Finding the Goldilocks Zone

February 25, 2019 | blog | By Mike Sullivan
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Raise your hand if you know this kind of manager: High achiever. Great with clients. Integral to the team. Understands that you’ve hired talented, trustworthy, responsible professionals and the best thing he or she can do is stay out of the way until there’s a crisis, or someone needs something.

Now, raise your hand if you know this kind of manager: High achiever. Great with clients. Integral to the team. Understands that you’ve hired talented, trustworthy, responsible professionals and the best thing he or she can do is check and double check to make sure everything is on track, that everyone is doing what they’re supposed to be doing, and that there’s time to intervene before there’s a crisis, or someone needs something.

One manager is absentee, one manager is overly conscientious, and both are sure they’re doing their jobs well. But as a CMO, CEO, President, Director, you see something they don’t. They’re not doing their jobs particularly well and your brand, your staff, and your culture are suffering for it.

We’ve all had these folks in our companies.

They’re not bad people or even bad managers. They just have very big blind spots and fail to understand that the best management styles are not one size fits all. And yet too often, we sit back and watch it happen.

We fight through frustration. Or ignore it. Or remind the people being led by ineffective managers that different people have different management styles and it’s a learning experience. But you and I both know that, at their heart, those are worthless answers that don’t help anyone.

Your team deserves better.

Fixing blind spots in our own management style takes honest introspection, mindful training, inspiration, and a genuine willingness to get better. The thing is, as hard as personal change can be, it’s a lot harder to get someone else to change. Because that change isn’t really in our control. It has to come from them. The question, is how do you make that change happen in someone else?

Seek first to understand.

Nobody sets out to be ineffective, to disappoint, to fall short in their jobs, or to fail the people they’re leading. And yet we’ve all felt those things. Some of us feel them right now. Whether we’re managers or the managed, those feelings encompass our greatest fears and have a frightening power to paralyze us. And because of that, those feelings also provide a way to alleviate those fears in ourselves and the people we manage.

Empathy is a powerful equalizer.

In advertising, in marketing, in branding, we don’t work with robots. We manage people. And because of that, there are certain truths we have to acknowledge that the people who work for us will never admit. We didn’t, and they won’t either. But they’re real. And if you search your heart honestly, you’ll know these seven truths are real because at some point in your career, you’ve felt them yourself.

They all need room to work, the trust to explore and the freedom to fail. They need a culture of safety, vulnerability, and purpose to work in. They need to know you recognize the value of their contributions. They want to make a difference and excel at what they do.

Each person needs a healthy, honest, encouraging relationship with you and their immediate supervisor. A manager who doesn’t manage leaves people wondering whether they care about them at all, while a manager who micromanages every move signals a serious lack of trust.

Somewhere in the middle, there’s a Goldilocks Zone.

This is a management sweet spot that’s not too hard, not too soft, and just right. It takes more effort. It takes an understanding that every person can’t be managed the same way. And it takes a humble willingness to look at the world from the perspective of those you manage.

But if you do that – and if you counsel the managers below you to do that – I’m convinced you will see relationships grow, productivity increase and your culture flourish. And when those things start happening, nothing is impossible.

MIKE SULLIVAN is president at LOOMIS, the country’s leading challenger brand advertising agency and a top Dallas advertising agency for digital, social, mobile and user experience. For more about challenger branding, advertising and marketing, leadership, culture and other inspirations that will drive your success, visit our blog BARK! The Voice of the Underdog and catch up on all of our posts.

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Mike Sullivan

President at LOOMIS, the country’s leading challenger brand advertising agency

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