Rhythm – Are you a manager who sprints or a long-distance runner?

Management is eventually a question of rhythm. Quite often in an organisation, several rhythms coexist: the rhythm of the surroundings, the rhythm of the organisation, the rhythm of operations, as well as individual rhythms. This mosaic usually creates misunderstandings and synchronisation problems. As a Manager, you are the Conductor of the Orchestra who is responsible for bringing harmony to the dissonance. However, you have to be aware of your own rhythm to begin with.
It is often difficult to find the right rhythm among the requirements of the task, the hierarchy, the rhythm of the team, and one’s own rhythm. It is not unusual that the manager joins on a sprinting spree. Yet, there are very rare cases wherein there is real requirement for such a disposition. And even in such cases, the sprint does not always last the distance.
So, who is a manager who sprints? A person who is in a hurry, who wants to go all-out to show that he is in command of all areas of his work. He sets himself an objective to collect maximum information in minimum time. He makes it a point to know the scope of his job at the earliest. He is overinvested, fast, efficient, and most importantly, he works very hard. He puts pressure on himself as well as on others. He rarely takes the time to listen and gauge the needs of his collaborators and interlocutors. Consequently, he sometimes misjudges the real challenges of his job. He is flabbergasted when he is put to question.
This frantic pace often has its origin in the unexpressed needs of the manager: the need to do well, to get recognition, and be rightful toward his superiors and his teams. It is the “Super Me”, the ever more! It is the belief that by working faster and harder, one achieves better success. This creates an impression of being all-powerful, which is often an illusion. It also corresponds to deep-rooted values and beliefs.
What are the impacts of such a rhythm? To start with, there is a risk of premature burnout since no rest is possible. The level of requirement is so high that the manager never lowers his guard.
And then, the sprinting rhythm also has several repercussions on a team. Firstly, this speed may become the cause for mishaps and mistakes. It often prevents one from stepping back. There is no scope of challenging the irregularities in individual or collective learning. The organisation is no longer a learning organisation.
Then, while the teams are subjected to this rapid pace, they have two choices.

  • The first is to follow their manager and adopt his sprinting rhythm even if it does not suit them. Obviously, the medium-term risk is that some team members implode while on the go. The result is: an exhausted team, close to burn out, thus demotivated and demoralised. Energy is not invested in the right place.
  • The other choice is to let the manager grow at his pace and the team members keep their own pace. In this case, the team members run the risk of losing their professional esteem. The mismatch between the two rhythms can bring a feeling of worthlessness amongst the team members. The more the manager feels all-powerful and feels the adrenalin rush, the more those who are managed lose contact with reality and their plans. One sentence strikes as a recurring theme, “What good does it serve eventually?” – a symbol of true separation.

This rhythm dichotomy also creates tension and more or less open clashes that arise from the difficulty in synchronising and harmonising the rhythm of work, the rhythm of interactions, and the rhythm of making decisions.
How to resolve this as a Manager?

  • Firstly, it involves raising your awareness and realising what mode you are in. Is this mode suitable for the situation, the team, and your personality? Is this rhythm required for a specific period? Will this sprint mode transform into a long-distance runner mode? How are you preparing yourself for this upcoming transformation?
  • If you decide to adjust your rhythm, identify the tasks in which you find real value-addition. You cannot do everything, you cannot be everywhere. You have to accept that. Prioritise!
  • Finally, the third step is to truly match your own rhythm. Make long-distance running your first choice. Breathe. Allow yourself the scope for friendship, informal demeanour, and interactions with your teams. Take the time to listen and examine. As a result, your teams will be all the more efficient, and will enjoy a boost in solidarity.

Above all, avoid being out of sync with your teams and your organisation. Play your piece at the right rhythm and tonality! That will not only help you avoid mistakes but will also help you make amends gradually.
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