Managing vs Leading – Part One

Most people who find themselves in a leadership position for the first time got there because they were good at doing whatever they were doing. They were then promoted to lead their former co-workers.

That’s great except for the fact that they are very unlikely to actually lead. They make what is the most common leadership mistake of all. They assume that their new position makes them a leader. It absolutely does not!

Your position or title gives you an opportunity to earn the chance to lead. Nothing more and nothing less.

Most people appointed to a leadership position tend to “lead” the way they were “led” by the people who they worked for. If you had a bad boss then you’ve got a head start on being a bad boss yourself. If you were managed instead of led then you’ll likely attempt to manage your people as well.

The problems associated with trying to manage another human being are too numerous to list here. But here are some of the big ones.

Poor attitude. People resist being managed, they need leadership. So managed people tend to have poor attitudes. They push back against being managed in a ton of ways, some subtle and some not so subtle. They procrastinate when given a directive. They have attendance issues. They seem to require constant attention. They question almost every decision. They resist, sometimes massively, any kind of change.

Research shows they most people are terminated due to some type of attitude issue. What most people in leadership positions fail to understand is that it was their lack of ability to truly lead that caused the poor attitude of the person they just fired.

If you’re tempted to say that you are not responsible for the attitude of your people then please immediately stop thinking of yourself as a leader. Developing an environment and culture that helps nurture a positive attitude is a prime responsibility of Authentic Leadership.

Lack of initiative. Every employer wants “self-starters” or people who can work effectively while unsupervised. But managed people seldom take the initiative….for anything but lunch and break periods. Even people with a “go-getter” mentality don’t go very far when managed instead of led. They do what it says to do in their job description (maybe) and not much more. If someone who works for you refuses to do something that isn’t explicitly spelled out in their job description that’s a sure sign they feel as if they are being managed. People who feel managed do the bare minimum required to keep their job. When you think about it that’s only fair since their manager is doing the bare minimum to help them do it.

High turnover and low morale. When you attempt to use your position or title to force the compliance of your people you cause low morale. You also cause higher turnover. Authentic Leaders earn the commitment of their people by leading them. Leaders in name only try to manage their people and the only real “tools” they have are fear and coercion. That might get them the appearance of compliance but it will not earn them commitment. High turnover and low morale will cause even high performers to disengage. No business can afford even one disengaged employee but some research shows as many as 70% of the employees at an average business are disengaged.

Average businesses and organizations attempt to manage their people rather than lead them.

Are you managing your people to an average performance or are you leading them to excellence?

You Haven’t and You Won’t Because You Can’t

Almost every business professes at least the desire to provide the highest caliber of customer service possible.

They name their customer support departments things like customer “care.” They talk about improving the customer “experience” all while failing to invest in the people who might actually care for those customers. The people who work for that business that professes the desire to “care” for their customers.

If you’re running a business that professes the desire to provide your customers with excellent customer service then you need to know that if you’re not caring for your own employees then you can’t provide a high level of service to your customers.

And if you’re not currently providing your employees with the tools and training they need to take care of your customers then you won’t be providing a high level of customer service anytime soon.

You can’t provide a high level of customer service if your employees feel undervalued, under appreciated and unprepared for the task.

I maybe haven’t said this in like an hour so let me repeat it. 100% of your employees are people. By an amazing coincidence 100% of your customers are people too. If your employees are unhappy and feel unsupported then you can bet your last dollar that your customers will be too.

If that situation persists you’ll be down to that last dollar a lot sooner than you think.

You simply cannot create happy customers by placing them in contact with unhappy employees. The fastest way to create an unhappy employee is by trying to manage them instead of leading them.

When I ask the owner of a business about their people I listen for how they describe them. When I hear a bunch of buzzwords like “our team members” or our “guest support staff” or my personal favorite “customer experience managers” I start to be concerned.

What I’m hoping to hear is about the PEOPLE of the organization. A solid, firm unmistakable understanding that the people who are expected to create happy customers are human beings. Human beings who have stuff going on in their life outside of work. Human beings who have goals and hopes and dreams just like a real person.

Human beings who need to be led because trying to manage another human being causes nothing but problems for the manager trying to manage them. You have not and you will not have a fully productive and engaged human being working for you if you’re trying to manage them instead of lead them. Because you can’t manage a human being. It’s just not possible.

Stop trying to create a great customer service department and start creating a great customer service culture. That culture begins with happy, supported and valued employees. That culture is only possible if you lead your people rather than manage them.

I’ll write a lot in the coming weeks on the difference between managing people and leading them. In the meantime consider investing less in the latest “new thing” in customer service. Invest instead in your people because only people have the ability to truly care for another person…like your customers for instance.

Leading, Actually Leading

If everyone in a leadership position who wasn’t actually leading were fired there would be a ton of open leadership positions. The sad reality of leadership is that most people in leadership positions merely pose as leaders. They don’t do the hard work that truly leading requires.

Think of it like this. If you’re going someplace in your car and someone asks to tag along because they have nothing better to do then you’re taking them for a ride. That’s like occupying a leadership position without really leading. People might be in the car with you but they have no commitment to any particular destination.

When you’re giving someone a ride to a place they need to go and they might not get there without you, that’s like actually leading. They have a destination in mind and you’re their guide to get them there.

A person in a leadership position who actually leads has the ability to change the world for the good.

Maybe only one person’s world but that is more than most leaders in name only will do.

It’s not a big surprise that most people in leadership positions don’t actually lead. Over 50% of people in leadership positions have never received a minute of formal leadership training. More than 80% have never participated in a leadership development program.

If you’re wondering about the difference between leadership training and leadership development I’d explain it this way. Leadership training focuses on the “as is.” It’s about focusing on past leadership experiences to maintain the status quo. Leadership development aims higher. It is about being a better leader than the leaders that came before.

Leaders who actually lead invest themselves in their people. They celebrate the success of their people as much as their own. They know that as a leader who actually leads their success in completely dependent upon the success of their people.

“Leaders” who merely occupy a leadership position think in terms of “spending time” to correct mistakes made by their people. Leaders who lead think in terms of “investing time” to grow their people to a level where mistakes are virtually eliminated.

Leaders who actually lead understand that budgets, buildings and other “things” are managed. They also understand that people must be led and they have learned the difference between managing and leading.

People who are managed will never reach their potential. That’s the biggest problem with having “leadership posers” in a leadership position. If they are responsible for a budding superstar and they try to manage them rather than lead them that bud will never bloom.

That makes it a huge challenge to grow an organization.

When leaders don’t lead then their people don’t grow, or they grow too slowly to have the impact on the organization that they could. Don’t let that happen to your people. If you’re in a position of leadership and your organization doesn’t offer you Leadership Training or Leadership Development then do what an Authentic Leader would do…seek it out on your own. It’s like an investment in yourself.

Lead yourself to success. Lead yourself to truly lead your people.

The One Absolute of Authentic Leadership

I am frequently asked how to define the difference between Leadership and Authentic Leadership.

A leader is anyone who has influence over other people. That’s a very broad definition and points to the reality that almost anyone can lead. Your level of influence will determine your ability to lead. The greater your level of influence the greater your leadership potential.

But Authentic Leadership is something different. Being an Authentic Leader requires more than mere influence. It requires that you use that influence in a way that positively impacts the lives of the people you lead.

Authentic Leadership begins when you care for the people you lead. That’s because Authentic Leadership requires that the leader put their people first. If you don’t care for the people you lead it’s nearly impossible to put them first.

When you care for your people and you put them first it leads to enthusiastically helping your people succeed. It leads to making a positive difference in their lives.

That’s why the one absolute measure of whether a person is an Authentic Leader is whether or not they have helped make the people they lead better. Better at what they do, better at how they do it and better at why they do it.

Authentic Leaders make a difference in their people’s lives. They do it with no expectation of receiving anything in return for themselves. It may indeed help their organization but that’s not their primary motive for helping their people. They help their people in almost anyway they can because it’s the right thing to do.

A leader can have a large dose of success in many areas but if they haven’t helped another person reach their potential and achieve more than that person thought possible then they may be a Leader but I would not define them as an Authentic Leader.

If you’re wondering whether or not you’re an Authentic Leader you don’t need to wonder anymore. Look around at the people you’ve been leading. Are they better off because of the positive impact you have had on their life? Would they agree that you’ve had that positive impact if they were asked.

If the answer to both those questions is not a solid yes then you have some growing to do as a leader. That growth begins with a decision that says “I will LeadToday.” When you make that decision to authentically lead you won’t only change the lives of the people you lead, you’ll likely change your life as well.

Unknowing Leadership

True or false? Leaders must know everything.

That’s false. In fact it’s absolutely  positively false. Few things about leadership will ever be more false. It’s odd then that so many people in leadership positions act as if it were true.

Insecure and inexperienced leaders hate to say “I don’t know.” To avoid admitting to what they see as a weakness, they guess. They make something up or in the worst case, lie.

All because they believe uttering the words “I don’t know” makes them look weak.

Authentic Leaders embrace the unknown. They live in ambiguity. They know what they know and perhaps even more importantly, they know what they don’t know. And they are completely comfortable with not having all the answers.

They know that ambiguity leads to opportunity. When they don’t know their answer is “I don’t know…yet.” Their thought process in that moment is not on what is, it’s on what could be. They realize that not knowing is the beginning of the learning process.

Authentic Leaders know they will never know it all. They also know that they don’t have to. They use the knowledge and experience of their teams to fill in their gaps. They also don’t expect anyone in their organization to have all the answers and they willingly fill in the knowledge gaps of their team.

When an Authentic Leader doesn’t know what to do they do the next right thing. Doing the next right thing doesn’t require knowing the end result, it only requires knowing the next right thing to do. A series of “right next steps” will invariably lead to the desired end result.

Authentic Leaders do not try to solve every problem immediately. They live in the unknowns of a problem to better understand it and it’s root causes. They are willing to allow the problem to persist a bit to ensure that once it’s solved it’s solved for good.

It’s only by embracing what you don’t know that you can know more. If you think you know it all, or think you must convince others that you do, you rob yourself of the opportunity to grow.

Don’t simply tolerate ambiguity, embrace it. Relish the unknown and use it as a springboard to knowing more. Admit what you don’t know. Admit it especially to yourself. And remind yourself that not knowing isn’t a weakness, it is the beginning of knowing more.

Problematic PowerPoint

There really isn’t a problem with PowerPoint. The problem is with how so many people use it.

PowerPoint was never intended to be used as a shield for uncomfortable or inexperienced presenters to hide behind. PowerPoint was not developed to be an entertainment tool or act as “filler” for an incomplete presentation. It also was most certainly not designed to be a presenter’s notes.

PowerPoint was developed to enhance a well thought out professional presentation. It is intended to help a speaker present complex concepts where a visual is indeed worth a thousand words.

PowerPoint when used as intended adds to a presentation, it is not the entire presentation.

If you’re playing peek-a-boo with your audience by turning your back on them to read slides then you’re misusing the tool. If you put up a slide and your first words are “I know you can’t see this but….” then you’re misusing the tool.

If you spend more time prettying up your slides then you invest in strengthening your presentation then you’re doing a great disservice to your audience.

If you can’t make an outstanding presentation without your PowerPoint slides then you might not be prepared to make a presentation. If your presentation can’t continue because a light bulb burns out on a projector then you might be using PowerPoint as a crutch.

I’ve seen hundreds of post meeting surveys. I’ve never once seen a speaker receive feedback that said their presentation was terrible but their slides were awesome. PowerPoint will not save a poorly prepared presentation.

Practice your presentation without your slides. Once you’re comfortable with your content and you’re able to explain your key points without assistance then you’re ready to prepare your visuals. That’s the surest way to ensure that your slides are not your presentation but only an enhancement to it.

We’ve all sat through “death by PowerPoint” presentations, the next time you’re in front of a group make sure you’re not the one doing the killing.

Ethics

Books have been written, lots of books, on the topic of ethics. Most of them are well written and I suspect they were written with the best of intentions. But many of them are flawed (in my humble opinion) right from the start because they have titles that suggest there are different “kinds” of ethics. As soon as I see something like “Ethics in the Workplace” I’m turned off.

I’m turned off because of my admittedly simplistic view of ethics. I believe you’re either ethical all the time or you’re not ethical at all. Titles like “Workplace Ethics” or “Levels of Ethics” would indicate you can turn ethics on and off or be more ethical sometimes than you are others.

I originally titled this post “The Ethics of Leadership” and even that is a misnomer. There is no such thing as a special set of ethics for a leader. They are either ethical or they or not. They didn’t become more ethical when they accepted a leadership position. I changed the title of this post to “Ethics” because Ethics stand alone.

Ethics have no need for support from additional words or actions. Leaders don’t need to be held to a “higher standard” of ethics than anyone else. There is not a higher standard of ethics to be held to…you’re either ethical or your not.

If you’re ethical when it’s easy or convenient but not so ethical at others times then stop congratulating yourself because you weren’t actually ethical when it was easy either. It only appeared that way.

One particular concept I’ve recently read said that an ethical leader has no favorites and that they treat everyone equally.

Well…not exactly.

Until the robots take over all the leadership roles leaders will have favorites. That’s because all leaders have one thing in common. They are human. Humans connect with some people better than others. They have similar backgrounds, beliefs, work histories, etc with some people. That makes those people more “favored” then other people who have less in common with the leader.

That’s a fact of life. It does not mean the leader is unethical. Ethical leaders do however treat everyone equally. But do not mistake treating everyone equally with treating everyone the same.

Every person has different motivations, different needs, different levels of understanding and different life and career goals. Authentic Leaders understand those unique characteristics of their people and lead them accordingly.

They apply rules and regulations equally but expectations not so much.

I would never question another person’s ethics. I don’t have to because I’ve only met a few truly ethical people in my lifetime. (and nope, I’m not one of ‘em) My only question to people would be “are you getting closer to being an ethical person or moving farther away?”

I’m trying to get closer. I’m a work in progress.

What about you?