A new-to-a-company manager explained this situation to me recently. She’d overheard something like this recently from one of her team members.
So you’re working in a place where it seems as if all the managers are Bozos. But you like the work and you like the people, and you know nothing lasts forever. After a couple years of insanity, all the managers change. And I do mean all, from the CEO down to the first level. Some of the people who were working to reverse the insanity were promoted, and a bunch of people are new, including your manager. But you’re no idiot; you know this manager’s as bad as the others.
This new-to-the-company manager asked how to get people to give her and her ideas a chance.
She’s talking about flipping the Bozo bit back to a neutral position. (In Behind Closed Doors, Esther and I talk about one variety of flipping the Bozo bit. There are as many varieties of Bozo bits as there are people :-)
I know of only one way to flip the Bozo bit back to neutral: to have your team trust you. There are lots of ways to help your team learn to trust you:
- Make all decisions transparent. You’re still the manager; you’re in charge. But explain your rationale to your team about the decision.
- Consider using consensus or limited consensus to make more participative decisions so people have a say in the future of the team.
- Institute weekly one-on-ones with each person each week. If you spend 20 minutes a week privately with each person, you will get to know each person as a human being. During the one-on-ones, don’t be afraid to take action items and resolve them during the following week.
- Take action on the difficult people problems. Maybe you have a person who’s not pulling his or her weight on the team. Maybe someone else is impossible to work with. Deal with those problems now.
- Develop and maintain a project portfolio for the team, so everyone can see who’s working on what.
Flipping the Bozo Bit back to neutral is not impossible, but it will take a while. As people begin to become more comfortable with you and trust you, they will see you as a reasonable manager, not a Bozo.