A friend mentioned recently that she sometimes struggles with her need to be liked by the people she manages at work – and for the record, she is way likeable without even trying.
This (and its big bruv: wanting to be respected) is common because it’s easy to focus on the feeling we want others to have towards us and therefore use that as a motivator to our own behaviour. I wonder if we’d all be better served if it was the other way round: focusing on the feeling we have towards others and then see how that motivates their behaviour.
In my early days of management, I did that whole needing to be liked thing but then I thought “How cool would it be to see what these guys are capable of?”. I realised how much more interesting it would be to focus on doing my best to coach, challenge and support them and then to just sit back and watch what they did with that.
If I liken it to motor racing, I just help out a bit in the pit stops, and then when they take off, I just get the Hell out of their way, rather than standing around, slowing them down whilst I give their Ferraris another polish just try to make them like me. And I also try to stand back and see what choices they make once they’re back in the race, as Kimi Raikkonen said when his engineer was giving him too many ‘helpful’ pointers over the team radio: “Leave me alone, I know what I’m doing.”
I don’t always get it right, in the past I’ve believed people are ready for more than they believed, and occasionally, more than they actually were. But it’s mostly paid off. Like so much in life, playing it safe isn’t what makes great things happen. As the man with the O.B.E. said “To achieve anything in this game you must be prepare to dabble in the boundary of disaster.”
And looking back… I’ve had the total buzz of witnessing some amazing people do some clever fecking things. I still get a bit teary, years on, at the memory of the challenges some of them overcame and the cool stuff they created.
Did they all like me? I have no idea but let’s just say: I don’t think it mattered a jot to me or them.