Ten cats, one mouse

Photo of a gray-and-white tabby cat with brilliant blue eyes staring directly out of the picture, on a black backgroundOnce upon a time, I had ten cats. It wasn’t intentional – they just kept showing up until I said, out loud and firmly, “Enough!”

And yeah, it was very furry.

But the ten cats aren’t the story here. The one mouse – that’s the story.

At the time, I lived in a rural town in south central New Jersey, just north of the Pine Barrens. How rural? Just down the street was a small dairy farm.

It doesn’t take a rural area – or a local dairy farm – to have mice, of course. But every fall, as the weather started to get cooler, the mice started looking for a warm place to live for the winter.

With ten cats, as you can imagine, I often found … ummm … let’s just say, random mouse parts, most often (sorry) a tail.

However, one day I came across a scene that could have been from a Disney movie: six of the cats gathered in a circle, staring at one small, quivering mouse.

I rescued it and put it outside, way outside, where hopefully it learned its lesson and didn’t come back.

New managers feel a lot like that mouse

I can only imagine the fear that little mouse experienced, stared at from all sides by predators.

When I talk to new managers, they tell me of feeling isolated and watched. Watched by their former teammates. Watched by the people who work for them. Watched by their fellow managers. And, of course, watched by their boss, who’d made the choice to promote them.

Watched by people who, while not planning to catch and eat them, are nonetheless predators in the sense that it seems like every one of them is waiting for a problem to happen.

The first months and even years as a fledgling manager and leader have always been lonely, anxious times.

The pandemic has only made this worse. Lots worse. So it comes as no surprise that studies of quit rates show that managers are quitting at a higher rate than individual employees – and that many of them are deciding not to seek another management position, but instead are choosing non-managerial roles.

Please, rescue the mouse – I mean – the manager!

A little bit of support goes a long way toward turning a struggling manager into a good leader.

If you’re the manager, start by identifying what you need, find out what’s available to supply that need, and then ask your boss. (Not sure how to make the ask? Download this guide on how to ask your boss for training and support. That’s a direct link to the PDF guide.)

If you’re the leader of managers, consider what training and support is currently available within your company. And then make it available – don’t wait for your managers to ask. And fill in the gaps that may be – almost certainly are – present.

While you’re at it, think about end-to-end career paths and career development options. As I often say, it’s a lot more effective in terms of time, money, and other resources to create good managers, rather than having to fix struggling leaders.

And having a cohesive, strategically-oriented employee development process is a huge benefit to any organization. It’s one of the best things you can do to support your company culture; foster engagement; enable high-performing teams; drive productivity and profitability; increase visibility as a good place to work; and improve customer interaction and brand awareness.

If that sounds a little too magical, just think about it for a moment. What’s most important to employees? Knowing what their options are, knowing what to do to advance, having good managers who care about them. What’s important to companies? Having a highly-engaged, motivated workforce, with strong leadership bench strength and reliable succession planning. What’s most important for hiring? Excellent candidates with confidence in the company’s culture and support. What’s most important for customers? Engaged employees at all levels who work to create a positive customer experience.

That’s a big lesson to learn from ten cats and one mouse!

Like anything, good – meaning, effective – leadership and management development programs start with stragically-oriented planning. Contact me to set a time to talk about what a development plan could mean for your organization.