If only I were the Manager…

“If only I were the Manager [or Director or VP or CEO]… then they would listen to me!” This is a common fallacy I’ve seen come up numerous times. When an individual’s project stalls, or they can’t make progress towards a key objective involving multiple stakeholders, regardless of whether it’s within their own team or cross-functionally, it’s tempting to ascribe blame to Title (or lack thereof). Unfortunately, while it may sound harsh, this is usually an indication of inexperience or immaturity. I don’t believe in any case that a title promotion alone will transform someone who is struggling in their role into a strong/top/highly effective performer.

You might secretly believe with Title comes the ability to tell people what to do. Of course, this isn’t really true. In a knowledge working environment, your team members are (hopefully) rarely, if ever, routinely following prescriptive orders. As a result, much of the effort folks on your team and organization put into their work, must be self-driven. An important component of leadership is setting clear expectations but that is very different than prescribing how someone works.

Particularly, when things aren’t going well, this line of thinking can start to pop up. I know it has for me before. It can feel like the easy solution, for which there is rarely one. If you ever find yourself daydreaming “If only I were the manager… [or Director or VP or CEO]”, there might be other ways to foster the buy-in you might be missing: a) have you shared the what and the why before jumping to the how? b) have you considered soliciting input and feedback before offering direction? c) have you provided a sense of ownership to those who need to be bought in? d) have you set clear expectations and goals? There are a host of reasons you may face challenges in getting a project off the ground, and I’m confident title will rarely be the root cause.