No matter how well you perform and the results you achieve, there will always be challenges and obstacles that will cause you to wonder if you are going in the right direction as a manager. Those challenges will make you question the validity of your processes and cause you to slow down in your progress.
Do me a favour. Get a pen and a piece of paper. Carry out this simple exercise before reading down the screen. OK? Ready? Let’s go.
Draw a tree. Any tree. Just draw it. It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece. Just draw a tree. Go on, do it now. Don’t look down the screen. Draw it now, then come back to this point.
Take a look at the tree you’ve drawn. Some people’s drawings are magnificent and wild; others’ are simple and plain. It doesn’t matter. Now, let me ask you a question.
What’s the most important part of a tree? The trunk? Branches? Leaves?
Most people would agree it’s the roots. You can tell the condition of the roots by the condition of the tree. Strong roots, well-fed and watered, equal strong trunk and branches. And yet, most people we ask to carry out this exercise don’t draw the roots. Why?
Obvious. Because we don’t see them. They’re beneath ground. The most important part of the tree is beneath the surface, unseen.
How many other things do you tend to ignore because they are out of sight? What problems may occur because of this type of selective thinking?
Now, let me ask another question. What are the most important skills we expect to see in a great manager? I anticipate you saying things like communication skills, integrity, honesty, technical ability, motivation skills, a good listener, delegation skills and such-like. And how do you know the manager has these skills? By their behaviour, of course.
Most great managers we’ve seen have these skills, and more, developed over a period of time so they become habitual responses to challenging situations. They are seen as the result of tried and tested reactions. And where are they hidden? Beneath the surface. Where are they manifested? Above the surface, where they can be seen.
The observed qualities of great managers are developed beneath the surface, through constant personal development, skill assessment, trial and error, observation of others, constant monitoring, modeling, reading, research, coaching, self-motivation and training.
At the root of all qualities of great managers is consistent and never-ending improvement. They water and feed these roots constantly, so they never run dry or starve for nourishment. There’s a constant drip feed of quality material, readily devoured to nourish the hungry learner.
Seek them out. Be proactive in developing your skills that will feed the roots of your progress as a manager. What you see is a constant reminder of what’s below the surface. Make sure your skills are fed and watered effectively and consistently with a personal development programme that will support your growth. And next time, draw your tree with roots!