We’ve heard of managing up, across and down (If you haven’t, here’s a nice philosophy describing each). But what about managing “in”?
Working well with others requires us to understand others’ world view and make connections between our goals and theirs. It requires us to communicate effectively and engage productively – minimizing conflicts and leveraging strengths. These are the fundamentals of managing up, down and across.
What if we applied those concepts more concertedly to ourselves? For those of us who have endured work environments that have left us feeling worn down, keyed up and shot through, the concept of managing in may provide some relief.
There’s the science researcher with a nagging feeling that he’s not in the right job. The life coach who feels a little too coach-y. The human resources executive who seems more suited to finance and operations. The COO who can’t let go of the little stuff. And the executive assistant who is diminished daily by disrespect.
In each of these cases, there’s friction. Whether internal, external or both, each of these professionals are in conflict, stressed or bored and therefore not in a position to do their best – for the company, or themselves.
Managing in involves the following skills:
1. Objectively acknowledging your own world view: What circumstances are you facing right now? What’s working and what’s not? Does it seem temporary or permanent? What expectations do you have that are not being met? What are you tolerating? What’s in your way? Giving voice to what you’re experiencing helps you gain perspective and think rationally about what’s missing and what should be preserved.
2. Making connections and getting aligned: What do you want? Are your own actions, behaviors and choices getting you closer to the goal? What other choices do you have? Being clear about what you DO want as opposed to railing against what you DON’T want puts us in a more effective frame of mind for positive change. Choices open the door to possibility – and often relief – allowing us to see a way through, over or around the brick wall (instead of banging our head against it).
3. Minimize internal conflicts: What are your typical “triggers”? These can be things like being interrupted, disrespect, inconsistency, laziness, aggression and others. Is your environment trigger happy? Are you adept at managing your reactions? Do you end up compromise yourself or your values? Do you know where the end of your rope is? Understanding and managing the deeply rooted personal needs we have for things like respect, being understood, taking responsibility and the like, helps us choose better environments and gives us the courage to articulate our needs in any given situation.
4. Leverage strengths: When do you feel “on fire”, “absorbed”, “consumed” in an activity? What do you most love to contribute to a project? What are the natural strengths you possess? These are qualities that your family, friends and colleagues remark on, the skills or abilities that you can’t help but put forth. Whether it’s detail orientation, an insatiable curiosity, being a great listener or a penchant for competition – knowing and actively applying these talents brings out not only the best in ourselves but others as well.
These are the fundamentals of managing “in”. Knowing who you are, where you are, where you want to go and what you can do about it. In the new economy, where imagination, innovation, entrepreneurship, technological advancement and rapid fire constant change is the theme of the day, it is more important than ever to manage ourselves. Indeed, at the end of the day, the only thing we’ve got a modicum of control over is ourselves.