In my blog ‘The Newly Promoted Manager‘ I talked about my experience of being a newly promoted manager. The three things I lacked then was; tools and techniques, management skills, and experience
What I certainly didn’t lack was enthusiasm. In fact I was described by one of my employees as ‘Tigger on acid’ (Trans – Tigger: a tiger-like fictional character who just loves bouncing, Acid: the fluid that keeps a car battery running. At least I think that’s what he meant). I’m guessing you can see he didn’t exactly mean this as a compliment?
It’s fair to say I had a lot of energy when I was a new (and young) manager and I had a lot of enthusiasm. I also had a lot of new ideas. It’s also fair to say that this magical combination of energy, enthusiasm and ideas gave me a lot of problems. Why? Here’s my take on it:
Enthusiasm stifles listening
Have you ever noticed that when you’re really enthusiastic about something you tend to want to talk about it – a lot? And when you’re talking with energy and enthusiasm it’s really difficult to also to listen? I mean really listen (rather than asking a question and then tuning out to think about what you’ll say next – the ‘dialogue of the deaf’)?
When we’ve got ideas that we’re passionate about we have to be aware of our tendency not to listen – to get carried away with our own story. One of the most important management skills is to discipline ourselves to put aside our thoughts, ideas, and arguments in order to really listen. In this blog I describe a really neat technique for improving listening
Enthusiasm stifles constructive feedback
There’s something about the nature of enthusiasm that tends to ‘carry people along’. When our enthusiasm is high, our energy is high and we’re often at our most persuasive. The difficulty is our enthusiasm can result in our employees agreeing to ideas or proposals without proper consideration. If you combine this – as I did – with having a lot of ideas, then people simply get worn down. They also get to the point where they will agree with any idea you come up with no matter how dumb (and I had some pretty dumb ideas)
It’s really important that we develop the management skills of controlling our enthusiasm when we need to consult with our staff about new ideas. Of course we want to share our energy and to energise others but we also want our employees to point out the weaknesses and potential pitfalls of our ideas and to work with us to craft better ideas and solutions
One way to do this is with planned and careful use of questions (questions that we also listen to the answer to!). In my blog ‘Management Skills: How to use SWOT Questions’ I give examples of a whole range of questions you can use to encourage your employees to evaluate processes and drive improvements. You could easily amend many of these questions to encourage your employees to evaluate and improve on your ideas
Key management skills – Curb your enthusiasm!
Of course enthusiasm is a beautiful thing. It’s about energy, dynamism and passion. For managers though it can also be a dangerous thing. Long before HBO developed its award winning show of the same name, to curb – restrain or hold back – your enthusiasm has often been great advice. By curbing your enthusiasm in the ways I’ve described above you’ll be able to gain all of the advantages of your enthusiasm, without paying the price