Meet Dr. Janet Polach, PhD, Author of The Seven Mistakes New Managers Make
Jenn DeWall: Hi, everyone. It’s so great to have you here. It’s Jenn DeWall. And on this week’s episode of The Leadership Habit podcast, I sat down to talk with Janet all about The Seven Mistakes New Managers Make. Let me tell you a little bit more about Janet. Dr. Janet Polach is a global leader in leadership development and coaching. She has coached leaders in the U.S., China, Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, Puerto Rico, Irelands, the Netherlands and Switzerland. She is an international presence. Janet’s also a retired officer from the U.S. Marine Corp., and as a retired Marine officer, Janet knows a thing or two about what it takes to be a great leader. Her no-nonsense but light-hearted approach is what separates her from the boys. And she creates transformational results for even the most struggling leaders. And we’re gonna be talking about her book, and she wrote this realizing that managers are often too busy running their business to pay attention to their employees. She felt compelled to teach organizations how to get clear about what effective leadership really looks like. Her new book, The Seven Mistakes New Managers Make, does just that! Janet has made it her mission to help people find their own voice in a noisy world and lead from within. And so, enjoy our conversation as Janet, and I talk about the seven mistakes that new managers make.
Jenn DeWall: Hello! Hello everyone. We are so excited to be talking about The Seven Mistakes New Managers Make, and I am so excited, Janet, to have you on the show. Thank you so much for joining The Leadership Habit podcast. We are thrilled to have you here today.
Dr. Janet L. Polach, PhD: Thank you so much, Jenn. It is a delight to be here.
Jenn DeWall: Oh my gosh. So we’re gonna go in– and I love that you wrote a book about the seven mistakes that new managers make because I will say admittedly, I mean, I still am, but I made so many mistakes early on in my career. I still make mistakes, but there are so many notable ones. And I feel like I almost wish because I didn’t have a mentor right off. And I just wish that I had the fortitude to probably pick up a book or look at like, what are the things people, the mistakes people make, instead of just assuming that I’m the only one on the planet, that’s probably getting this wrong, you know, which I think sometimes we do, but we’re gonna talk about your book because this is such an important topic, especially with, you know, the world. There are a lot of people moving around, so we’ve got a lot of new transitions happening. But before we dive into that, Janet, let’s go ahead and share with The Leadership Habit audience. Tell us about yourself and how you came to be. Because you’ve got a great story, and I think there are just so many leadership lessons to learn from within that story.
Dr. Janet L. Polach, PhD: Great. Thank you. So I graduated from one of the schools, the University of Wisconsin and
Jenn DeWall: Woohoo! I’m a Badger too!
Dr. Janet L. Polach, PhD: Yeah, there we go. I went to Stout, which is on the other side of the state and was trained as an educator, an early childhood elementary ed teacher. I graduated in the middle of a recession. I scratched my head and said, now what do I do? Because jobs were few and far between, public schools were cutting back in terms of teachers, and budgets were very tight. And so I looked around, and I said, now what do I do? I could either get a master’s and then be really unemployable <laugh>, or I could do something else. And so I looked around a piece. It was at a time in the world that peace was breaking out all over. And so I looked at the military, and the Marine Corps recruiters were just really excellent at what they did. They pushed all of my buttons around belonging and a spree and being able to serve my country. And so, I joined the Marine Corps. I became a personnel officer is what it was called, which is H.R. At that time, women were not in combat roles. I knew that going in and my job, you know, was to be able to support our combat roles and ensure that individuals were paid well, they were promoted well.
And that formed, I think, a real foundation for me in terms of what leadership is in the Marine Corps and, and the other military services in the United States as well, really form the foundation of what leadership is. They spend hours and hours training on it, teaching on it assessing it. And so, that formed the basis of my understanding. I spent three or four years on active duty, then got off active duty and went to the government to work for a government contractor in an H.R. role. And you know, then the rest was history. It followed me around. I spent time both on active duty and in the reserves over the years, like most military people do. And then, I went into consulting when I moved back to Minnesota. So it has while I got a chance to see a lot of changes for women in the military in those 20 years.
I also got to understand what it’s like to be a woman in a primarily male-dominated organization. And I, when we, you and I were talking before Jenn, and I said, you just go for it. You are yourself. You lean into who you are in, no matter what organization you’re in. And it’s served me well. And I am very proud to say that I’m a retired Marine officer.
Learning Leadership as an Officer in the Marines
Jenn DeWall: I love that. Well, and I think there is. I’m so curious. I mean, I know we’re gonna get into a few lessons that you learned from your service, but when we do look at the military, whether it’s in the U.S. or any other country, leadership is the backbone of what that looks like. And I’m, you know, a lot of us are seeing that play out right now overseas. Probably the most recognized example is what’s happening between Ukraine and Russia right now of just seeing the importance of having strong leaders. And of course, though our work situations may not be, you know, that combat or life or death, you know, there’s just so many rich examples of the importance of these leadership tools, how we think about approaching people. But I’m curious, like how did you find your strength? Because I would’ve been super intimidated. I know you said you just go for it, but how did you find your strength to have a voice in a place where you were like, we don’t typically have the voices here? Like how did you find the strength to do that? You know, as a woman, I think that that is a very big challenge, and there are still people facing that in different parts throughout the world right now, where they might be the minority, and they’re, you know, it’s a little intimidating. So how do you come up and come through in an environment that might be maybe just not the most accessible or just hasn’t seen the history of working in interactions with women?
Dr. Janet L. Polach, PhD: Well, I think, first of all, you find strength, strength in numbers. When I first years ago, when I first arrived at New River Air Station in North Carolina, there were only two women officers on the entire base. And so we got to know each other quickly, and we leaned on each other. Three years later, when I left, there were probably about eight. And so I think that’s really important is to find support from other women. Even if they’re not in your same organization. Find some individuals with whom you can test your ideas out to make sure that you are thinking is really solid. And then I think you find ways to you pick your battles very, very carefully as a woman in a male-dominated organization, you know, there are lots of things that bother us. But you can’t go after all of them. Otherwise, you’re a whiner. So you do it very, very carefully-
When I first arrived at New River, for example, I worked, worked in a hanger and there’s two floors and I had to walk down two flights of stairs and across the entire hanger deck to go to the bathroom and you know, it was uncomfortable because everybody would look at me, you know, they knew there was the woman officer and you know, that’s who she is and, and, you know, they could kind of see here’s, here’s my pace of the day. Well then another woman officer arrived in the organization and it made sense for us to say, wait a minute, this is not okay. We need another bathroom up by where we will work. And so I think you find a pace, you find a rhythm in raising your issues and then go for it with all cause. You know, once you’ve decided, here’s what I’m going to fight. Here’s what I’m gonna stand up for. You know, you really can’t back down because you will be successful.
The Inspiration For Seven Mistakes New Managers Make
Jenn DeWall: And I love the distinction that you make, that there are going to be more things. And I, you know, we can relate to that as women and, you know, we all have different experiences, you know, I’ve heard different ones, but we have to use our emotional intelligence to determine which ones are right to pursue. Because what you’re not saying is we’ll just give up and accept that you’re saying be strategic and be intentional, which is the way that we can make change. It’s, you know, we have to be very deliberate and intentional, and you’re just showing the example of, you know, understanding our own emotional intelligence. Like what can you do? What’s reasonable. How will people respond? What can we do? What’s the way to even make people listen. So you wrote the book, The Seven Mistakes New Managers Make, I mean right. Probably emotional intelligence. That was absolutely mine, but what inspired you to write your book?
Dr. Janet L. Polach, PhD: So it had been a goal for several years, my colleagues had said, Janet, you need to write a book. Seven Mistakes was a COVID book. It happened during the first year of COVID when things got just a little bit soft for me on the consulting side. And I finally had some capacity to think about it delight. I was delighted to, when I look back into my files, I had half of it written already, which for anybody who’s gonna write a book, I encourage you to look back on your blog posts and your LinkedIn posts and presentations that you’ve made in the past because there’s a lot of content there already to pull from. And that’s what I did. You know that people have asked me about seven mistakes. Boy, I made 102, the first year I was a manager <laugh> well, you know, nobody wants to read a book about the hundred and two mistakes you make as a manager.
And so I tried to boil it down into a few critical ones, the reality in business across America. And I do think across the world is that we promote really great individual contributors to managers. They get things done, they raise their hands, they volunteer, they deliver on time or before things are due. And so we’re like, oh voila, this is gonna be a fabulous manager. And so we promote them to manager. We very rarely give them training. The statistic from the conference board is 60% of managers fail in their first two years into the job. And it’s because organizations don’t invest in them. Unlike my experience as a brand new manager, which was in the Marine Corps, I was heavily invested in how to be a Marine officer, most organizations. Don’t I think it’s a couple of reasons. First of all, they don’t know where to start because there are so many managers in an organization.
If you build a pyramid, you know, there’s one CEO, there’s three or four other C-suite office leaders, and then it, it balloons from there. And so people say in organizations, how do we prepare all these managers? Well, it’s not that hard, but you gotta do it. I think when we were talking about earlier, Jenn, is you find ways for them to tap into each other. I’m gonna try doing it this way. What do you think? Oh, talk to the guy in accounting. He was just promoted to a manager. So facilitating managers, being able to talk to each other and leverage other’s knowledge and mistakes, I think is another good way to get their development started. If you’re not gonna have a full blown training program for new managers.
Jenn DeWall: Yes. Well, and here’s the piece that will love us, that if you’re a new manager, give yourself some grace, especially if you don’t have what you had said, like, you know, those facilitated conversations, Hey, go and connect with this person here. They’d be happy to help. Sometimes in reality, they don’t wanna help you. They’ve got stuff going on. They want you to figure that out so they can deal with their own problems and it can feel incredibly lonely. And maybe you then go into your head of like, am I even getting this right? I’m curious how many, if 60% fail, how many of them end up if is failure the form of like their people leaving or is failure the form of them leaving. I’m so curious, what failure then ends up looking like in action. But if you’re a new leader, give yourself some grace because there are a lot of examples you can likely recall. I can recall of leaders that have gotten promoted where you’re like, I don’t know if you had any experience in training people and maybe that’s our opportunity to give grace up, right. Of people not ever having those tools. So when you, you know, I don’t know if you wanna boil this down, but if you think of like, who needs to read this? Like who is that person that you kind of thought of that inspiration that needs to pick up this book?
Why Do You Want to Be a Manager?
Dr. Janet L. Polach, PhD: Well, I think anyone who’s aspiring to be a leader in our organizations, many people aspire to be leadership leaders because there is more compensation. Individuals who get promoted to a manager who leads other people generally are on a stronger pay trajectory than those who are not. So I think before you take that on, think about why you wanna be a manager? Then I think a book like The Seven Mistakes will help you understand here’s what managers do. Fundamentally, Jenn, they work through other people. So as a manager, you have to be willing to let go of doing the work and spend more time working through other people, helping them set performance expectations, giving them feedback, asking about what they’re working on and how does that connect with the meaning that they derive from work. And so it’s that fundamental shift from doing the work to working through other people that I think individuals who aspire to be a manager or a, a future leader have to come to grips with for themselves.
Jenn DeWall: Yes. I love that. You talk about that because so many people, yes, they want the, they want the title. They want the, the money that comes with the title. They don’t want the problems that come with managing people. And I think people don’t realize that, that, you know, I’ve, I’ve heard this before from different leaders I’ve worked with like, I don’t wanna be a people therapist. Well, that’s kind of what leadership is, you know, it’s, I don’t wanna say you’re meant to, you know, fix and aid their problems, but you are meant to hold space and work. As you had said, work through people, you will have to deal with the complexities of human emotions and resistance and how we all, you know, might have conflict or differing point of views.
Like that’s the nature of people leadership. So the first piece of getting really honest, like, you know, I made the mistake early on in my career of being that person that’s like, I want, you know, the fancy title. I want that recognition. I want the visibility. Right. I was high ego and I want all of that. And I didn’t think about the other side of it. I didn’t think about like, what do I feel prepared for that? Am I going to be able to do this? And so I like that. That’s a starting point of if your curiosity is there, if you’re starting just really coming with, why do you wanna lead people? Because that paycheck will get you so far, but you still have to perform the day to day of people leadership. And so how are you gonna do it?
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What Mistakes Do Most New Managers Make?
Jenn DeWall: Let’s dive into your book, The Seven Mistakes New Managers Make. So what’s one of the first mistakes that you notice.
Dr. Janet L. Polach, PhD: One of the first mistakes is the first chapter, which is not transitioning from an individual contributor to a manager. It’s to not have that sense that I’m not gonna do everything now, and I’m not gonna have everything done my way. That’s the other challenge I think as new managers is we think, okay, I’m gonna, okay, I’m gonna delegate, but you are gonna have to do it exactly the way I did it because then it will be satisfactory. And of course that’s a trap that new managers run into. I think another one is not having a plan for execution. You know, we often jump into a manager role and just assume the team knows what they’re responsible for what they’re supposed to be doing. And I talk a lot about how do you set the team up for success by describing the team purpose? Why does it take a team to do the work of this group, and why aren’t we just a bunch of individual contributors? And what are we expected to accomplish? So I think that’s a really good one. I talked also about failure to give–
Jenn DeWall: hold on. I wanna go back to like, yeah, let’s, let’s dive into a little bit of, you know, understanding how to set expectations and even just thinking like, I, I really like the pivot point, right? Transitioning from that individual contributor to a leader, because I think that you see new managers that can very quickly go into burnout and overwhelm because they are trying to do it all. And I don’t know about you. I feel like I’m just hearing it more and more right now, but that might also be the deficit of resources.
People are having to absorb, you know, the rules and responsibilities of the people that have left, but just watching the new leaders fall into the prove-it system, like, you know, individual contributor. I gotta do it all. I’m curious what your take is on that because I just hear either so many insecurities, right? The insecurities of like, can I do this? Well, I mean, I’ll just do it. If I, if I don’t know how to get someone else to do it. Or the imposter syndrome, like I better do it all, otherwise they’re gonna realize, you know, that they picked the wrong person. I’m curious your takes on that, of what you see when working with your clients.
Dr. Janet L. Polach, PhD: What I’m seeing right now is that everybody, like you said, Jenn is really, really busy that I, I think coming out of COVID, we’re all worried that a recession is just around the corner, So let’s do, do, do, do, do, do do. And we are not pausing either as individual leaders or as a team to kinda say, so what’s most important. What are we really expected to accomplish? What do we have the capacity to accomplish and how are we gonna get it done? I think as a new manager, if you can start with just that. And sadly, I think, you know, that’s about, about being it’s really about how is our team going to work together. And I think so many managers get caught in that trap of what we have so much to do that we can’t take time. I can’t take two hours to say what’s the, the purpose of the team. Who’s going to be responsible for what? And so we just keep going full throttle, and we may not be doing the right work for the team.
New Managers Shouldn’t Assume Employees Know The Purpose of Their Work
Jenn DeWall: And so what, what I hear you saying is, you know, when you’re starting out as a leader, maybe some of us are operating on the wrong assumptions. The assumption that the team understands their purpose or how their work connects back to the bigger picture, the team understands what’s expected of them or how they’re supposed to show up in the team. We come in with a lot of assumptions that might actually be wrong. So how do you start that? I mean, you talk about the purpose. So what would be your recommendation for if you’re an emerging leader, even if you’re someone that’s on a team, you can still do this, right. Just because you didn’t do it in the beginning. Doesn’t mean that you’re just a lost cause. How would you recommend starting with purpose or just even starting to establish kind of that team framework?
Dr. Janet L. Polach, PhD: Well, I think you set time team aside, you know, this obviously is not a 15-minute conversation, so taking time to do it. I think, and then saying, so why, why do we need a team to do the work that we did? When I was writing my book, my husband was the facility director of a large cathedral church in downtown Minneapolis. And I said Joe, what is the purpose of your, you know, your facility team? And he said, well, to keep the church clean. And then I probed a little bit more deeply. And I said, so for what purpose? And that really got into thinking, and he actually did do a team purpose with his team. And he discovered that yes, keeping this beautiful old church clean was part of the task, keeping it in repair, of course. So that buildings didn’t, you know, windows didn’t leak and you know, maintenance costs go up. But what they decided fundamentally is the purpose of their team was to create a distraction-free environment. So when worshipers came, they were focused on their spirituality and not the stains on the carpet.
And you know, it gave again new purpose for the custodians in the building who, you know, spend a lot of time vacuuming and cleaning windows. That their deeper purpose was to create a spiritual relationship for the parishioners. And I think that’s where then you help employees find meaning in the work. Even if the work is mundane, you know, think about somebody who sits on a customer service desk all day and generally receives incoming calls about things that are not right. The app doesn’t work, the package didn’t come. The thing costs more money than they thought it would. How do you help those individuals connect to a broader purpose?
It may be a purpose about, you know, getting product that is helping people’s lives into the hands of customers. It may be to make sure that their customer experience is flawless and engaging. And so helping people really connect with why are they coming to work every day? And how does that bring meaning is I think what purpose is all about.
The Mistake New Managers Make About Feedback
Jenn DeWall: Yeah. It’s the purpose. And I love that you talked about, you could identify your purposes, I’m here to keep the church clean, or you could look at it as which is, I feel like a more, that’s the action that you do, right. We all know what we do. And I think that’s the trap. That’s the individual contributor. We’re very heads down into the, the task that we need to do, but not really recognizing the significance, the importance of like, why we even created these things.
I will even say, as, you know, as a new employee, as a younger employee, there would sometimes be that I would even, because I didn’t have well developed emotional intelligence. I would have like the eye roll moments of like, why am I even doing this redundant thing? You know? And there’s so much low-hanging fruit for emerging leaders by just connecting people to the why. And people see it everywhere, but yet we don’t do it. And so I, you know, someone might listening and like given, oh, that’s so obvious, but are you really doing that? Do they really understand their purpose? Now, I just think that it’s a beautiful example that you gave because, I mean, how much better and just more significant and important would I feel if I really understood that I’m creating a positive impact on a worshiper’s life versus it being, I’m just keeping it clean. You know, it’s, there’s just so much more beauty in that.
One of the other pieces that you talk about is feedback and feedback, right? That’s the thing that I feel in some reason in corporate America, even people that think that they have high E.Q. think they receive it well or give it well. And you know what, in actuality, there’s a lot to consider when it comes down to feedback. So what do you see in the form of feedback as a mistake?
Dr. Janet L. Polach, PhD: Well, I think the mistake is not doing it and not doing it on a regular basis. So feedback is not this enormous confrontation. It’s really simple and straightforward, and it focuses on the future and not looking back on the past. So great feedback includes what was the behavior? What was the impact of the behavior, which I think we often miss and then what would you like to see next time? That’s a fabulous conversation. It only takes about, you know, it’s a 10-minute conversation, not an hour conversation. I think we think about it as being difficult to do because who wants to talk about the mistakes that they made? I think people often know that, you know, a presentation doesn’t go well because I didn’t spend enough time preparing. Well, I know at the end of the meeting that it didn’t go well. And the last thing I need is my manager saying, Janet, you really goofed. But if that manager was to say, yes, I understand that, that didn’t go so well. Here’s where I saw it not going so well. And how do we get it right next time? Right. And that’s really the value of feedback. I think the, what I talk about in the book is creating an environment where everybody feels comfortable giving feedback to each other and not just the boss, not just at performance review time, but throughout the day in, day out, week in and week out.
And that the boss is also aware of getting feedback herself, that she’s open to feedback that she’s out there seeking feedback regularly. We just finished a meeting. Gee, how do you think that went? What could I have done to be more effective in getting them to yes. How could have we gotten to yes sooner? Looking for actual development suggestions about being more effective going forward.
Jenn DeWall: Yeah. Well and giving yourself permission. I think this is where it’s starting with our own vulnerability and humility. Hey, maybe I didn’t do that well, or maybe I could have tried a different approach. And you know, the first thing that you led with in terms of feedback is identifying the behavior and the impact of the behavior. And, you know, I think new leaders may not understand that they see it and it becomes, or it can feel and sound more personal because they don’t understand that you really have to drill into the behavior, like the behavior of the passive aggressive email or the eye rolls in the meeting and how someone feels then.
But, you know, and so I think that’s a really important piece because leaders sometimes, or maybe new leaders, we just look at it as everything’s personal. So if I’m giving you this feedback, then you’re gonna take that personally. But yet by the framework that you just shared, it allows you to depersonalize it. It’s not about you personally attacking them. It’s not about you course correcting it. It’s describing how we need the future state to look, how we want to come together and how we want to show up. I’m curious, how do you give feedback up? Like, because they’re, you know, especially if I’m further removed, I am very reluctant to ever give feedback up. Right? It’s kind of that in my head, like, who am I to give you feedback? You’ve created this success. Like, I’m not gonna be the one or I don’t want you upset with me.
<Laugh> because I’m giving you feedback. Right. And the example that comes to mind for me is when I even hear leaders that are like, I’m a people person. And in my head, I watch what they do. And I’m like, you are not a people person. You are not a people person. You are really successful in these things, but you are not a people person! But because of your position and your seniority, I, I don’t feel comfortable telling you that. And so what would be, you know, a take for, or what would be a, how would you approach that situation?
New Managers Have to Learn How to Receive Feedback
Dr. Janet L. Polach, PhD: Well, Jenn, it’s a good point. And I think giving feedback upward is always a challenge. The first step is to prepare. To figure it out, I encourage people to actually write out their own script. You know? So you’re giving feedback to a manager about being critical during meetings, for example. So again, back to the model, what is this leader doing? What’s the impact? And I sometimes think busy, busy senior leaders don’t pause to think about what is the impact their behavior is having on other people. So if they’re being critical in meetings, people are shutting down and not sharing their solutions that has a business impact. And in this busy environment that we’re working on that leader may not appreciate that that’s what’s really happening. So being able to think about both the behavior and the script, and then offering a suggestion.
I work with a lot of executives, Jenn, as I know you do too, as an executive coach and we often do 360 feedback. So we get feedback from many important places. And I have many, many leaders who’ve said, I’ve never heard this, especially the really critical cutting behaviors. You know, they cut people off. They have to be the know it all in the room. And they say, I’ve never heard this. And I will remind them, you never listened. You know, you are, you are so confident in how you approach the world that people have tried to give you this feedback, and you’ve cut them off, and they’ve given up. So often in an executive coaching relationship, we can help them really understand, yes, these behaviors are getting in your way, and they will continue to whether you know about them or not.
Jenn DeWall: Yeah. <Laugh>, you know, and you bring up executive coaching. Cause it is funny when you lead with curiosity, because I’m sure you’ve had this where I can think of a client that comes to mind that, you know, was like again, a different client that was like, I’m, I’m totally a relationship person. I get this. And then I was listening to the triggers, and like the trigger is like, if I have to repeat myself if I have to do this, I’m like, you know, like, let’s take it one step further. Like why do you think you have to repeat yourself? Like what maybe went, what didn’t go well in the initial communication or where was the planning maybe not have done. But it’s so interesting that again, like we can be operating– and I think I’m pretty obsessed right now with understanding self-awareness as it relates to emotional intelligence because so many of us think that we are very self-aware but yet <laugh> I think, as you said, we actually just kind of ignore the stuff that we didn’t wanna hear, that didn’t support our worldview instead of being like, could I be that way? So I just love that you brought that up because yeah.
You might have heard this feedback before and you just didn’t do anything. I can tell you recurring feedback for me all the time in my life will be Jenn, your passion is fantastic, but it’s also the thing that will create conflict. Right. It creates how I shut down. And so I know that feedback and I can choose whether to leverage it or I can choose, you know, to ignore it. And I think it’s easy to ignore when you fall into the habit and you’re just like, oh, that’s who I am. But really likely the feedback has been there all along. What’s another mistake that new managers make?
New Managers Often Undervalue Developing Skills in Their Teams
Dr. Janet L. Polach, PhD: Well, not taking time to develop the skills in their teams. We often think that development is supposed to happen in some course that we send people to. And what we know from the research is that that is the least impactful kind of training. You know, I wanna learn Excel skills. So go to an Excel class for a day. And yet, if we are a team that uses Excel a lot, let’s take the time to learn from each other. You know, if somebody is poor in Excel and somebody else is really strong in them, pair them together to work on a project together. So taking time in your team to actually develop skills, teaching each other about what they do and how they do it will make the team stronger because of course, then somebody can go on vacation without the team falling apart. But I think that this is one of the biggest mistakes managers make they don’t realize that their capabilities in their collective team is their responsibility. It’s not HR’s responsibility. It’s not some external training company’s responsibility. It’s really the responsibility of the manager.
Jenn DeWall: Yeah. You’re the one that understands the work that needs to get done. And you know, I love that you bring up understanding the strengths of a team because that maybe that comes back down to the purpose, or I guess that’s what I hear that of. Like we all have work to do, but we all have a reason that we’re here, which means that we all have value. But we sometimes forget to actually share the value that others have or the strengths that others have. We just assume it’s implied. Oh, you see this? No, they don’t. Because we’ve got all this stuff going on in our heads of, maybe it’s a competition of feeling like I have to prove it. I know I worked in a culture where you constantly felt like you had to make sure you looked better than the next person. And so then it’s hard to talk about strengths because you wanna just pretend that you can own it all. <Laugh>. But I, I like that differentiation of understanding that like how you can cross-train people? How can you make sure you’re actually assessing that? Because I think again, a lot of leaders assume that people have strengths that they may or may not have. And it’s another faulty assumption. Now we have time for one more mistake before we have to wrap the podcast. What’s a final mistake that new managers might make?
The Mistake Managers Make by Sticking to the Status Quo
Dr. Janet L. Polach, PhD: Well, let’s talk number six, which is sticking the status quo. The chapter is full of ideas for driving innovation in your team. You know, I think sometimes again, we, we think we’re so busy. We don’t, again, pause to say, is there a process that could be improved and should we take some time to do it? So I offer 6, 8, 10 different strategies for ways to do problem-solving right within your team. Some of these techniques take, you know, 15 minutes and, and it gets us out of the just brainstorming. What would you like to thi have things be done differently and listing them all on the board? You know, that, that doesn’t get us beyond our current thinking. And so taking time to collectively get the group together and say, what might be we improve? What might we try to take on now? How do we make things a little bit more productive? And then working with each other to, to define what that is, and then drive the improvement.
Dr. Janet’s Tip for Innovative Problem-Solving
Jenn DeWall: So you had shared that you have a few different tips. I wanna hear one sneak peek. I mean, you have to get the book if you wanna get all Janet’s tick, but what Janet’s tips, but what is like one tip that you would have for how we look at problem-solving and innovation? What would you like? What’s one tip you have for a new leader.
Dr. Janet L. Polach, PhD: Jenn, I’m so glad you asked, because I wanna share my most favorite, which is called, make it worse. So you have a topic about, you know, maybe we’re going to try to shorten call times. How do we make it worse? Well, we put people on hold. We don’t have enough people on the shift, we don’t train our people. And so you, everybody goes down this list and creates, how could we make this problem worse? I love this technique because everybody has a lot of fun with it. And you’re, you are smiling as I say to you because you, so then you list all these, make it worse. And then you pause and you turn it around and you say for each one of these, how would we make it better? How would each one of these, how would we staff adequately? How would we train adequately?
Again, you don’t have to do all of the, make it better things, but pick the two or three ideas that are most promising. Imagine what happens to the team when they turn that around. I worked with a group in Singapore actually that use this technique and they found a million dollar savings from their technique and they implemented them. So again, the, the technique takes 30 minutes. The implementation probably takes a little bit longer than that, but it really gets those unusual unvoiced ideas out on the table.
Jenn DeWall: I love that. I’ve never heard that idea before. I’ve never heard that. That is how can you make it worse? And yeah, you said it it’s like that it is inviting everyone to the table because we don’t have to be, you know, concerned about making, you know, having the right solution or having the right words. We just get to say like, how could we make that worse? I love how inclusive that brainstorming is and just, yeah, fun. Right? Like, Hey, there’s actually more than what we realized. That’s so great for gathering ideas and for building innovation. I love that idea, Janet. I’ve never heard it. And then yeah, coming back down to like now what do we wanna focus on? Because that’s the important piece. You don’t do them all. You cannot do them all. You do not do them all, but like you do then turn around and say, which ones are probably going to be the most important, Janet. I, yes. How can you make it worse to make it better? I love that as a closing tip! Janet, how, what would be, you know, I’m gonna ask two questions, stacking, which I know is against coaching, but what would be any final tips or, and what’s the last thing you would want to say to the audience and then go ahead and tell us how they can get in touch with you.
Where to Find More From Dr. Janet L. Polach
Dr. Janet L. Polach, PhD: Right. Well, I think for, for new managers is start studying management. You don’t have to take a graduate class. You don’t have to get in an MBA program, but find a few Ted talks find a couple of good podcasts like this one and listen to them regularly to tip, pick up tips and techniques. Of course you can buy my book. The Seven Mistakes New Managers Make. It is available on inthelead.co— in the lead dot c o. And if you go to my website, you can download the first chapter for free. I’d love to have a conversation with any of you about putting together a learning group. How do we learn the basic techniques of being a great manager? I think the bottom line Jenn is just get started. Know that once you’re promoted to manager, you don’t know everything. But there are ways to learn and these skills can be developed.
Jenn DeWall: Yes. I love that. You just have to want it. You can’t just talk about it. You have to be about it. Janet. Thank you so much for joining The Leadership Habit. Everyone go ahead, go into in the lead dot co. I believe it was InTheLead.co that’s where you can get The Seven Mistakes New Managers Make. Janet, thank you so much for sharing your time, your passion and your expertise with our audience. We are very grateful to have you on the show. Thank you so much, Janet. Thank you so much for listening to this week’s episode of The Leadership Habit podcast. I love the conversation with Dr. Janet. If you want to get her new book, The Seven Mistakes New Managers Make, you can head on over to inthelead.co. There, you can find out more information about Janet and connect with her.
And of course, if you like this episode, or maybe, you know, a friend that’s starting their role as a new leader, send this to them. And of course, if you like it, leave us a review on your favorite podcast, streaming service and Hey— at Crestcom, this is what we do. We help to develop leaders too. We would love to have a conversation with you. We have a one-year-long leadership development program to make sure that you have the tools that you need to be effective today. So please go to Crestcom.com. We would love to have a conversation with you as well. Hey, and thanks so much for listening. I hope you have a great day. Just remember you’re six feet above the ground. You’ve got choices. Choose to lead, choose to create a positive impact and choose to create some good in the world. Bye, everyone!