Your Very First Step As A Manager: Managing One

Posted by Stuart Herbert @ 7:46 AM, Thu 01 May 08

Filed under: You

1 Comment

No matter how many people you have to manage, there is always one more person who you can never afford to overlook: yourself. Many managers focus exclusively on what they manage, believing that this is where results and success come from. It simply isn’t true.

The roots of success always come from within. Your team, your organisation, the results it produces and the service you provide to your customers; ultimately all of these will be a reflection of you and the way that you conduct yourself. You can only control and influence others through your own actions; if you don’t have control over yourself, how can you possible extend that control to others successfully and sustainably?

The very first step in managing using the Invest In Loss philosophy is to learn to manage yourself.

Know Thyself

Someone once told me that you can’t manage what you can’t understand, and I believe that this advice applies equally well when it comes to managing yourself. How can you manage yourself if you don’t understand yourself?

How well do you really know yourself?

The place to start is to simply become aware of your behaviour, and how close it does (or does not) relate to the reality all around you. How many lies and half-truths do you have to tell to get through each day? How often do you have to bluff and bluster your way through situations and relationships with your colleagues, your friends, and your families? When do you stand and get stuck in, and when do you run and avoid? When do you say one thing, but do another? Why are you having to do so? What are the reasons behind you behaving in this way?

At first, simply focus on becoming aware of when you act like this, and on determining why. Don’t do anything in particular at this stage to change your behaviour, just focus on improving your self-awareness day by day. If you don’t already, start keeping a daily diary where you can capture your observations and thoughts. Look in particular at the boundaries of your world – your interactions with other people, both professional and personal. Seek out where friction occurs, where things are not smooth and plain sailing, and where emotions (especially yours) regularly boil over. Focus entirely on what you are doing.

You Reap What You Sow

When you’ve been building up your observations for some time (I’d recommend at least a month, and preferably several months), the next step is to see how far you are (or aren’t) disjointed from the reality around you.

Continue to capture the observations of your own behaviour, but now start to add in observations about your external world. How well is that latest project going? What are your customers grumbling about this week? If you are already a manager, what are your staff saying about you? What are they saying about your decisions? How are the family? What should be happening, but isn’t?

Over time, you will start to gain a new awareness: how your lies and half-truths, how your blustering and bluffing, and how your avoidance and your fear are related to the problems you encounter in the external world. Your world – your reality – is a reflection of your behaviour, and more importantly of the way that you choose to behave. You must stick with this exercise for as long as it takes for the penny to drop. As a manager, your team or organisation will also be a reflection of the way that you choose to behave.

You cannot sustainably manage others until you can manage yourself.

Deep Roots Are Hidden From View

Deep and meaningful change comes from internal work. It is not for the faint of heart. It requires a commitment and dedication that you probably haven’t known before. You must give up being both selfish and selfless, and become self-ful instead. You must become completely focused on observing and altering your own state of being. You don’t need to worry about changing other people at this time. If you make the right changes, other people will respond to you in the right way if they can.

This is work that never ends, which is precisely why it produces truly sustainable results.

Working from the principle of cause and effect, start to look at whatever comes before the situations where your behaviour is disconnected from reality. In any situation, you behave the way you do because of the state you are in when you enter the situation. Focus on understanding what your entry state currently is for your each of your situations, and add those observations to your ongoing diary. Seek to understand your starting point each and every time, and on how these starting points result in the behaviours that we’re seeking to change.

For each of these starting points, take a piece of blank paper, and write down what you wish they were. It might be helpful to create a mind map for each starting point. Work out what you need to ensure that you wouldn’t need to lie, to bluff, to avoid; what you need to be confident, on top of things, and to able to act. Don’t feel constrained in any way by your current circumstances. Don’t compromise on your list.

Once you’ve worked out what each starting point should be, go back further, and look at what you are currently doing immediately before you get to each of these places. This is where you need to make changes. Your starting points are actually the end points of previous activities, or of activities that are currently missing altogether! Fix these activities, and everything else will follow.

This is what we mean when we talk about beginning with the end in mind.

The Never-Ending Circle

The work presented here never ends. The end of one thing is always the beginning of the next, even if the connections aren’t immediately apparent. Thankfully, we’re all capable of an infinite amount of polishing up, of improvement over time – as long as we take responsibility for our own progress. By choosing your behaviour, and establishing your entry state by ensuring the previous activities end the way you need them to, over time you’ll grow the degree of management you have over yourself … and ultimately over others.

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One Comment

  1. Vivien J H Mitchell says:
    September 18th, 2008 at 4:10 pm

    This is absolutely fantastic and has come to me at just the right time. It’s not just about management (I’m 55 and have never formally managed another human being); it’s about the whole of life. I was just coming round to the idea that I should ditch my habitual demeanour of seeing others as leading me (which means of course that I have no responsibility) and begin to act as if I am admired by those I meet. Your articles are putting it better than that – to act as though I am leading them – i.e. setting an example (whether they admire me or not). What more could I ask in the way of incentive to choose my responses?
    Thank you Mr. Herbert!