Feeling stuck? This post is for you! Read on…

I work with a lot of supervisors in my supervisory leadership program. Some of them surge ahead and embrace the course, others struggle but start to move forward in their supervisor jobs as they see the power of setting work goals and achieving them. But there are always a couple in every group who simply stay stuck. And when I talk to them it becomes obvious why. Everyone gets stuck somewhere in their career and when you do it is usually because something you believe about the world or yourself is crashing into something you know you must do differently.

Here’s the truth about what happens when we are “stuck”: The feeling of being in a deadlock is the result of limiting beliefs. Share on X

Let me give you an example. In the course, there is a comparison chart showing the difference between manager and leadership skills. This is what it says in the course: manager skills are about preserving harmony, meeting deadlines, keeping the team working towards a production goal. What you know about people working individually and in groups, relationships you have, and the groups you yourself belong to, are what help you develop those manager skills.

As a manager, you have formal authority over others and they need to follow your lead. You try to minimize conflict to keep things flowing, using what you know about people working together in groups. That is the role of the manager.

Leadership skills on the other hand, are about inspiring others so that they want to follow you. Sometimes you must disrupt the harmony and challenge people to show leadership. When you show leadership, you address difficult problems and refuse to avoid dealing with conflict.

Sometimes as a leader you have accept blame for something your team did wrong, to take a hit for the team. Share on X

To be a leader you need to think about the times in your life when you overcame obstacles, times when you felt ostracized, excluded, or bullied. To use your leadership skills, you think about the things from your life experience that caused you to be set apart from the group, not the things that enabled you to belong. Those times you had to stand up for something, or be unique. To be a good supervisor you need BOTH these skills, neither will work without the other if you want to keep your job.

Remember: Managers need to minimize conflict and promote harmony to get the team to the desired goal. Leadership is about embracing conflict to make things better and inspiring others to trust you to lead them there. Both are necessary.

This is the actual content of the supervisory leadership course, but inevitably people who are not moving forward and feel stuck in their role, cannot absorb the content in the course. When asked to describe the difference between managers and leaders they say things that are not in the course yet they are convinced are true. Here are some examples about what people who feel stuck in their role as supervisors claim are real differences between managers and leaders. They say:

“Managers take credit for things other people do, leaders get blamed.”

“Managers get paid for watching other people work, leaders do the job.”

“Managers push paper and leaders lead.”

“Leaders get things done and managers get in the way.”

What do you think these statements say about how you perceive managers? The concepts are all negative and make it look like managers don’t do any real work. You have had experienced that with some of the managers in your life. These statements point to undesirable qualities that nobody would want to be known for. They show that the concept of being a manager is the same as being “the man”, and all their lives they have basically been working to “stick it to the man”.

Now what do you do when you are now “the man”? Let’s think about this. If you see your supervisory role as becoming someone nasty, incompetent, a slacker, immoral – the type of person you have never wanted to be and who you always associated with being outside of who you think you are, the only thing you can do is to sabotage what ever could help you be a good manager.

The work patterns you previously had your past position will be repeated and reinforce an even deeper belief that you personally could never become a manager. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy because you aren’t acting like a manager, so in fact, you do not become one because you don’t want to be “like that”. Make sense?

How do you know if you have this limiting belief? Here is a checklist to find out:

Do you find yourself…

  • Jumping in to do operations work unnecessarily?

  • Re-doing other people’s work after they leave because it doesn’t meet your standards?

  • Not setting expectations then getting mad at your team for not reading your mind?

  • Compensating for lack of systems and expectations by micromanaging?

  • Saying that you have no control over your job because you are always putting out fires?

  • Never taking initiative because it could back fire on you?

  • Blaming others for your mistakes to divert attention away from your own sense of incompetence?

  • Secretly uncomfortable with being a supervisor, feeling like you betrayed others by moving up?

  • Jealous of people in management positions who seem to “have it together”?

These attitudes and behaviours might have worked for you in your past role, but they sabotage you and your team when you are in your supervisory role. Here’s the reason limiting beliefs hold you back: nobody intentionally becomes someone they consider bad, incompetent, or negative. This is not to say that that ineffective behaviours can’t happen unconsciously, but when you are in a supervisory position you need to see yourself differently and use new skills. This is a very uncomfortable place for most people to be. We always resist what we need most, and the unknown is scary. Your sense of identity needs to change to embrace the new role.

“New level, new devil.”

This is what happens on the biological level: Every time we are challenged to take a step into the unknown, our danger signals in the brain kick in and all the negative beliefs we have that would stop us from moving into that danger zone jump up to hold us in a vice grip of inaction. That’s why people often speak about feeling stuck or trapped in their new role. They may even hurt themselves, unconsciously making it impossible for them to work. Their brain is trying to protect them from the perceived danger, even if it is entirely imaginary.

I do want to give you some tips about overcoming limiting beliefs. But before I do, there is an important first step. To nip limiting beliefs in the bud and replace them seeing yourself as a good and competent person in your new role, you must first be aware of your beliefs. That’s the way they lose their power over you. In the next article, I’ll tell you how to move limiting to limitless. But first let’s find where the limits stopping you are located. Write this unfinished sentence on a piece of paper:

Managers are…

Then just go for two minutes straight as fast as you can. Write the first thing that comes up then just keep going no matter how off it seems. When you have about 25 statements, pick one that stands out for you. Ask yourself, “how true is this for me on a scale of 1-10?’ If it is between a 7-10, you know you found one. Here’s one I struggled with myself; “Managers can’t be friends with their employees.” Which led to “Managers can only be friends with other managers.” Which led to “I don’t like any of the other managers we have in our organization.” Which then led to; “It’s lonely at the top.” So I equated managers as people with no friends.

That was what was getting in the way of me managing effectively. Surprisingly, once I named that, it seemed strange to me. Although at first I put it at 10 our of 10 on the “this is true for me” scale, then I immediately thought, “I do have friends, they don’t have to be managers”. I then remembered that there was a manager in my company I wanted to get to know better.

So even without any of the strategies I’m going to share with you in the next article, once I named my limited belief, it stopped holding power over me. And the same thing will happen to you!

Give it a try and see what happens. And stay tuned for the next post on how to move limiting beliefs out and unlimited beliefs in your ability to manage in.

Need a handy checklist for supervisory skill? Download yours here!

About Marie:

Marie Gervais, PhD, CEO Shift Management is a business-to-business entrepreneur who specializes in helping employers train their middle management to lead, get their workplace learning online and interactive, and conduct team assessments to figure out who to promote and how. She has a background in integrating internationally-trained individuals to the workplace and has supported many businesses in their efforts to hire, retain, support and promote immigrant and diverse employees.

Get in touch – she would love to hear from you: marie@shiftworkplace.com or 780-454-5661