Far too many managers err on the side of being too much like peanut butter or too much like jelly.
When they follow the peanut butter road they: * lay it on thick - delivering their messages with a heavy hand * make it hard to swallow - everything is delivered as if it’s crucial, career-at-risk, critical * leave you feeling stuck - even when the message may be positive
When they follow the jelly road they: * come across too sweet - afraid to deliver the hard facts to you * seem a bit slippery - so you never quite know where you stand * spread it on everywhere - so you never get to learn about areas for growth
What’s seldom emphasized in management training (when it’s provided, which isn’t always the case) is that learning to be a manager, and then to increasingly become a better and better manager requires personal development.
Managing other people is not only a personal challenge it’s an interpersonal challenge, and one that most people are ill equipped to do well.
Because each one of us grew up in a family, culture, religion, neighborhood, and school system that required us to believe and behave in only certain ways and NOT in other ways. And then we move into the workplace and find ourselves managing others who grew up in a DIFFERENT family, culture, religion, neighborhood, and school system that required them to believe and behave in only certain ways and NOT in other ways—different from those you grew up in.
Unless someone is extremely conscious and proficient in interpersonal skills, the automatic positions for a manager (especially a young inexperienced one) will fall into either the “peanut butter” camp—coming on too strong and controlling by default or the “jelly” camp—being too sweet and nice. Both of these positions help the manager “manage” the differences between themselves and those reporting to him/her, but fail at providing good managerial guidance.
Recognize that providing good management is no different than making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for SOMEONE ELSE which means that you have to learn how they like theirs rather than making it the way you like it and assuming they do too.
The Bread: What kind of bread do they prefer? Do they like theirs toasted or not? You can think of the bread as the container for your managerial relationship. Some people are going to want the relationship contained within “white bread” where everything is neat and tidy, laid out clear and easy to follow. Some others will want a relationship more like “seeded pumpernickel” which can be dense, rich with robust unspoken possibilities.
The Peanut Butter: What kind of peanut butter do they like----creamy or crunchy? Do they prefer organic or a sweeter commercial brand? And how much do they want? Some people will want every corner covered, they don’t want anything that could lead to misunderstanding or confusion. Others will be happy with a few dollops here and there, leaving them to be creative in how they figure out the project at hand.
The Jelly: Now this one is the trickiest, the most demanding of you as a manager. Why? Because there are soooooo many kinds of “jelly” and how people like it delivered to them. Some people will want very little “jelly,” and may be actually suspicious of a manager who is “nice.” Others can be so sensitive to anything that could be critical that they want all messages delivered with “mountains of jelly.”
When you deeply respect that the other person is “not you,” you step into the realms of what can produce excellent management. But not until you do. Otherwise you will keep making everyone the same proverbial “peanut butter and jelly sandwich” the way YOU like it, rather then being aware of and sensitive to how they need you to relate with them for optimal success.