problems yourself. Youíre much better off sharing problems, using the people you work with to come up with solutions.
Aside from sharing your management problems, they teach you the importance of managing with the downside in mind. Because, failure is part of the process. You canít succeed if you if you donít fail sometimes. But if youíre not prepared for failure, it will take you by surprise and knock you for a loop. Therefore, you have to manage with the understanding that things may not work out according to plan. You have to have your strategy backed up.
The secret is making contingency planning a habit of mind. It was a habit I developed as I moved up the ladder and found the problems kept getting harder. I would teach my people everything I knew, and it wouldnít be enough, so together we would come up with one more trick. I learned that I could respond better if I already had a fallback position, an idea about what to do if the unexpected happened. Maybe it was just a plan to call certain people together I could share the problem with. But at least I wouldnít be shocked, I wouldnít freeze, I could spring into action.
This was critical because everybody, my staff the board of directors, was depending on us. When you have the responsibility to take care of other people, you do whatever it takes to get the job done.