Last week we saw how an individual can work through the famous Mid-Career Blues. I would like to re-emphasize the buck stops with the individual navigating the blues.
However, it can be argued you are in the context of an organization for a mutually rewarding long term relationship and not everything is within your control.
I would have to say that is a fair point.
In the concluding part of this article, I look at what organizations can do. Also for the purpose of this article, when I say organization, I will refer to the Manager with whom you are making. I am making the assumption that this manager is reasonably empowered by the organization. If they are not then it would be mid-organization blues and that is beyond the scope of this article. When I say team in the context of the manager, it refers to the individuals in the team which could be you.
At the outset, let me be fair to this creature. They have been brought to this fancy designation with little or zero clue about managing. In most cases , they are fine engineers who somehow fall in love with that designation. I also liked it and I do not know about most of you , but after I got this designation only, my parents decided I was an eligible bachelor and started hunting. Sorry to digress, but different story for a different day!
One thing the organizations can definitely do. If someone has extreme passion for engineering or equivalent aspiration for conquering a domain, kindly let them be that way. For heaven’s sake, do not turn them into managers.
Also , this is the lot that takes a lot of heat from everyone in the organization and have the need to maintain their overall composure. They tend to lose themselves working for everything around them and forget their own roots in the process.
However, are they completely helpless as I portray them to be. No they are not and they are in a position to shift the status quo a lot.
So how can a Manager ensure that his team someone does not get into the state of Mid-Career Blues and stay there as a zombie.
Here are a few things that I can think of which are useful.
Set an example
It may sound like a cliché, but no amount of arm chair philosophy is going to work. You got to do the work and in that sense be worthy of the role that you have been given. People may forget what you said, but they will always remember what you did. Also if they notice a congruent relationship between what you say and what you do, then you are in safe territory. If you call for a meeting at 10 AM and turn up at 10:30 , expecting your team to be understanding of you, they would be for once or twice , but if you make that a habit, then you are sowing the initial seeds of disillusion in your team. In short, if you say something, mean it.
Please do not think you do not have time to spend quality time with your folks. If not for them, you do not exist. Get to know them beyond work. Know what their interests are, what energizes them, what puts them off and possibly many other soft factors apart from work. Do not look at them as a means to an end. Make a genuine attempt to see them beyond their contribution margin. When you do this as a practice, you will know which one of your team member is going through the blues and effectively address it. You will have to work to earn their confidence and if you are just looking at them so as to complete an immediate transaction, they are going to see through it in due course of time.
Never lower the bar. Do what it takes to elevate the individual’s expectation of their own selves. Remember , you are not there to please them, but to get the best out of them. These days I am also realizing that it does not pay to be overtly critical, but do not soft pedal. Kindly hold them accountable to a higher standards than what they possibly can imagine. Their immediate reaction is that they might curse you, but in the longer run they would be thankful for what you did to them.
“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn. ”
― Alvin Toffler
What have you done consciously to do the improve the learning of the individual over a period 3,6,9 and 12 months. What has been your contribution to the growth of the individual ?
If you think, it is important for you to nurture and grow them in every way. Your growth is directly proportional to their growth. You have grown, when you think you have become redundant in your role and that can happen only if you have grown a team that can function effectively in your absence. This is not going to happen if you are not worried about the learning aspirations of each individual and put them on to a path of continuous learning
Weeds have to go
Non performance has to be shunted out early and regularly.
A lesson , I learnt too late in life and possibly never effectively deployed, as I believed in Swami Vivekananda saying of ‘Each human being is potentially divine’. I still believe in that, but at times divinity does not show up. So you have to take action. By not doing you are sowing seeds for a non performing culture. I am not saying , lose your humanity, but find a path for those whose divinity does not show up despite repeated attempts and also make sure you confront this non-performance directly. Do not outsource this.
I will stop with five and as you would all know, there is yet another often repeated study which says that ‘People do not leave organizations. They leave their bosses’.
I am not getting into an argument of if the above study is right or wrong, but by some strange design of fate, if you have the dreaded designation of ‘Manager’ responsible for some group of people, then ‘People are your number one business’. There is nothing more important than them in the scheme of your job description. If that does not sound like your favourite music to your ears, please go back , give back the designation and do what you love to do.
If I have to summarize on how to keep the blues away from your team and if there is only one thing you have to do, then start seeing them as individuals with aspirations, individuals who have a greater purpose than logging their weekly timesheets and then work relentlessly to ensure to meet their aspirations.
If I have to make a bad attempt at forming twitter like summary expression, here it goes.
‘Engage to transform. Not to transact”.
Enjoy Maadi (Have Fun)