In the past three years; I have had seven different MAN-agers. Each one came on to the role with their own heir of entitlement and approach of the leadership role. Out of the seven only the one who managed our sales team for three months, left with a positive impression.
The rest were imposters; thinking that because they had the title they also had the skill. I dedicate this article to the top three of them who have left by teaching me the most important lessons in my career and perhaps in my life.
To the one who didn’t believe in my gender. If you are underestimating me because I am a woman, then I accept your challenge with goals in my head and gratitude in my heart. This first lesson was thanks to the manager who had limited beliefs about women particularly of women who had young families. My children and my family are my “why”, they help me stay focused, take care of myself first because you can’t give from an empty cup. This manager however thought women belonged at home in the kitchen with their children. He once had the guts to ask me how I make the time to be a wife and take care of my "husband’s needs" if I’m busy with sales and children. Another time this manager told me the story about his twin daughters; one daughter is submissive and obedient whereas the other daughter asks questions and gives him difficulty. He loses sleep about how this other daughter won’t be able to manage a household or keep a husband with this behavior. Then he proceeded to say he feels bad for her because she will be like me and her life will be difficult.
Our office would have weekly sales campaigns to promote friendly competition and get numbers. There was one instance where the week’s top sales rep would win two tickets to the movies along with $100 gift card to dinner. I won that campaign but when it came time to hand out the prize; he only gave me the gift card. When I continued to ask for clarification about the movies tickets. This manger made me feel pity and small for asking; his response was what more do you want. When any male colleague of mine would win any similar type of campaign this manager would put an additional coffee gift cards to their prize.
Then there was the issue him telling the men if this woman who has little kids and a husband can achieve her targets "why can’t you men"... This manager’s degrading comment and insults were a part of my life for the 9 months that he was a manager of our sales team. While at the time I didn’t have the voice or confidence to address this I have given it much thought since then. I have questioned my silence and for not standing up for myself or my male colleagues who were bystanders. Truthfully that manager’s attitude towards women helped me become much stronger and enforced my belief of what I can do. Time after time I challenged his idea of what women can achieve. Despite him ever acknowledging my capability I know he was perplexed. Judge all you want because you have a limited thought of what we women/moms can or can’t do. At the end, it’s not about what others think, it’s about what we (women/moms/females) want and what we know we can do.
To the one who was a credit hog. This second manager was with the sales team for only 6 months before he was moved to another region. When I first met, him he called me overly ambitious; and for whatever reason I felt ashamed of being labeled in that term. As time progressed I learned was how much of my ideas he was taking credit for.
Before joining the sales team with the current financial institution; I was the owner of a small business. My educational background is business and you can say I grew up with entrepreneurs in my life. There was my dad who had a modest commercial landscaping business, then my husband and his many business ventures. I understood the dedication, persistence and sacrifices it takes to run a business. In addition, I learned from my mentors such as Dale Carnegie, Napoleon Hill, Jeffery Gitomer, Zig Ziegler and Stephen R Covey just to name a few. Whenever I had one on one meetings with this manager he would take notes. Only later I would hear from the executive team in emails about my ideas being implemented and my manager was always credited.
My colleague and I had the local paper to do a piece on our sales team. He had sent a list of questions to be answered by the manager. The manager answered the questions and emailed it to the editor of the paper; the editor emailed me back. He was concerned that the response the manager had provided were immature and didn’t represent the team positively. I brought this to the attention of our team and they all voted to have me rewrite it. Once I rewrote the answers and had the team’s approval I sent it to the editor. When the article was printed and the e-link was shared on the company’s internal board. The manager told everyone he had written it all by himself; the entire team knew who had done the rewrite. This manager received much recognition and praise from the regional vice president and the vice president of the corporation. He took all the credit despite the entire team telling him and showing him his original answers and the rewrite I had done. This manager didn’t thank or appreciate that I was looking out for the team I still want to thank him. If it wasn’t for him I never would have known the power of my writing. This article was the icing on top of all the other ideas he had taken from me and passed them off as his own. The hard part of having this manager was me knowing my value but having a leader who was threatened and working against me. His insecurity also taught me that the job of a leader is like proper parenting. Just like we are to raise our children so they can live without needing us; a good leader must train and help others get to the position of leadership.
To the one, I trusted, even though my gut told me not to. At the first this manager seemed more competent, he was a longtime employee of the company and had transferred from a different planform within the organization. He started by forming connections with the team and saying the right things, he was helpful, understanding and had the qualities to establish trust. He wasn’t a sexist, or a credit hog he gave recognition when it was due. I think the worst type of leader (or human) is that who seeks trust then uses it to manipulate to their advantage. Maybe this manager had my initial trust because of my experience with the previous last five managers’ ability and leadership. Being an optimist I focused on his strengths despite my gut telling me something is off. I thought he meant well because he would agree to assist but last minute he would get out of commitments. Maybe I should have paid closer attention to his stories about his personal life and he troubles with commitment and sticking around when things got tough. He shared stories of his relationships and that should have been a warning. I was still blinded because I gave him the benefit doubt due to being naeive. After many attempts to deal with a harassment on my own I had finally brought my concerns to his attention. True to his pattern at first he was considerate, showed empathy and assured me he would address it appropriately. To my disappointment, this situation continued to get worse and escalate quickly. To me the manager was sympathetic; however, through talking to a long time trusted colleagues I found out he was misleading me.
Behind my back, he had lied, not once but multiple times; and moreover, he had taken sides between me and the person who was harassing me. He had sternly told me not to contact the company’s Human Resources. After waiting for seven months for him to address the problem. I called Human Resources because the emotional trauma was affecting my personal life. HR asked I file an official complaint about him mishandling the situation. This didn’t end well for him or me. As hard as this was to go through I learned to trust my gut. Being reasonable is great but our gut feelings should be taken into the equation too.
Just because a company appoints another person to a position of leadership doesn’t mean that person is any better or above you. With responsibility comes great power; that power can harm or heal another person. They say pick the manager not the job because a great job with a terrible manager is what nightmares are made of. The experience has helped me understand myself, I am more confident in my ability and in using my voice to make a difference. Leadership was something I shied away from out of fear of failing others. My experiences showed me the best way to solve a problem is to become part of the solution.