The Trouble with Managing People

I write about this topic from time-to-time but it never gets old. People still make this leadership mistake with great regularity.

 

The mistake they make is trying to use their leadership position to manage people. Let me say this yet again: managing people is impossible. People refuse to be managed, they want to be led. 

 

For those of you who refuse to acknowledge the difference between managing and leading I say this: you are doomed to a life of limited leadership. Worse, you have sentenced the people you are supposed to be leading to a life of limited potential.

 

It really is that big of a deal that you understand the very real difference between managing and leading.

 

You manage things. Things like a budget, a building, and a process. You manage things that don’t think, don’t have feelings, don’t have goals and objectives, and don’t care one iota what you think of them. 

 

But people do think, they do have feelings, they (hopefully) have goals and objectives. And they care what you as their leader think of them. That’s why they must be led, not managed.

 

People who feel managed are most always under-performers. Even if they are doing well they would do better if they were led instead of managed. People who feel managed are frequently said to be “problem people” in their workplace. The truth is that they are unlikely to be the actual problem. It’s far more likely that the problem is the person who is supposed to be leading them but is managing them instead. 

 

There are people who would tell you that the difference between managing and leading is pure semantics. But they would be mistaken. The differences are substantial and one of the biggest ones is mindset. Managers can afford to be dispassionate, in fact it’s a strength for managers. Leaders must be passionate. They have to truly care about the people they lead. They have to be as motivated to help their people succeed as they are to succeed themselves. 

 

A management mindset sees people as an asset or as capital to be used. Managers think in terms of “spending time on” their people when their people need help. A leadership mindset sees people as a human being to be nurtured and developed. Leaders think of “investing time with” their people when their people need help. 

 

The difference in outcomes produced by those two mindsets is like night and day. 

 

I know you’re not going to like this but if you have “problem people” in your organization then you need to make certain that you are not the root of the problem. If you’re trying to manage your people then the “problem” with your people is most likely you.


Leaders lead people and managers manage stuff. The best leaders know how…and when, to manage and the best managers know how…and when, to lead. There’s no crime in not being able to do both, you just have to acknowledge it and not try to manage people who need to be led.

 

 

Do You Have the Time to Lead?

I consistently hear leaders, or perhaps I should say people in leadership positions, say that they cannot afford the time required to mentor, coach and develop their people. They are too “busy” doing other things. 

 

These types of leaders frequently say that their people are their organization’s greatest asset. Watch them for a week however and you would see almost no evidence to backup that statement.

 

Leaders who believe they cannot afford the time to develop their people miss the fact that the primary responsibility of leadership is building people. 

 

Leaders don’t lead companies, they lead the people who make up the company. Leaders don’t lead budgets, they lead the people who manage the budget. Leaders don’t lead plans, they lead the people who follow the plans. 

 

Everything in an organization or business is managed except for the people. The people within an organization or business are responsible for every bit of that organization’s success. Those people need leadership. 

 

Authentic leaders understand that they manage things and lead people. They know that the difference between leadership and management is far more than semantics. They realize that people who feel managed will be significantly less engaged. The morale of people who feel managed will be lower then the morale of people who are led. The growth of people who are led is much greater than that of people who feel managed. In fact, people who are managed have virtually no real growth opportunities. 

 

If you’re in a leadership position and you are not investing a significant portion of your time to coach, mentor and develop the people you lead then you are missing the boat on leadership. 

 

Developing your people is not a question of having the time. It is a question of priorities. If you’ve been telling yourself that you don’t have the time to lead then perhaps your priorities are a bit off. 

 

Make developing your people the priority it needs to be and your leadership will have no end. Fail to develop your people and your leadership will have no beginning. 


The choice is yours to make. Will you choose to Lead Today?


Managing Stuff, Leading People

Generally speaking, people get promoted because they did something good. Salespeople get promoted to Sales Manager because they were good at selling. A marketing associate gets promoted to Marketing Manager because they had proven themselves to be good marketers. An engineer might get promoted to manager because they designed stuff that worked well and was marketable.

All three of those individuals were promoted to leadership positions and none of them were promoted because they were skilled leaders. Now, they may be good leaders…or they may not, only time will tell.

Here’s a reality of leadership: the vast majority of people are promoted into leadership positions without having demonstrated even a slight ability to actually lead. Many are promoted into leadership positions because they have demonstrated some ability to manage but leading and managing are two entirely different things.

You manage stuff like budgets, inventories and buildings but you lead people. The skill sets are different and more importantly the mindsets are different, in fact, they are completely different. Some people can master both skill sets but that’s less common than many people think.

The biggest mistake a person newly promoted to a leadership position can make is to believe that just because they were good at selling, or marketing or even because they were good at managing, is that they are automatically good at leading.

The saddest thing is that even people who have occupied leadership positions for years still sometimes believe that.

Your position or title doesn’t make you a leader. Even being a good manager doesn’t make you a leader. Running a business, effectively managing every detail, and making money at it, doesn’t make you a leader.

Only leading makes you a leader.

Leading requires that you fully understand the value of people. Leading requires that you understand the unique ability of every individual you would lead. Leading requires that you actually care for those individuals.

This is kind of an aside but here’s one way to determine if you’re talking to a manager or a leader: When you’re talking to a manager you get the feeling that they are important; when you’re talking to a leader you get the feeling that you are important. That “feeling” makes all the difference in the world.

Leading requires that you have the vision required to see the consequences of the consequences of the consequences of every decision you make. It can sometimes seem as if a good leader can see into the future but the truth is, they don’t see the future, they create it.

Let’s be clear, I am not minimizing the importance of good management in any organization. Good management is essential to the stability of every kind of business but management does just that, it keeps things as they are, stable. 

Leadership is not about stability, it is about growth. Leadership is about change for the better. While managers can fall into the trap of believing that strong management can improve a business, leaders know that nothing improves without something changing and they drive that change.

Many more businesses fail due to lack of leadership than fail due to poor management. Think about it, do you really think that businesses like Montgomery Wards, Blockbuster Video, Circuit City, Howard Johnson’s and Borders Books, (to name just a few) suddenly lost the ability to manage their business? 

They didn’t lack sound management, they lacked the vision that a true leader brings to an organization. They lacked the ability to rally their people to a cause. Their people couldn’t commit to the leadership because they couldn’t find any leadership.

I could write forever on the differences between managing and leading but for now I’ll just say this: the first step to understanding the difference between managing and leading is to understand that THERE IS A DIFFERENCE. The difference is not just semantics, the differences are real, concrete and definable. 

Once you understand that basic fact then and only then to you have a chance to truly lead.

When Managers Don’t Lead

Few things in business are more costly than a manager in a leadership position. – Steve Keating

Just so we’re clear about this, I have nothing but respect for great managers. They are the essential clue that hold organizations together. They keep things running smoothly, they execute strategies and tactics. Without sound management no organization can survive. 

But… yes you knew there had to be a but… but, simply putting a great manager into a leadership position does not make them a leader. A manager can be a leader and a leader can be a manager but very often a manager is not a leader and sometimes a great leader is not a good manager. 

Managing and leading are two entirely different things. We’re not talking semantics here, we are talking about a difference as large as night and day.

Managers use a microscope and leaders use a telescope. Managers examine the details, vital details yes, but details all the same. A leader not only sees the details they also see the much bigger picture, they see the wide angle view. While a manager sees what is, a leader sees what could be…and what should be.

Managing is about stuff, budgets, inventories, processes, etc. Leadership is about people and it’s only about people. Better management helps a organization survive, better leadership helps an organization grow. 

Successful organizations need both leaders and managers. Which one, managers or leaders, are more important is like arguing which came first, the chicken or the egg. (Just an aside, if you really want to know which one came first read Genesis in The Bible, it’s abundantly clear that the chicken came first.)

When managers occupy a leadership position without actually leading progress slows down. It can slow down so much that it actually stops. Whenever I see a business that is not growing I almost always see a manager in a position of leadership. 

Good managers can learn to lead after moving into a leadership position. The longer they try to manage when they should be leading the less likely they are to ever truly lead. The most successful leaders were leaders before they had a true leadership position. They understood that leadership was more about their disposition than it was about any position they may one day achieve. 

Some leaders have other leadership positions reporting to them. They must be certain that  leaders occupy those positions. 

Putting managers into leadership positions is a common mistake. It a mistake that produces common results rather then the uncommon results that the most successful organizations use to succeed again and again.

That makes it an incredibly costly mistake.

 

You Are NOT a Good People Manager

imageDon’t feel bad, no one is a good people manager. It’s not your fault, it’s the peoples fault. People don’t want to be managed and people will not be managed.

Your fault lies in trying to manage people in the first place.

If you think you’re managing your people you are just kidding yourself, you may have beaten the energy out of them and forced them to comply but even that is not really managing.

While you can force compliance you can’t force what you really need from your people. You can’t force creativity. You can’t force commitment. You can’t force great customer service. You can’t force someone to value diversity. You can’t force someone to care. You can’t force someone to think a certain way.

But you can lead people to be creative. You can lead them to commit. You can lead them to care and to care enough that they provide your customers with outstanding service. You can lead them to care about other people, even people way different from them. You can even lead and influence them to think and behave in a certain way.

You can lead them to accomplish more than they ever thought possible but before you can lead anyone you must care. You must care about them as people, as human beings with real lives. Lives that matter every bit as much as yours.

You must care so much that your willing to show it. You must care so much that you’re willing to get out of your own comfort zone long enough and often enough so that your people will see how much you truly care about them.

When you lead people rather than trying to manage them magical things happen.

People who are managed are far more likely to display attitude issues than people who are led. People who are managed do what they are told while the people who are led have already done it.

People who are managed seldom grow beyond their job description but people who are led burst the seams of their job descriptions with regularity.

People who work for a manager produce the status quo. People who work for a leader produce the future of the organization.

If you want to continue with the “as is” them keep trying to manage your people. If you prefer a world of limitless opportunity and potential then give your people the leadership the crave.

Lead today and succeed tomorrow!

Managing and Leading are Different AND Essential

Managers create a map to the water and leaders inspire people to be thirsty. – Steve Keating

I’ve written about this before but recently saw yet another post that claims management and leadership are one in the same. They are not!

The skill sets required to manage are vastly different than those required to lead. The mindset of managing is even more different than the mindset of leading. In a perfect world one person can possess both skill sets and mindsets but great managers can be poor leaders and great leaders can be poor managers. They are simply two completely different things.

An organization thrives when it has both good management and good leadership. Whether it requires two people to provide those or whether the organization is blessed with an individual or individuals who can provide both doesn’t really matter. The key is that BOTH leadership and management must coexist within the organization. Management and leadership do not compete in successful organizations, they complete.

As has been written countless times, people will not be managed, they must be led. We manage stuff, processes, workflows, buildings, contracts, inventories, etc. We should not and cannot manage people.

We need, yes need, management practices and policies in place that guide what people can do, that is a part of management. Good management can save us from ourselves by applying “rules” to the workplace that take into account a bigger picture than most of us can see by ourselves.

However, people who are surrounded by ONLY management feel restricted, constrained and in many cases, untrusted. Their productivity and potential are incredibly limited.

Rules and policies are limiting. If they are in place to control “things” that is fine. But both managers and leaders need to know this simply truth: You cannot really control productive people; you can only control unproductive people. When “management” attempts to exert too much control over people they turn productive people into unproductive people.

Leaders balance out management by influencing people to work within the management guidelines in a positive way. They “lead” people to see and reach their potential while working within a system that benefits everyone.

People need someone or something to follow. They need to feel as if they are part of something bigger, they need to know that they matter. They need to know that their efforts, their work, makes a difference. When they know that what they do is important then their potential is truly limitless. None of that can come as a result of being managed, no matter how good the management may be. It can only come from leadership.

Organizations that mistake leadership for management do not grow, they wither. Managers hold a ship steady, leaders set the course and the people get it to it’s destination.

If you’re unsure if what you’re doing is managing or leading think of it like this: if you’re doing it for the business it’s likely managing. If you’re doing for people it’s almost certainly leadership. There’s the real difference between managing and leading.

So… do you know why you do what you do?

The Time to Lead

There are many differences between the mindset of a leader and the mindset of a manager. Here’s a big one: Managers see a team member not performing at the required standards and think “I need to SPEND more time ON that person. Leaders see that same person and think “I need to INVEST more time WITH that person.

The actions that result from those two mindsets make all the difference in the world when it comes to the development of that person.

Before we get too far let me point out that I’m not picking on managers here. We need managers, good ones and lots of them. It’s just that “stuff” is what’s managed, stuff like budgets, buildings, and policies. People however cannot and will not be managed, they must be led and that calls for a leader.

Leading people requires time. It takes a commitment to set aside some of the seemingly urgent tasks to focus on the all important responsibility of leading and developing people. If you see your people as an “expense” then you are not likely to make the required commitment. If you see your people as an investment then you likely will.

As a leader do you intentionally set aside time, perhaps by going so far as to make an appointment on your calendar, to work with and along side your people? Do you use this time to actually perform leadership actions? Actions such as coaching, motivating, listening and modeling the behavior that leads to success.

Or do you simply tell yourself you’ll do that in your free time or maybe your spare time. Take a look at your calendar and see exactly where that “free” or “spare” time is….. it’s not there. That’s why effective leaders really do block time on their calendars for leadership actions. They intentionally make it a point to recognize someone each and every day. They set aside time to just listen to their people, about whatever it is their people want to say to them.

Yes, I know you’re busy, I hope your productive, I really hope you know the difference, but no matter how busy or productive you are if you’re serious about leading then you must make the time to actually lead. It doesn’t just happen, you as a leader must make it happen.

The reality of leadership is this: if you don’t have time to invest in your people then you don’t have time to succeed as a leader.