..Ellen Goldhar..

Managing in Grey

When it comes to managing, one and one doesn't always equal two, sometimes it needs to be eleven. The real question becomes, how accepting are you of either answer? Finding the right answer can be a matter of perspective -- yours and theirs.

The best managers know you can't be so black and white and have to be open to other ideas and possibilities.

"The poorest managers are the ones that approach situations from one perspective only," says Risa Sokoloff, a litigation lawyer for Chitiz Pathak in Toronto, a firm specializing in corporate securities, corporate finance and commercial litigation that she helped to start after leaving McCarthy Tetrault in the mid 90s.

"That's why control freaks make terrible lawyers and managers -- they need to have all aspects of the process go their way. But, if you can't be okay with handling situations where control is lost, or ideas are different than yours, you won't be very effective," says Sokoloff.

The most effective managers, coaches and teachers inherently understand they're only as good as their ability to meet employees, athletes, or students where they're at and then strive to find the best method to reach the individual.

Too many managers want quick fix, one stop-shopping, black and white answers to managing. They want one rule that will work for everyone. I have watched managers jump around from book to book and course to course in search of that one right solution to the problem, how do I get my employees to do what it is I need them to do when I need them to do it?

The answer is, all the recommendations might be right -- it just depends on who and what you're dealing with.

"There's no such thing as absolute truths or objective reality in terms of people's experiences. That's why when interviewing two witnesses who were part of the same accident each witness, with the desire to be absolutely truthful, will tell different stories," notes Sokoloff.

American clergyman, William Ellery Channing said, "Every human being is intended to have a character of his own." Which means it's different from yours, so expecting them to see and react to things like you do is impractical.

For example, one person may respond well to the Dr. Phil method of giving feedback -- being direct and brutally honest, where as another would run out of the room crying if you spoke to them like that. One person's learning style preference might be to read about it first and then go do it while another's might be totally experiential using trial and error.

The trick is being less black and white
and more grey in your approach.

Start building your tool box of skills, methods and abilities. The more bendable and varied you are at the methods you can use to connect with people the more effective you'll be as a leader.

Ms. Sokoloff attributes fourteen successful years as a litigation lawyer to possessing the ability to be flexible and is able to adapt to a person's individual reality. "My effectiveness, and the key to being a good lawyer, is to be an excellent listener and intellectually light on my feet, so I can be swift enough to deal with different perspectives or versions," says Sokoloff.

A therapist can't have only one theory he makes all his clients adjust to, rather he has to have many theories that he can adjust to the different needs of the clients. And this is what managers must do as well.

Dr. Wayne Dyer, bestselling author and public speaker, puts it another way in his book 10 Secrets for Success and Inner Peace, "Be open to everything and attached to nothing." So, stop looking for the right answer and start opening up to all the possible ones, because in life, there are no absolutes, including this one.

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Ellen Goldhar is a professional business coach/consultant and can be contacted at ellen.goldhar@rogers.com.

Links to her previous columns:
How to Ruin Your Life.
Listen to the Customer.