Wow, this is a tough one, , , or at least it was for me for many, many years. It’s also one of the more important lessons you can learn.
As a high achiever, you are mentally “programmed” to strive for success and to be the “hero”. We like to succeed, and there is certainly nothing wrong with this. In fact, you should be proud of being a high achiever and always want to accomplish great things.
That’s certainly the type of people we want on our team – right?
A challenge many of us have when we transition from technical expert to manager is that we tend to want to continue being the hero.
Key point of the article
If you don’t pick up anything from this article but the following point, it will be worthwhile. The key point is, “The manager is the hero when and only when your employees are successful and they are heroes.” As a manager, it becomes more important for you to help others become the hero.
Let’s take some examples:
A. Make your employees the hero
In late 1999, I joined a small company as their new CIO and quickly identified a few key needs for the business. One of the projects was implementing e-mail services across the company if you can believe it. I made these projects a priority, got them approved and funded, and made it happen. In a national manager’s meeting the next year, I received a standing ovation when I announced the delivery of these key projects, , , something the former CIO had promised but never delivered.
Instead of taking credit for this effort myself, I gave credit to two of my IT employees and asked the managers (about 100 of them) to tell my employees how much they appreciated their effort, , , or maybe even send them an email message.
The point, , , yes, I made it happen by going after the money and placing a priority on the work, , , but the real work was done by my employees. They are the ones who really deserved the credit.
“the real work was done by my employees“
Do you think these two employees appreciated me passing the credit to them? ABSOLUTELY, and they worked even harder for me in the months to follow.
B. Make your customer the hero
In another company, I identified some tangible cost savings that could be achieved by simply making a management decision.
Our postage cost was significantly higher than it should be because we were sending FEDEX packages to every office every day of the week. By making a management decision to limit overnight deliveries to twice a week and for emergencies, we cut out $15,000 a month in postage cost in a company that was challenged by poor cash flow.
As a young manager, I would have gone to my boss, the CEO, and become a hero in identifying this easy cost savings opportunity. We’re talking about some very low hanging fruit here, , , literally no effort to get the savings, , , in fact, it also reduced significant effort in our Mail Room.
The problem with this is that if you go to the CEO and become the hero, you alienate the CFO. He should be all over this issue but he wasn’t because he wasn’t doing his job. Now talk about something hard to do, , , help someone be a hero who isn’t doing his job.
I can tell you it is extremely hard to do this, but you need to make yourself approach a situation like this by giving the CFO the information and let him be the hero with the CEO, our boss.
The reason is because you need the CFO on your side and will need his help often in future situations. It is better to build these alliances than to try and be the hero and end up making enemies. You need to evaluate the cause and effect of how you handle things, and make a situation like this a win-win because it truly is.
C. Make your vendor the hero
Give your vendor credit as much as you can. When your Vendor knows you are supporting him, he will work harder to support your efforts.
It’s all about building good teamwork around you. You never have too many allies and partners. When you build a culture where people are looking for ways to give others credit where credit is due, it’s a very positive and healthy work environment.
As I mentioned before, some parts of this are NOT easy. Giving someone opportunity to be a hero when they aren’t doing their job is difficult, , , truly difficult. The key thing to remember is that your gift can come back many times over and if you create a “giving” environment, you will have many people in the company trying to make you the hero over time.
Always try to be aware of the support you need within your company and make conscious efforts to develop and reinforce them.