The Manager’s Dip

Seth Godin‘s new book is called The Dip. The Dip is the hard spot – it is the place that most people give up. Having started off with high hopes the dip is when ‘reality strikes’ results are not what were hoped for and you are faced with two choices; ‘give up’ or ‘push on’.

Every new management job starts out being exciting and fun.  Then it gets harder and less fun and then it hits The Dip.  It is incredibly hard and not much fun at all.  A scarily high number of managers are bang in The Dip. And they are trapped. Too scared to quit. And no belief in their ability to change.

Even the best managers fall into The Dip.  But they recognise it quickly and make some decisions (take some actions) that get them out of it quickly.  Sometimes they move on – and fall into The Dip in a different organisation.  Other times they stay – and they change.  They commit to beat The Dip because it’s worth it.

How do they beat The Dip?

  1. By building trusting and respectful relationships with other people who can help them to beat The Dip – managers, peers, reports, customers and other stakeholders.
  2. By building up the reward once The Dip has been beaten. (‘Do you know what it will mean if we can just get through this?’)
  3. By coaching, giving  feedback, delegating and developing the potential of every one who can help to get through The Dip.

Good managers know:

  • when they can beat The Dip and it is worth beating
  • when the Dip will beat them or it is just not worth the effort.

Some managers know neither of these things.  They just hang in there, working long hours, making little progress like a hamster trapped in wheel and The Dip just gets bigger and deeper.

5 Minute Management Breakthroughs

Exactly how much can you as a manager achieve in 5 minutes? The truth is that for many managers, 5 minutes is more than enough time to create a management breakthrough – to transform (at least temporarily) the nature of their relationship with the people that they manage.

So here are some ideas:

Find Out What Matters

Spend 5 minutes with each member of your team, and ask them about the things that matter most in their life. When you know what really matters to people and provide management that reflects these priorities the working relationship is transformed.

Try this: “I’d like to know a bit more about you. Can you take a few minutes to tell me about the things that are most important to you at the moment?”

The response might be initially work oriented or not. If it is work oriented try a follow up question such as “And what about outside of work? What things are important to you there?”

A small minority of people will not be happy talking to you about non work related stuff. Most will be thrilled that you want to spend a bit of time finding out about them as people rather than employees.  If you are using weekly 121s this is a great theme to explore on a regular basis.

Recognise the Good Stuff

The vast majority of things that happen in the vast majority of organisations are overwhelmingly good.  However as managers we learn to focus on what is not good, what is not expected, what is not under control.  This can make us seem hyper-critical.  Take a minute to think about all the GREAT things that your team has done this week.   Take opportunities to focus on the good stuff, acknowledge it and thank people for their contributions to it.  But mainly just be aware of it.  As you build your awareness of the achievements of your team you will build a more constructive relationship with team members.

Move Into Service Mode

Take 5 minutes to fill up everyone on your team’s coffee (or water) cup. Buy them an ice cream on a hot day.  Serving is a great way to show your team that you care. Especially if you know who drinks coffee and who drinks water before you get started.

Serving people is a great way to strengthen the relationship.

Thank You

Write as many thank you notes as you can to your team in 5 minutes. Be specific, and let them know just how much you appreciate them and their work.  You can send choose to send a quick e-mail,  but a hand written Thank You note works much better.

Most of these things work well if you do them just once.  Most work far better when they are repeated – perhaps daily, weekly or monthly.  We are great at spotting patterns and making meaning.

Set up patterns that show that you care.

Then people will begin to believe that they really are your ‘greatest asset’.