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Living in a fishbowl, or what is it like to be a manager – a few lessons on effective leadership and management #lesson3

About the author

Agnieszka Jarecka
HR Operations Director
What changed when you became a manager? – this question was raised by new managers during the Empower Managers Program graduation ceremony in Aon last year and inspired me to write a series of 4 short articles on leadership and management based on my personal experience. They will be published here week by week.

Lesson 3 – Living in a fishbowl and the power of check-in – or how to survive in the lights of watching eyes

There has been also one unexpected side of a managerial life to me. From the moment you become a manager, you are in the spotlight everywhere you are: at work and at the shopping mall, online and offline if you want it or not. Like in a fishbowl – visible from all sides. The way you dress, the way you talk, your facial expressions and tone of voice… everything is noticed and interpreted.

A few weeks ago, I got a question from one of the managers – “Aga, are you angry at us? What have we done?” I was so surprised. I had not noticed that I was smiling less than usual for two reasons: I was a bit sick (nothing unusual for the flu season), and I was intensively working on the budget for the next year…so I was not angry…this is the way I look when I think a lot.

To avoid such misinterpretations, it is good to communicate about any distraction at home or any overwhelming priority at work that may impact your availability to the team and your focus. It is good to share it upfront, at the beginning of a meeting to avoid confusion. It is much better to tell your colleagues: “I am waiting for an important e-mail from my manager, so I will be checking e-mail during the meeting”, than leaving your behaviour without any comments and clearly showing disrespect by multitasking.

One more thing – the consistency between your words and your behaviour is scrutinised all the time. It does not mean you cannot change your mind or make different decisions next time. It is good to be transparent about the reasons for your behaviour, because they may be different under different circumstances in the future, and it will be easier to explain that. Also, if you cannot share the full story, be clear about that and share what you can share. Only through transparency and integrity can you build trust, and to me, they are absolutely fundamental to true leadership.


Go back to:
Lesson 1 –  Head, hands and the power of leverage
Lesson 2 – Trust or control?
Lesson 4 – The feedback loop or how to survive in a hall of mirrors


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