Probably your direct reports don’t hate you, Things are not that bad. It might be mild discontent. But, what could explain the fact that they don’t seem to get it. If only they could stop driving you crazy and just do their job like they are supposed to. Is that the attitude you had when they first joined your team?
“Just do your job and don’t drive me crazy and we will get along fine.”
If this has been your general approach toward your employees, I urge you to consider pursuing a role as an individual contributor, not a leader. It will serve everyone better.
When an employee first joined your organization (or you took the reins of an existing team), you shared expectations, communication preferences, point of view, and boundaries. All with hopeful anticipation and valued camaraderie. “Welcome to the team,” you likely said.
So what happened?
Over time, things got sloppy. Perhaps you got used to each other and replaced communication with assumption.
“She’s been here long enough, she knows what I mean.”
The layman’s term for this is, ‘lazy’. It can happen even when everything is humming along; costs contained, profits up, technology has magically fixed your problems, and you are getting home at a decent hour. The effective leader knows; the garden still has to be tended with a diligent and caring eye.
Although they seldom like to hear it, I frequently remind clients, “Your manager knows more than you.” This has nothing to do with intelligence or common sense. It is about perspective. Your manager attends different meetings than you, receives different reports, is under different scrutiny, and is responsible for more. These are not things a leader should tell their direct reports because at best it comes across as a humble brag, at worst it is sanctimonious.
It is rare for your direct reports to see things from your vantage point. They view the world from their perspective, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn the reverse is also true. Your direct reports know more than you. They are closer to the end-user. They get the latest tactical information in real time, well before your excel spreadsheet turns from yellow to red. Every day they see successes and failures that you never do, or if you once did, you’ve long since forgotten.
When you stop communicating, collaborating, and soliciting opinions, you break an implicit compact. The point of a team is the realization of a strategic imperative. It is the recognition that the accomplishment of something important cannot be successful without the diversity of thought, experience, skill, and perspective. Without that you do not have a high-performing team, you have a group of people who barely tolerate each other, and there is no strategic benefit to that.
So, go ask your direct reports their opinion. Let them know ahead of time that you may or may not agree with or act on what they share, but you still want to hear their opinion because you value their perspective.