Navigating Management Struggles With Someone In Your Corner

by: Doug Michaelides

Everybody needs someone in their corner.  Whether at home or at work, the challenges of life can be pretty daunting.  I don’t want to get too sapppy but we’re social animals and we’re not meant to face the world alone.

Experienced managers search out the small number of people (often the one person), who they can really count on to help them formulate and see through their plans.  For a CEO it might be a trusted CFO who brings him down to earth and always magically gets the numbers looking right by quarter end. Or perhaps it is a VP HR who provides sound advice on much more than just thorny people problems. Every manager with serious responsibilities needs this special relationship.

Senior managers don’t always know what they’re doing.  In fact, they get paid for their ability to make decisions and commit resources in the absence of reliable information.  Having someone to share this uncertainty with, who can act as a sounding board and a trusted advisor, is a godsend.

While the person in your corner may be a coach, they are different than a mentor.  A mentor helps you plan for your future.  The person in your corner is a confidante who helps you manage the here and now.  Sometimes it is a peer, but in my experience, it is often someone who works for you.  As you might expect, it can be a pretty intimate relationship since its basis is a manager’s own vulnerability.

So it’s important to choose the person in your corner carefully.  There is tremendous risk in sharing your innermost management challenges and misgivings with the wrong person.   They need a mature perspective and the utmost discretion (a good sense of humor doesn’t hurt either!) It is a lot to ask of someone.

Of course the person in your corner gets something too.   They enjoy an insider’s view of the company and learn a whole lot about what it’s like being a senior manager.  And you both get the satisfaction of a very special bond.  Sometimes this relationship may be the only thing that gets you out of bed in the morning or back into the ring for the next round of the fight!

Who’s the person in your corner?  Hint:  it is probably the one person you’d miss the most if you left your job tomorrow.

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