Our individual ability, intelligence and performance entails a paradox. These are the qualities that we want for ourselves as they form a big chunk of our self-worth and identity. They’re also the qualities we get hired and promoted for. Yet, often our own excellence is all too easily the thing that gets in the way of us bringing forth the ability, intelligence and performance of those we work with, particularly those who work for us.
As if by default, the moment we obtain a position of some seniority – be it as a manager, team lead, or due to our expertise, we tend to fall into the pitfall of becoming somewhat “managerish” or parental. In subtle ways, we become our very own version of an (over)responsible parent, relying more on our ability, intelligence and performance than that of our colleagues to get the job done.
Regardless of our gender identity, some of us start relating to our team members like a ‘caring mother’, others as a ‘critical and demanding father’. The common denominator is that we are not relating to others genuinely as the perfectly capable, responsible and intelligent adults that they are.
This dynamic is so pervasive and ingrained in us that most of us don’t notice its flip side either. When we are in a subordinate position, our way of being easily becomes very “employed”: we hold back our true opinions, we play it safe rather than stick our neck out to engage in creatively constructive debates – i.e. we become under-responsible for producing really great work together.
At Miltton Sparks, we work with companies that have had to deal with the costs of this pattern in terms of lost energy, commitment and productivity. We have seen how phenomenal performance change is created when we can access a genuinely open, honest and empathetic “adult-adult” way of being with each other. We want to help more workplaces break through this leadership paradox. For example, TUFF leadership training offers a good hands-on, practical training in how to become a powerful, effective leader – without behaving like a parent.
“This is a down-to earth approach that lands extremely well with me. The practical examples and ability to spot exactly what is hindering someone from leading effectively is beyond what I have seen at any of the many hot-shot leadership trainings I have attended in my career.”
Patrik Ahlbäck, Vice President, Purchasing and Logistics at Paroc Group.