When the Team Picks You Up

Sometimes things go the wrong way. It seems like everything you try is wrong. There is a malaise, even a downturn. You are too slow. You are looking at a dimming screen. The pressure is on, and you are feeling it. All of a sudden someone on the team does something – a thing you have never thought of – and the picture brightens. A source of energy is created and others on the team turn it into momentum. Now oblique images become clear to you. Suddenly, you are thinking of good things to do.

What happened? The team just picked you up. Now what do you do?

Sadly, in my experience, most managers do not acknowledge the assist from the team. Worse, they give the team no reason to provide the pick up again. Why? Call it ego or arrogance, many managers are reluctant to admit they needed the pick up, and many want the credit for any good thing that happens.

Contrast this to the humble manager who is able to say, “thanks – I needed that.”

Whether the manager acknowledges it or not, team members know they contribute. The team knows the shortcomings of the manager and knows how to fill in. Other than getting paid, they do not expect recognition, but they appreciate it when they receive it.

From the management point of view, you want the team to contribute so you should do what encourages the team to perform. The case for positive reinforcement should be clear.

So it starts with “thanks – I needed that.” A simple acknowledgement. But there is more that should be done. Why did it get to the point where you needed a pick up?

The misconception that stands in the way for so many managers is their concept of respect. Managers want the respect of their team. This desire to be respected makes it difficult for managers to seem vulnerable or admit shortcomings. What these managers do not understand is that the team will already know about the manager’s shortcomings. When the manager refuses to acknowledge vulnerability or need, this does not make the manager seem more competent, it is a comment on the manager’s perception of reality. A manager that can acknowledge a vulnerability or need will not be seen by the team as being weak. The team will respect the manager for having the perception and courage to admit a deficiency. The humble manager will not be viewed as weak, rather that manager will be respected as strong and perceptive. That humble manager will be respected and trusted.

The team that trusts and respects its manager will perform much better than the team under a delusional manager that shows up to collect its pay.