Look at my post from two weeks ago on how to manage your manager and you’ll notice something beyond business relationships. Much of what works for managing managers applies to asserting yourself and improving personal, even intimate, relationships.
I distinguish there between how people usually manage people and how they manage their managers. People usually manage people with external incentives—bonuses, offers of promotions, threats of demotion or firing, increases or decreases of responsibility, titles, and so on… what we often call carrots and sticks. External incentives make sense. They produce measurable predictable results for everyone. We’re used to people managing us with them so they feel natural to use.
We have almost no external incentives to use with our managers, however, which leaves most people feeling debilitated on managing their managers. They feel they have to accept what their manager gives them, unable to influence them much.
On the contrary, we have powerful tools to manage our managers. They just aren’t the external incentives we’re used to. They’re internal—in particular, we can influence them through emotions, which motivate them. We all have emotions and emotions respond to our environments, beliefs, and behaviors. We are parts of other people’s environments and we can influence their beliefs and behaviors—that is, we can lead them.
You might think the constraint of not having external incentives would make managing without them harder. Again, the contrary happens, at least in relationships that last longer than a few months and involve more than a minimum level of interaction. When you have skills to manage internally, you can inspire others, whether at work or at home, and inspiration motivates people more than merely guiding with external incentives. The ability to inspire comes from skills in you, not circumstance, and you can build skills.
The difference between leading through external incentives versus internal motivation
Here are the big differences between leading through external incentives versus internal motivations
|External Incentives||Internal Emotions|
|Sample tools||Bonuses, firing, promotions, demotions, titles||Understanding, support, listening, compassion|
|Immediacy||Works immediately and similarly for all||Takes time to work and needs personalization|
|Directness||Needs little direct interaction||Needs more direct interaction|
|Applicability||Works only with people you have authority over||Works with everyone, even outside work|
|Potential||Guides||Motivates, can even inspire|
The main difference is in the last row: leading through internal emotions motivates and can even inspire. To work, you need to interact closely enough and long enough, both of which conditions happen in personal and even intimate relationships.
What happens when you coach people to lead through emotions
A common pattern happens when I coach people. It goes like this.
- They start working with me for their particular reason
- They find their reasons includes problems with their managers
- They start learning and practicing skills to manage their managers
- Their emotional and relationship skills improve
- Their spouse, boyfriend, or girlfriend (and often children) notices improvements
- They intentionally apply the same emotional and relationship skills to personal relationships
- Their personal and family relationships improve
- Their personal and family skills skyrocket
After about a month or two, many of my coaching relationships transition from just about work to about their personal lives, where they find their transformations bigger than at work, a big bonus because they didn’t expect changes to happen there at all.
If you’re weak with emotional skills, I recommend going back and reading that post and the links within (or considering coaching). In general, practicing skills in one area of life will improve them in others. Starting at work often works better because the emotions tend to be less intense there and the consequences of messing up not as serious.
Learn to make Meaningful Connections
with a simple, effective exercise from my book, Leadership Step by Step.
- Step by step instructions
- Video examples of me and Marshall Goldsmith
- An excerpt from my book