“And I knew exactly what to do. But in a much more real sense, I had no idea what to do.”*
Michael Scott from The Office – and, not to forget his original British counterpart, David Brent – are among the most instantly recognizable cultural and entertainment icons of the 21st century. Their poor taste antics have us all laughing or gasping in horror in equal measure. But let’s be honest here: deep down inside, as the laughter subsides, there’s a tiny place in every manager’s heart where we’ve recognized a little bit of ourselves in these characters.
No one in management wants to be the Michael Scott of their workplace but the cold, hard reality is our staff are likely to see us as try-hards at times, rather than respected and capable peers. I know, it’s hard to hear but the good news is, by being less insecure about ourselves, communicating better, being yourself and earning the respect of people instead of trying to be liked by everyone, we can improve our standing in the workplace and facilitate greater productivity and success.
“I don’t hate it. I just don’t like it at all, and it’s terrible.”*
Divest yourself of your insecurities
While it’s a great comedic device for generating laughs, Michael Scott is maddeningly insecure. The most cringe-worthy moments of The Office involve Michael trying to over-compensate for his insecurities. And, if you know anything about management – which, because you’re reading this, we’ll assume you do – people who are insecure in their roles are bad for business.
It’s not going to be an easy fix but recognizing you need to do better in terms of acknowledging the input of others, recognizing that someone other than you may have an innovative solution to a problem (or has even outgrown their current role) and then acting on this realization will only help create a more productive and harmonious workplace for everyone – especially you.
“Sometimes I’ll start a sentence and I don’t even know where it’s going. I just hope I find it along the way.”*
Take a moment to honestly answer the following questions:
- Do my people clearly understand my expectations of them?
- Do they also understand the expectations of our business/business unit?
- Do my people really understand how and why we do what we do, and why we do it in a certain way?
- Do I understand what my people expect of me in return? And do I consistently deliver on those expectations?
If you’re the kind of manager everyone avoids, we’d be surprised if you answer ‘yes’ to these questions. Engage more with your staff, ask them if they really know what is expected of them, why certain processes are in place, etc., and you’ll find less need to micro-manage and alienate the people working for you daily.
“I’m not superstitious but I am a little stitious.”*
Unless you actually are an egotistical, compulsively lying narcissist, it’s vital to be yourself in the workplace. People can easily see through insincerity so trying to be someone you’re not is setting yourself up for failure by destroying your credibility.
You might not be the most interesting person in the room. You might not really care about Game of Thrones. You may not like sports or the arts. That’s okay. As a manager, you’re a leader and the person responsible for ensuring your employees perform at their best. Being yourself it the office is a display of honesty, and you’ll find your people are more likely to respond favorably if you’re genuine.
“Would I rather be feared or loved? Easy. Both. I want people to be afraid of how much they love me.”*
Don’t try to be liked by everyone
Stop striving to be liked by your staff, and start working on earning their respect instead. Great leaders are often deeply admired and respected but you might be surprised to find they are not often universally liked.
Professional sports share a similarity with the business world: the only performance indicator that counts at the end of the day is results. It’s why Vince Lombardi has a trophy named in his honor for the winning Superbowl team. It’s why Wayne Gretzky is called ‘The Great One’ and it’s why Michael Jordan is an international icon.
“I tried to talk to Toby and be his friend but that is like trying to be friends with an evil snail.”*
Next time you watch reruns of The Office, hopefully, you’ll laugh knowing Michael Scott has been well and truly exorcized from your management style.
*With thanks to Steve Carell as Michael Scott in The Office for delivering these motivational quotes.