Manager’s Mantra: Walk the Talk, Give Credit, Admit When You Don’t Know

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Jun 2, 2014

No one thought it was a great idea, especially my boss. They finally gave in because I pushed so hard. Well you know what? It was the best and most popular part of the show. Everyone raved about it, however, I am sitting here incredulous because on the call my boss took credit for it all. I can’t.

That statement came from a Millennial I know who is beyond disgusted with her job. She loves the company but the manager wants all the credit.

I have always said that you learn more from bad managers that you do from the good ones. My response to this woman was to schedule an offline meeting, and the major point of discussion should be work-projects and ownership. At least you are drawing a line in the sand, but do not get your hopes up.

Give credit where credit is due

My view of managing people is that you must enable each of them to grow. I want people to leave a better person than when they were when they first met me. I want them to always keep in mind the positive approach to people and their development.

It is like with children you raise and how you want them to succeed and do great things with their life. That has always been my mantra. Even to this day, I get notes and calls from my former people on their accomplishments, or as they fondly say, “Ron-isms.”

The opposite of that would have been for me to hog their limelight. So, you must give credit when it’s due.

Don’t take credit for your employees’ ideas. This not only fosters resentment but also makes you seem untrustworthy, and the untrustworthy label is a brand that you want nowhere near you as a manager.

Being deemed untrustworthy is the kiss of death. So if you are new to management, learn this first step and keep in mind that if your people do not trust you, you are done. The ballgame is over.

Always looking for signals

As a manager, are you knowledgeable about YOUR job? Can YOU get the job done?

Your group always take notes at every interaction. If you come across as being a fake, they will pick it up in a heartbeat. Trustworthy bosses have the skills and experience needed to get the expected results, and if they don’t, they acquire them.

They are not afraid to say, “I don’t know.” That admission to your team shows honesty. Untrustworthy bosses, for the most part, fake it. They take credit for the success but will throw you and any member of the team under the bus for failure.

One of my core principles is to always tell the truth. Never become known as the manager who will always twist the facts, or will say one thing and do another.

It has been said that character is what happens when no one is watching. You may as a manager shade the truth to an audience, but always remember that eventually some of those missives will come back to haunt you. Again, you will be found out. It is only a matter of time. There is an American Indian saying that you should never speak with “forked tongue.”

Just do it

If you say it, do it. It is that simple. If you can’t do it, simply say you can’t do it.

If you can’t do as you promised, then tell the truth about that and say what you will do instead. Again, you do not want to become known as not being able to deliver for your people, but more importantly, keep them in the loop on your progress, or lack thereof.

Never be evasive or vague about the commitments you make and then become unable (or unwilling) to admit, apologize and recommit when things go awry, as they sometimes will. You want to be the type manager that can be relied upon by your people when the water gets rough.

Keeping it in confidence

I once worked for a manager who felt that a “behind closed doors” conversation meant that a subject would be discussed incognito over drinks later. Ben Franklin said that, “three can keep a secret is if two of them are dead.” In managing people, it HAS to stay behind the closed doors.

If you do not, trust me, it will come back to bite you. Again, once you are known for not keeping confidences, the kiss of death will be looking for you. Lots of times, our people have issues that they need help and guidance with. Your role as a manager is to make sure that you are their as a coach or mentor.

Again, once this becomes part of your management brand, there is nothing your people will not do for you — but you have to EARN it.

Walk the talk

Do as I say and I will act as I say. That is the exact opposite of do as I say and not as I do. We have to live our words and always make sure they match our behavior.

Do your words line up with your actions? Are we behaving based on what we preach? Again, your employees are smart enough to easily figure this one out.

Remember, it is a team you are working with. Your role is NOT as a dictator, because if that is the role you want, you are probably in the wrong business. As a matter of fact, that type role will never rear its head in the workplace ever again.

As I started out writing this post, I was addressing it to new managers, but really, this is an overlay for all managers.

Don’t be clueless

I have always been one in quiet times to self-reflect. According to Webster, this means careful thought about your own behavior and beliefs, but sometimes, we have to step back and reflect on who we are and what do we stand for.

My friend Marshall Goldsmith tells the story of working with a major CEO, and as part of the process, he includes family members as part of the 360 review. Well, one CEO boasted about how much of a family man he was, and how collaborative he was with his family. According to him, he was the perfect family guy.

When Marshall interviewed the family, he found that they had a totally different story. His style was “my way or the highway,” “ I am the boss,” etc. It was, basically, a total disconnect.

In short, this CEO was clueless.

So my warning is this: do not become clueless about your behavior, because you just might not be as great as you think you are.