Is is Better to be a Leader than a Manager?

In the last week, the comparison of leader vs. manager has popped up a couple of times in my LinkedIn feed usually through a quote that implies that it’s better to be a leader than a manager. Here is one as an example, from someone whose ideas I admire:

Management is about arranging and telling. Leadership is about nurturing and enhancing.  –Tom Peters

While I am hoping that Tom intended to demonstrate the different skills inherent in managing and leading, it is likely taken by most people as an either or statement.  If you are a manager, all you do is arrange and tell, but when you are a leader, the choirs sing and the heavens part as you nurture and enhance your team. Most readers would also take those attributes and assign them by proxy to managers and leaders – because surely it’s better to be a leader than a manager.

But in most companies when do you start being a leader? At some executive title that is slightly higher up the food chain than a mere manager?  Can a supervisor be a leader?  How about a coordinator?  Or a customer service representative?

The good news is that you can do both, no matter what your job is.

Leadership and management are skill sets, not titles.

Managers demonstrate leadership skills every day and not at the expense of “arranging and telling”.  Most companies would fall apart without a manager that makes the shift schedules and communicates new policies to their team while creating an environment where people are motivated and engaged.

It is true that the balance tips more toward leadership type work the higher you climb the corporate ladder, but even C-suite executives are still spending portions of their day managing – with performance reviews, asset allocation decisions and directives on new product lines.

So yes, there is a difference between being a manager and an executive and one does tend to do more leadership type work than the other.  Both are valuable to the organization – precisely because they do the right amount of managing vs leading.

So let’s add an asterisk to Tom’s quote:

Management is about arranging and telling. Leadership is about nurturing and enhancing.** –Tom Peters

**and you should try to do both well.**

 

 

Driving the Bus – Part 4

The most important thing you will do as a manager is Driving the Bus, which is a metaphor that I like to use when discussing recruiting and team building.  I recommend using the following Bus related questions to guide your hiring and team building:

  1. Where is the Bus going?
  2. Who should be on the Bus?
  3. Where should they sit?
  4. Who else can drive?

Each of these questions plays an integral role in building the team you go to battle with, and your long-term success.

In Part One, we talked about the pre-hiring process and in Part Two we discussed who to hire and fire.  Part 3 focused on the kind of work your team members do and making sure they are in the best physical environment.  Our final post discusses delegating control after you figure out Who Else Can Drive?

One of the most rewarding parts about being a manager is seeing your team succeed on their own merits.  Successful product launches or sales pitches or service calls benefit everyone – the company, the manager and the team members.

So after you take a moment to revel in the glory, take another moment to think about who is ready to Drive Your Bus.  Or Drive their Own Bus.

The best time for a mini promotion within the team is while the juice is still flowing from a recent success.  You will have observed who contributed at what stages, who was the most engaged, and who did the most for other team members. So as you gear up for the next project, find a way to let that person drive the bus a little.  As a kid, my dad would let me drive on the highway sitting on his lap while he worked the pedals.  I was driving but under his guidance.  Same idea here.

Here’s an example:  If it’s a product launch, ask your star to run your version of the After Action Review, gathering feedback from the team and customers about the positives and negatives from the launch, then providing a verbal briefing to other managers or better yet to executives.  This allows you to recognize the star’s contribution in front of the team and in front of your boss and their peers as well – which helps his career and your reputation as someone who develops high performers.

If that goes well, the next natural step is to ask the star to run the requirements gathering phase of the next product launch or a spin-off from the first product, which can be followed by overseeing the build process, then the Beta test, then the roll out.  If all goes well, you have a new product manager, who can then help you identify the next person to spotlight.

Greyhound drivers on long trips switch off the driving duties to keep them fresh and focused, same with airline pilots and people like us on cross country trips to Wally World.  Managers should do the same.

Driving the Bus – Part 3

The most important thing you will do as a manager is Driving the Bus, which is a metaphor that I like to use when discussing recruiting and team building.  I recommend using the following Bus related questions to guide your hiring and team building:

  1. Where is the Bus going?
  2. Who should be on the Bus?
  3. Where should they sit?
  4. Who else can drive?

Each of these questions plays an integral role in building the team you go to battle with, and your long-term success.

In Part One, we talked about the pre-hiring process and in Part Two we discussed who to hire and fire.  Next up we look around at our passengers and decide Where Should They Sit – which includes their actual physical workspaces and the kind of work they do.

We have now figured out where we are going and picked the passengers on our bus of great expectations, so our next goal is to make sure everyone is sitting in the right seats.

Onboard our bus, sitting in the right seat means each person being in a role that suits their skills and experience and where they can contribute the most to achieving our goals.

So, start the bus rolling toward the target and make adjustments as you go.  A team is an organism that changes everyday in small ways and your job as the manager is to be observant of the small changes.   Performance, of course, is a major indicator, but a team member’s health, their appearance or energy level and outside stressors can throw someone off track.  Too many of those small changes building up can throw enough people off track and then you get bigger tremors or even major fault lines that cause the bus to go off course.

Most noticeable in the team fishbowl is when internal stressors are causing someone to go off course – their cubby buddy, their chair, their work schedule, their part in the assignment, their perception regarding their contribution to the end goal – can all lead someone to the dark side and sap their motivation.

As a manager, small changes to make someone happy leads to big returns.

Hard-driving, self-reliant tough talking managers may scoff at the guy who needs a place to park his bike or the team member who gets too warm sitting near the window.  But solving these problems are the easiest things to do as a manager and almost always get you the best result.  Try it.  Just say yes the next time someone needs something small (which is likely gigantic to them).  People are so used to “no” and their genuine appreciation for your actions to support them will come in handy when you have to ask them for something larger and more complex in half the time.

In the end, even after everyone is sitting in the right seat, they still have to deliver.  If they don’t, then it’s time to find them another seat on the bus that fits their skills, experience and energy or it’s time to pull the cord, ring the bell and let them off at the next stop.

Driving the Bus – Part 2(b)

The most important thing you will do as a manager is Driving the Bus, which is a metaphor that I like to use when discussing recruiting and team building.  I recommend using the following Bus related questions to guide your hiring and team building:

  1. Where is the Bus going?
  2. Who should be on the Bus?
  3. Where should they sit?
  4. Who else can drive?

Each of these questions plays an integral role in building the team you go to battle with, and your long-term success. In Part Two A, we started with a section about Who Should Be on the Bus by talking about asking existing staff to get off the bus.  In this post, we are going to invite some new people to jump on the bus. What an exciting time! Bringing new people into an organization or onto a small team can send a shock of energy through the building.  Look what just happened with the Toronto Blue Jays.  Against 10 years of history, they made significant trades for better players to help them win this year and the jolt was felt right through the organization.  Their Monday game after the big trade was sold out and electric at the ballpark and the team is undefeated in the last week.  Contrast that to a year ago, when the Jays were in it and did not make a move. The fans howled, the media questioned and the players grumbled – and then started losing and missed the playoffs. Don’t miss the playoffs!  When you have a chance to strengthen your team through the hiring process, spend time on it and get it right. But where do you start?  Certainly not with a help wanted ad or a hiring ad on Monster.  Yes, you will post the ad internally and send it out online as part of the hiring process but your best prospects will not likely come from a stack of resumes.  They will come from your own personal list of superstars you want to hire, who do the same job with better results, better attitude and a new outlook at their existing company.

Do you keep a list of superstars?

If you are not, I would suggest that you start.  Start with your competitors locally, then nationally and find the person that kicks your butt at every pitch or who designs a product two upgrades more advanced than yours, year in and year out.  In baseball, one phrase you hear a lot is “Glad he’s on our side”  – because you’d rather not face them when with the game on the line.  Hire that person.

I would also suggest that you don’t limit your superstar list to your own industry.  Good sales people, CSR’s, coders and project managers work right down the street from you.  Identify the best companies around from their local press, awards for results, venture capital funding announcements, workplace awards, whatever and target the people you need who have proven results.

There is no better way for you to shine as a manager than to hire a superstar – both in the short term exhilaration of the moment when you hire a superstar but also when the results start improving as a result of that hire.

Driving the Bus – Part 2 (a)

The most important thing you will do as a manager is Driving the Bus, which is a metaphor that I like to use when discussing recruiting and team building.  I recommend using the following Bus related questions to guide your hiring and team building:

  1. Where is the Bus going?
  2. Who should be on the Bus?
  3. Where should they sit?
  4. Who else can drive?

Each of these questions plays an integral role in building the team you go to battle with, and your long-term success.

In Part One, we talked about the pre-hiring process and in this post we are going to review Who Should Be on the Bus, which covers both existing staff and new hires.

Not many managers are fortunate enough to be able to form their team from scratch. In those cases, likely a start-up or small business, you can skip right to hiring after you decide Where the Bus is Going.  On the other hand, most of us inherit a team when we become a manager and then are expected to add and subtract members from that team as the company goals and team performance change to ensure the best possible results.

So before you start hiring, take a look at your existing team and decide who should not be on the bus

There are many reasons for showing someone the door, including obvious ones like poor performance (even after coaching) and destructive or criminal behaviour.  Not so obvious, but just as important, is when the company goals, focus or business model changes and team members motivation, skills and attitude do not change with the times.

I was lucky enough to work at a company for 11 years that grew very quickly and at every stage long term, high performing team members found their way out of the company because the fit between their skills and the kind of company they wanted to work for changed as the company became larger.  I made it through several changes in service and product focus, an acquisition by a larger, public company and finally a venture supported return to a private company before the fit wasn’t right for me.

I wasn’t asked to leave, but the role the new organization had for me was not a good fit.  And that’s how it will work with your team – you won’t be able to find a fit for a good person and hopefully they will recognize that they can find what they are looking for somewhere else.  If they hang in there, then you either:

  • Live with it and let them limp along riding on the glory of their former self while in a lesser role, or you
  • Invest in re-training to help that person find the new motivation that will help them become truly engaged at work, or
  • You have to cut them loose. Respectfully, honourably and honestly while recognizing that firing someone is an extremely personal act

Deciding who’s on your bus not only means asking some people to step off, but also involves inviting new people to jump on – which we will cover in the next post.

Driving the Bus – Part 1

The most important thing you will do as a manager is Driving the Bus, which is a metaphor that I like to use when discussing recruiting and team building.  I recommend using the following Bus related questions to guide your hiring and team building:

  1. Where is the Bus going?
  2. Who should be on the Bus?
  3. Where should they sit?
  4. Who else can drive?

Each of these questions plays an integral role in building the team you go to battle with, and your long-term success.

Hiring is the perfect time for a reality check on Where the Bus is Going.  Hiring is an opportunity for rebirth – out with the old and in with the new, or in with more new because we need additional resources.  A little blue sky thinking before you get into the recruiting process could lead to the kind of radical change that makes a big difference, or lead to a subtle change in an existing dynamic that creates a much more harmonized team.  You are not Carnac and cannot see into the future to evaluate how a new hire will impact the business, but before your start you can ask yourself:

How can a new hire change our business for the better?

Asking this question gives you permission to dream big.

Successful Managers Find a Friend

There is plenty of advice in the Manager’s secret handbook about managing your team, your clients and managing up – and almost nothing written about managing sideways.

Likely because a sideways relationship in your organization is not about managing – it’s usually about rallying your managerial colleagues to a common cause.  Even if that common cause is you.

All first time managers should make two sideways friends immediately in order to save themselves additional work, grief, and embarrassment – one friend from HR and one from Accounting.

It is unlikely, that unless you are a manager yourself in either one of these areas, that you will know what you are doing when it’s time to fill out your first budget or hire your first team member.  How hard can it be?  I’m smart, I can figure it out.  Sure you can – but why would you?

One of the great joys of being a manager is giving other members of your team a chance to shine in their area of expertise. Sideways managers or their staff are definitely part of your team, even if it’s only a dotted line that connects you, and they want to be recognized for doing good work.  Accounting staff spend their days, by choice, knee deep in spreadsheets, debits and credits and invoices.  Some problem that seems complex and foreign to the new manager of customer service is likely right in their wheelhouse and can be banged out in no time.  Followed by a prompt and genuine thank you from you!

Your HR friend is the same, spending their days with vacation policies, dress codes, workplace standards, terminations, disciplinary meetings, and FTE planning.

Since recruiting is the most important work that you will do as a manager, having a partner in HR is crucial to your long term success.

I have been fortunate to work closely with several excellent HR managers who counterbalance my natural instinct to hire people I really like in the interview with the company’s need to hire people with experience doing the job we need to be done. These same managers have also guided me through employee issues like drug dependency, family funerals, long term sick leave, theft, fraud and excessive sick leave.  Together we did our best to balance the needs of the company with compassion for the team member.

In the end, as Ken Blanchard tells us in his book High Five, “All of us are smarter than one of us.”