Are you really that good? We’d be kidding ourselves if we thought we were perfect leaders.
The M word. Nothing can unsettle a competent employee more than when a manager takes their title name too seriously. The title ‘Manager’ for tradition’s sake should be made extinct along with its sidekick, ‘micro’. The most common theme I hear in human resources is the growing frustration of leaders oscillating from task management to accountability metrics with no apparent awareness of the bigger picture and it’s tie in to the company’s core vision. It’s kind of like treating the symptom not the cause. A knee jerk reaction not only applies to medicine but also to management. When operated in such a manner ‘A’ players eventually leave the organization.
It’s a simple as this. An effective leader’s primary concern should be the ability to acquire and retain the best people. Once you have them, the key objective is to grow and develop your top talent. The juggle today is that you must do this and also create a very real connection to these individuals. And it’s a delicate balancing act. Too much of one and not enough of another could shift the experience of whether or not an individual will thrive under your leadership. (Or lack thereof). The rock star CEO is so over. Just like the internet has made companies more transparent, great companies require their leadership to be real, and to truly be human.
Show don’t tell. It’s an age-old statement that goes back to primary school. No one likes to be told just as no one likes to be managed. No competent leader I’ve ever known enjoys the proverbial ‘management’ part of managing. Who would really? It’s kind of like glorified child minding except children are much sharper now and far more fascinating. When you ‘manage’ someone you are saying that ‘you’re not capable of managing yourself’ and ‘you’re not responsible to do what you say you’re going to do when you said you were going to do it’. It essentially shows a vote of non-confidence to their commitment to action.
Tom Peters made famous, ‘manage by wandering around’. When you walk around you learn things but most importantly you get on the same level as the rest of your team by doing this basic step. And do you ever learn about the pulse of the organization and it’s closeness to the company’s core values. If there is one piece of experience I have learned over the years as a business owner it is to do just that – walk around. I love to walk up to an individual’s work space and ask the question, ‘What’s happening in your world right now?’ From there I am able to learn not only where they are at, but how they are approaching or considering their challenges. In many instances I will also learn something about what’s happening in their personal world too, leaving us both feeling better connected.
When you put yourself as a leader into one that is more of an approachable, getting ‘into the trenches’ role, you grow abilities and remove the roadblocks that might demotivate an employee. And the neatest thing is when I say something that really catches their attention that is relevant to them and they say ‘that was so helpful! I’m glad we spoke!’ Listening to them, by acting as a coach, looking at the framework of the world that employee lives in, you start to see more and have a better connection to that individual. Try to put yourself into their paradigm. Their lens is their reality. It’s their paradigm, not yours. By setting strategy in this context you achieve a complete picture and not the bits and pieces found in task management. And best of all, being closer to your team lets people feel more comfortable to speak and make comment. They are most likely going to feel that their opinions and feedback may be heard. Spontaneous time with your team is so important. It’s those times together where I think, on reflection, I’ve learnt the most and received some of the most valuable feedback or ideas from individuals.
Jim Collins’ quote, ‘Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice, and discipline.’ Is dead on. Leadership ‘greatness’ is a skill that takes mindful practice. Here! Here!