Self-Fulfilling Prophecies for Managers

Have you ever had a manager that made you feel really excited and empowered? How about one that made you feel discouraged and down? Ever wonder what it was that made you feel that way?

Whether intentional or not, our daily interactions with people can be transformative. A single belief has the power to become a self-fulfilling prophecy, capable of altering perceptions and the way that we connect with others. A self-fulfilling prophecy is a prediction that comes true as a result of our conscious or unconscious behaviors. This happens because of how our beliefs influence our actions. They can influence what we say, our tone and facial expressions, and many other non-verbal behaviors.

This is an important lesson for managers, whose expectations of staff can be a critical factor in the quality of their performance. For example, if a manager believes that one of his employees is lazy, he/she might treat that employee in a way that reinforces that belief; perhaps by overlooking that employee when delegating important tasks. These actions could lead the employee to feel under-valued, thus inducing a domino effect of decreased attendance and reduced quality of work output; reactions that confirm the manager’s original belief that he/she is lazy.

So, how can we capitalize on this belief system to benefit our teams? Here are some tips for creating positive prophecies that can help to keep those around you feeling valued and motivated:

Define your prophecy in clear and concise terms. Your prophecy shouldn’t need its own table of contents. Keep it simple. (Ex. “We will increase sales by 5% this quarter.”)

Keep your prophecy realistic. If you set high but reachable goals and communicate them to your staff, they can attain them. If goals are set too high, however, some people will give up before they ever get started. Conversely, if goals are too low, people will attain them, but it may not help you accomplish your job as a manager.

Create reminders for yourself. It can be easy to forget goals that we have set for ourselves when our attention is focused on the task-de-jour. Write your prophecy statement down in a place where you can see it every day.

Monitor and control. Set goals with each of your employees and monitor their progress. Remind them of the overall objective and how their role is vital to its realization.

Most importantly: Stay positive! A goal is only as good as the strength of the belief it is founded on. By communicating an attainable vision and confidence in your team, you are plotting a course of success for everyone. Turn your expectations into positive self-fulfilling prophecies and celebrate the achievements of your staff, as they will reflect well on you too! 

Succession Planning

Many organizations with an aging workforce tout the need for succession planning, however, not all put it into practice. It is important not to simply hire young, inexpensive talent who are likely to move on after one year. Organizations should implement comprehensive hiring processes that will identify cultural fit as accurately as possible. This involves an extensive interview process with individuals from across the organization as well as applicable tests such as writing or computer aptitude tests. This investment is worth it up front but it does not end there. Once talent has been found and brought on board, it is incumbent on senior and mid-level management to groom those who are viewed as future leaders in the company. It cannot only be talk; there needs to be action, and sooner rather than later. The wait can cost you your valuable employee.

Having experienced this myself as a young employee in an organization, I’d offer some advice to managers.

Establish open lines of communication. This doesn’t mean a drop by every day or week to say “hi” but a scheduled, sit down half hour conversation every week or bi-monthly to check in and see how things are going, what the employee seeks to change, and where you see things going.

Act. Talk won’t go far with today’s young generation. There must be action behind it. If you offer to get him or her on a new project, make good on your word if possible. If it becomes impossible, don’t keep a secret – tell him or her as soon as you know.

Train. Even if your organization doesn’t have funds for training, set up your employee with a mentor in a role or on a team in which your employee is interested. Connect with each person along the way to see how things are going and if you can influence the employee’s work experience and help him or her reach goals.

A valued employee is a happy employee, and words are not enough. Put your praise or thoughts into action and make his or her career goals happen. You will be forever remembered and respected as a manager and perhaps your star employee will follow you to your next job. 

Transitioning from co-worker to manager…

Did you finally get that big promotion and make the jump from just another person on the team to the manager? During this transition phase you move from being happy hour buddies and complaining about the management to that manager who dictates policies and procedures. It is not an easy step to take, and it is one you should take the time to plan.

While making this transition always have your employees and your leadership in mind. It is important that you fulfill your requirements as a manager while maintaining the trust you have with your employees.

Here are a few tips you should consider when making this transition.

1. Although you may not agree, it is time to pull away from your buddies. You can still hang out, but don’t partake in company venting, and don’t get sloshed with them at happy hour. If you are going to be paid like a manager, you should act like one. That doesn’t mean you can’t have any fun, but it means being responsible and a leader in your firm.

2. When you take on this leadership challenge, be sure to lead by doing. Plan out good traits that you want your employees to mimic, and practice them. Build trust in your ability to manage through consensus and understanding.

3. Finally, communicate effectively. When there is a policy that needs to be executed, make sure your employees understand why it is occurring, how they play a role in this change, and the impact on them. Even if they don’t like the policy, if there is a complete understanding, they will respect you and your position.

These are just a few of the things you should do when your transition from a co-worker to a manager. But above all, be sure to be open and honest. This is a great opportunity for you to not do all of the things you hated about your management. Always be aware of your leadership and your employees' objectives.

There are a million more tips on this; more to follow in a later blog…stay tuned!

Credit Where Due

We’ve all spent countless hours on a project and then received no credit, or even worse, no feedback. You may then hear that a meeting was convened to which you were not invited or a senior colleague praised the work of your manager, not realizing you did actually did the work. It is painful but early in your career you may have to accept it. There are good managers out there who will not take all the credit and who will include you in subsequent discussions. But they are hard to find. It doesn’t have to remain this way. If you’ve been in a job for a year and proven yourself time and again, it might be time to say something. Ask (in person) to be included on follow-up correspondence. Ask (in person) to be part of the meeting. It may take your manager by surprise but what’s the worst that could happen? It may actually work out. Perhaps your manager has just gotten used to doing things that way and needs a gentle reminder. If you’re looking for feedback, you also must ask (in person). It could be as simple as: “I’m trying to improve my business writing. Can you provide feedback on my work whenever possible?” As you can tell, I highly recommend doing this in person and not over email. Emails can be dangerously misunderstood. More on that subject in a future post.

How have you handled situations where you do not get feedback or credit?