Beware of the manager oversharing trap
A common situation that you could be faced with as a new manager is what I call the “oversharing trap”. For example, when you find yourself complaining about a recent new company guideline. At lunch. With your direct report. Or when you discuss a really bad 1:1 with your current manager with the person sitting next to you. And that person happened to be a new hire. The tricky thing about this is that it is hard to identify that you are being caught by this trap. After all, you want to be transparent with your team. You feel like you need to share what is going on and what your opinions are on the decisions made “from the top”.
This can be a double edge sword.
Never underestimate how closely your team members are watching your behaviours and listening to your words. They are, consciously or not, analyzing every statement and nonverbal gesture for signs of your character as a leader. And, as Goleman explains about the “trickle-down” effect, your emotional state can also be really influential within your team. Venting with your direct reports might not only undermine your authority but also could make them question your character. Are you a victim or a player? How do you want to present yourself to your team? As a leader, you have to walk along those fine lines of sharing information and be transparent, but not fall into the oversharing trap. So what can you do to keep yourself balanced?
Give yourself permission to have strong emotions
When you are managing a team, part of the job involves, at one point or another, sharing difficult news with your team members. You might be tasked with providing feedback to a low performer, communicating a reorg or even a downsize. You might agree with some of these decisions, with others you won’t. And it’s ok to have strong emotions when this happens. You might feel frustrated, out of control or anxious. Give yourself permission to have those feeling, acknowledge them and work through them.
What can you do when you are forced out of what you know?
My main tip to embrace change in a positive way is to see it as a step forward. Just visualize that whatever comes up next will add-up to what you already know. It will make you stronger, wiser and more experienced. You will, as it is said in the academic environment, “stand on the shoulders of giants”. Only this time, that giant is your past experience and previous comfort zone. With that image in mind, you will take away this uncertain future and focus on your starting point. Find that ground in which you feel comfortable and use it as an impulse to start the new race.
Vent but to your right audience
As Amy Gallo advises, the goal of the venting is not to keep the feelings going and nurture them, but to expel them. Choose someone to vent to, ideally someone external from your organization. It will help you approach the situation with your team in a much more objective way.
Be mindful of your words
Always remember the power of observation learning. Humans learn very well, simply by watching others. As a leader, the number one rule to gain your team’s trust is to be conscious and mindful of how your actions influence other people. And then, act accordingly. Keep yourself accountable: if you heard someone in your team complaining about what you are complaining about right now, how would you feel? If the answer brings negative emotions, just stop. Reframe the conversation or simply walk away. One key strategy to keep yourself clear from the oversharing trap is to make sure that what you say and what you do is as consistent as possible: you have to walk the talk. Effective leaders take a bilateral approach, both acknowledging what employees may be feeling when facing difficult situations, but also providing positive reassurance and a clear vision to their teams.