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Hypocrisy as a Management Tool

As I look back over my career, it often pains me to remember the many mistakes I’ve made. But when I push past the pain and embarrassment, I also recall how I’ve used those experiences to improve myself. It’s so true that you come to appreciate the really hard times so much more as the years go by. You try to prevent the people you manage from making mistakes, but it’s often beneficial for them to make those same mistakes, and to feel the same pain. That’s how we learn best. Your real job is to help them pick up the pieces and assist them in learning from their mistakes. Isn’t management a lot like parenting? 😉

We all make many mistakes throughout our careers. But when the time comes for you to take on a management role, you’re forced to think about them. In order to manage effectively, you absolutely must dip into your first-hand experience of the mistakes you’ve made.

Maybe you’ve had the opportunity to work somewhere for several years, with the same core group of people. Maybe you work in one of those fields where you always seem to run into the same people at future jobs. They get to know your warts, and they often — no, always — remember your mistakes. And if you eventually have to manage these people, they will remind you of those mistakes whenever you scold them for making the same ones.

So, how can we manage effectively, while being accused of hypocrisy?

Remember that although you’ve made the same mistakes in the past, you’ve learned from them. And if you play this right, you can use the opportunity to mentor your team towards improvement.

Admit to them that you definitely remember making the same mistakes, even recently, but that you’ve learned from it. Express your complete empathy, since you’ve been in their position. Remind them that if you can learn from a mistake and change, so could they. And remind them that the simple fact that they’re calling you on it, they’re recognizing it as a mistake. And that’s always the first step towards correcting it.

As the saying goes — good decisions come from experience, and experience comes from bad decisions. We all make mistakes. Use yourself as an example, and you may even earn more of their respect in the process.


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  1. Good advice! I find that using myself as an example when working in a mentor role works very well. I recently joined the westchester/fairfield .net user group. I would like to get more involved in the .net community as well. Can I assist with any upcoming events?


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