Management is a tough job, done well.
There is an enormous difference between an employee and a manager, besides the obvious difference in pay grade and power. An employee is someone who works to provide value to the company and has the company’s interest in mind, first and foremost. A manager has to innovate and protect the company, as well as work to protect and advance their employee subordinates.
That may seem simple enough, but there’s a wrinkle that makes it tougher. Generally, when we think about the people working at any given company, there are two different personalities: the ‘promotion-ally‘ motivated and the professionally motivated. This fact alone creates a great deal of tension in every work environment and also separates the good from the great.
What’s your motivation?
The promotion-ally motivated will do all that is necessary to get a promotion, serving primarily their own interests. The professionally motivated want to make a difference and actually provide something to a company for the company’s sake. They know that what is best for the company is best for them and that the cart can’t come before the horse. It should be pretty clear which side of the spectrum you want to fall on, but in case it’s not, then let’s make it clearer. You might think you are a pawn on the board of others strategically trying to knock you off, but it isn’t really about that. You have to frame yourself as a vital asset to the company’s growth.
The winning side will always be the side of the company, so it is mostly fruitless (in the long run) to be a one person army fighting for your own cause.
Dark art and disguise
People usually think of the pawns as the most disposable pieces, but great managers don’t use them as strategic sacrificial lambs for their own gain. Trying to keep all the pieces on the board becomes an unacknowledged and thankless part of the manager’s job, but a sign of great leadership. Great managers are much more than employees. They execute the dual roles of company advocates as well as advocates for everyone around them.
This doesn’t happen simply as a process…there’s lots of ‘dark art’. Great managers can intuitively understand what employees need to become great employees. They foster creativity, leverage skill sets and trust the right people to move forward. Just like employees, a promotion-ally motivated manager is nothing but an employee looking for a raise in disguise.