YES, There is a Difference Between Managing and Leading

I haven’t written about this topic for a while. Lately I’ve been frustrated by the number of people I’ve come into contact with who think they are the same. So here I go again!

Managing is about stuff, like budgets, buildings, inventories and spreadsheets. We manage stuff. Leading is about people and only people. No one leads a business, they manage the business. They lead the people who work at the business. 

And NO, I’m not playing games with words. There is a huge difference in the mindset of people who foolishly think they can manage another human being and a person who knows they can’t. Most people know that they personally resist being managed. They want to be led. Many of those same people however, don’t realize that the people they are trying to manage feel just like them. 

If you’re in a leadership position you need to understand that most of the issues you would describe as personnel issues, especially attitude issues, stem from YOU trying to manage people rather than lead them. It will be that way until you actually begin to lead. 

A substantial majority of people holding leadership positions in the United States have never had a minute of formal leadership training. If you’re wondering how that can be here are a couple of statistics for you from research conducted earlier this year. It is consistent with other research done in previous years. 

77% of businesses in the US say that leadership is lacking in their organizations. 83% say that leadership development at all levels within their organization is a priority. Yet only 5% of them have implemented formal leadership development at any level. 

That’s why so many people who hold leadership positions think they are leading when they actually are not. They simply don’t know what they don’t know. 

Managing people may seem easier then leading them. When you manage people you most likely tell them what to do. You tell them if, in your opinion, they did what they were told. If they did what they were told that’s pretty much the end of it. If they didn’t do what they were told there will be hell to pay. Sound familiar?

While managing people may seem easier then leading it is actually creating problems at the same time it is damaging culture. Sometimes severely damaging culture. 

Leading people is complicated. It is challenging. There is no end to it. But…it is 1000 times more rewarding than trying to manage them. You may not always succeed in leading people. You will never, never, never succeed at managing people. 

Leading people is complicated because, well because they are people. They are emotional beings. If you’re going to lead people you must be willing, and prepared, to deal with their emotions. The moment I hear someone in a leadership position say “I refuse to deal with the drama” people try to bring to me, I know I’m talking to a manager rather than a leader. 

Leadership at it’s core is helping people deal with what’s happening in their lives. It is about helping ordinary, often “messy” people achieve extraordinary results. In spite of whatever messes and limitations they may have in their lives. You cannot, you absolutely cannot, lead another human being without caring for them. If you don’t care about what’s happening in their lives you won’t be able to care for them in their careers.

Telling people to keep their “home life” separate from their work like is another sign you’re trying to manage rather than lead. As an emotional human being YOU have never once been able to completely separate your home life from your work life. Yet you expect the people you’re supposed to be leading to do it every day. And then you wonder why your people have an attitude issue. 

I once worked for a guy, thankfully I didn’t report directly to him, who said it was his job to keep people guessing. If they knew what he expected of them then they wouldn’t be “on their toes.” He was kinda right about that because it’s tough to be on your toes when you’re always looking over your shoulder. 

If your people do not know exactly what you expect from them that’s a sure sign you’re not leading. Authentic Leaders communicate with the people they lead. Very very frequently. If you haven’t talked to each one of your direct reports this week then you’re trying to manage them, you’re not leading them.

Please do not even attempt to tell me you don’t have time to even have a five minute conversation each week with every person you’re supposed to be leading. If that’s the case you either have way too many direct reports or you do not understand the difference between trying to manage people and the privilege of leading them. 

Manage things, lead people. When you do that, you, your people, and your business will truly have the opportunity to experience explosive growth.

On a another subject…I’m trying something new on Twitter. It’s called “Super Followers.” For $5 a month, that’s 17 cents a day, people can follow a part of my Twitter stream that is for subscribers only. It features short videos of me discussing leadership topics, sales tips and ideas for better overall relationships. I’m assuming there will be far fewer Super Followers than the million or so people who regularly follow me on Twitter. That will give me the opportunity to answer questions more throughly than I can on regular Twitter. Most of the answers will come in the evening cause we all have day jobs, right? Think of it as ”mentoring on demand!”

My goal with SuperFollowers is to build a better connection, one where I can perhaps help more and have a greater impact. I’m hoping it gives me a chance to mentor to a wider audience. It’s still new, we’ll see how it works. It’s a $5 dollar investment that may be the extra “push” you need to get to where you want to be. I’d be honored to be able to help get you there. 

You can find more information by clicking the Super Follow button on my Twitter profile page IN THE TWITTER APP. http://twitter.com/leadtoday Give it a try if you’re so inclined, and if you are, be sure to let me know how I’m doing and how I can be of even more help.

Forgetful Leadership

Here’s a common trap that busy leaders too often fall into. Even very good leaders frequently have this happen to them. The busier they are the more likely it is to happen. 

The trap is simply forgetting to lead. They forget about the huge difference between managing and leading. Leading is a challenge that brings with it many rewards. Attempting to manage people seems easier but it brings a host of “people problems.” When leaders get especially busy they can revert to trying to manage people rather than lead them. 

That’s a problem but here’s what makes it an even bigger problem than you think. The busier your organization is the more stress everyone who works there is under. When the people you lead are stressed that’s when they most need your leadership. But you’re busy too and you forget that leading never stops, or at least it shouldn’t stop. 

When your people most need your leadership is when you’re most likely to forget to lead.

It’s why I recommend that busy leaders actually set reminders in their smartphones. Reminders to make certain they are doing the basic “blocking and tackling” of leadership every day. Especially when they and their people are particularly busy. 

A few of the basics of leadership would be things like recognizing a team member. Coaching for corrective action with a person who may be struggling. Coaching someone who is doing particularly well to reinforce their positive behavior. Showing your people that they matter and that you care about them. All of those things are important, they are even more important in times of stress. 

Slowing yourself down in order to come along side of your people when they most need you pays terrific dividends. Dividends in the form of increased productivity, better morale and an overall culture of success. 

But…easier said than done right? Well tell me one thing worth doing that isn’t easier said than done. Most people reading this would tell me their people are their greatest resource. Then they say they don’t have time to slow down long enough to lead that “greatest resource.” 

Think about what that means. It means that you are intentionally making the decision to focus your attention on something other than your greatest resource. When your greatest resource most needs your attention.

Does that sound like a recipe for success? Does it sound like effective leadership? Does it sound like that would ever be a good idea?

Authentic Leaders do their best leading when leadership in most needed. Limited leaders often forget to lead when their leadership could have the most impact on their greatest resource. 

Don’t fall in the trap of forgetful leadership. Your people will reward you with their commitment when you put them first rather than the 100 other things vying for your attention. 

Don’t forget that either!

On a completely different subject…I’m trying something new out over on Twitter. It’s called “Super Followers.” For $5 a month, that’s 17 cents a day,  people can follow a part of my Twitter stream that is for subscribers only. It features short videos of me discussing the kind of things I tweet and blog about. But the best part is I’m assuming there will be far fewer Super Followers than regular followers. That will give me the opportunity to answer questions more throughly than I can on regular Twitter. Most of the answers will come in the evening cause we all have day jobs, right? Think of it as ”mentoring on demand!”

You can find more information by clicking the Super Follow button on my Twitter profile page IN THE TWITTER APP. http://twitter.com/leadtoday Give it a try if you’re so inclined, I can’t promise it will last for a long time but I can promise the content will be helpful as long as it does.

The Time to Lead

Leading people is not easy. Especially when compared to managing things. There are management processes and standard work practices. Both are predictable, you do certain things, you get a known outcome as a result. 

But people can’t be managed, they must be led. When leading people there are few predictable outcomes. People will always surprise you. We can’t know for certain how people will react in various circumstances until we see them react. Just because they acted in a particular way does not guarantee they will act the same way when they are in similar circumstances. 

That can make leading people a significant challenge. It can also make leading people very rewarding. Authentic Leadership helps people grow and develop. It frequently helps ordinary people achieve extraordinary results. It turns followers into leaders. 

The challenge of actually leading people is what causes many people in leadership positions to attempt to manage their people. Attempting to manage people causes an entire host of problems. In fact most of the personnel “problems” that an HR department deals with are a result of a person being managed rather than led. 

The employee may be labeled a “problem employee” when in reality it could well be a leadership issue. 

People in leadership positions who don’t actually lead quickly become frustrated with their people. They don’t understand why people won’t respond in predictable patterns. They give the same direction to 5 different people and they get 5 different results. They are also unlikely to understand their own role in the 5 different results. 

If you’re in a leadership position and you’re struggling with the performance of your people you first have to consider your role in their performance. You need to accept the fact that their performance is at least partly related to your effectiveness in leading them. If you have someone in your organization who is underperforming then there are two possible “root causes.” One, you hired the wrong person or you put them in the wrong role. Two, you are not providing them with the skills and tools they need to succeed. Either way, you must own that. 

You must also consider how you “see” your people. Are your people an expense or an investment. When you are attempting to coach an underperforming team member do you think “I’m going to have to SPEND time ON that person to get them up to speed.” Or do you think to yourself, “I have an opportunity to INVEST time WITH that person to help them reach the potential I see in them.” 

The difference in that mindset will shape every conversation with your team. Your people will pick up on that attitude and they will respond accordingly. If you believe your people are a problem then I can almost guarantee you that your people will be a problem. 

Leading people, Authentically Leading them, will take an investment of time. Often a substantial investment. If you don’t have the time to truly lead then you are doing your people and your organization a disservice by occupying a leadership position. You may want to stick with managing things because it could be that people just aren’t for you. 

Are You a Sales Manager or a Sales Leader?

If you’re responsible for the sales team in your organization I hope you understand the difference between managing your sales team and leading them. I also hope you’re doing both. 

But it’s very likely you’re only doing one of them and that the one you’re doing is managing. 

That’s because somewhere in the neighborhood of 99% of Sales Managers were promoted to Sales Manager because they were excellent salespeople. When they were promoted they were told to manage the sales team. No one ever said a word about leading them. 

Most Sales Managers manage their sales teams the same way they were managed. If their manager happened to also be a leader then they may do some leading. But for the most part Sales Managers just manage and don’t even realize they aren’t leading. 

Solid sales management is essential for a steady consistent growth in sales. But the only path to explosive sales growth is leadership. I have seen company after company invest millions of dollars over years and years to develop their sales team.  All while spending virtually nothing, or actually nothing, to develop their sales leaders. 

I guess that’s not surprising considering somewhere between 70-80% of people in leadership positions have less than 1 hour of formal leadership training during their careers. That’s less than 1 hour, as in 60 minutes. It’s like buying one car after another without an engine and wondering why none of them get you anywhere. 

Some organizations have managers who can’t lead and some have leaders who can’t manage. So long as an organization has both they can do just fine. But the most successful organizations have managers who can lead and leaders who can manage. They understand the difference between the two and move seamlessly back and forth. 

But for a person in a Sales Management role to be effective they MUST be both manager and leader. 

As a Sales Manager they define territories, they set quotas, they hold people accountable, (as do Sales Leaders) they analyze numbers and help put deals together. They manage the “stuff” that goes into selling. 

A Sales Leader is focused on the people who sell and frequently on the people who buy. They are the motivator that salespeople need. They are the coaches they wish they had when they were actively selling. They teach, they listen, and most of all they show they care about the people on the front lines of selling. Their salespeople. They lead the people in selling.

To any company looking to train their salespeople I would say it’s one of the best investments you can make in your organization. But I’d also say don’t forget your sales leaders. Investing in real leadership training for your sales leaders is a force multiplier that pays dividends year after year. 

Or you can sit in your bright shiny new engineless car and wonder what’s over that next horizon. 

Fear School

Early in my career selling training programs I made a call on one of the world’s largest manufacturing companies. I was selling a variety of training programs but the one I was focused on during this call was Leadership Training. 

I asked how the company was currently developing their leadership teams and they said they were in kind of a gap period. In fact it had been awhile since they offered any formal training to their leadership team. 

We talked about what they had done in the past and they told me that all new managers were required to attend what they called “Fear School.” It was management training designed to help the new manager understand how to put the fear of God into their people. They had used their Fear School program for literally decades. They were now struggling with turnover and recruiting issues so they thought perhaps another approach might be in order. 

You may think that putting fear into the minds of people is an ineffective way to get them to do things. You would be wrong. It is very effective…just not for very long. Putting fear into people makes them compliant. They do what they are told because they fear the consequences of not doing it. 

They do it but they seldom do it well. They seldom do more than the minimum required to avoid the consequences. Compliant employees are very expensive for a company because they are not engaged with the goals or vision of the organization. They take up space and add little value beyond what the fear-mongering boss can force out of them. 

Compliant employees use their job description as a shield to deflect requests to do anything that might appear to be extra work. 

It is unlikely that any company still offers “Fear School” to their new managers. Many new managers however operate as if they passed the class with flying colors. They settle for the compliance of their people rather than working to earn their commitment. 

Authentic Leaders work daily to earn the commitment of their people. While compliant people are working to get out of work, committed employees are working to constantly improve both their organizations and themselves. They add value anyway they can. 

Some people will tell you that there is no difference between managing people and leading people. They say it’s all semantics. Those people would be mistaken. They would also be the managers most likely to settle for compliance. 

If you want to determine if someone is trying to manage people or if they are an Authentic Leader it’s actually pretty easy. Just look at the people they are responsible for leading. If the people are committed they are being led. If they are sleep walking through their day they are being managed. 

Here’s the sad part of all that. Every employee wants to be engaged. Every person wants to make a difference. Every person wants to enjoy their work. Every person can be an engaged and contributing employee. Every person wants effective and Authentic Leadership. 

Not every person in a leadership position wants to help their people have those things. They are “lazy leaders” who settle for compliance when they could have so much more. 

That’s a shame on many levels but especially for the people who lack the leadership they need.

Are You a Manager or a Leader?

Not a single person reading this has ever successfully managed people. That’s because it can’t be done. Human beings resist being managed to the point of being impossible to manage. 

People insist on being led. If you think managing and leading are one and the same then you may be a manager but you’re most certainly not a leader. 

I’ve written about this before but since it’s been awhile here’s a refresher. 

Managing and leading are two different things. You manage things. Things like a budget, buildings, inventory, property and the like. If it’s an “it” you can manage it. If “it” is not capable of expressing emotion go ahead and manage away. 

But if you’re dealing with a flesh and blood person then attempting to manage them creates nearly every problem the typical manager complains about. 

Leadership is about people and only people. When you attempt to manage people you risk treating them like things…at least they feel that way. That highlights one critical difference between managing and leading. Things don’t “feel” but people always do. 

That makes leading far more challenging than managing. Dealing with our own emotions is tough enough, trying to make sense of other people’s emotions can be more than a little daunting. That’s likely why so many people in leadership positions don’t try. They try to manage their people instead.

Another reason that happens is that over 70% of the people in leadership positions have no formal leadership training. None. Zippo. Zero. They also have had no mentoring from a successful leader. They are put into a leadership position and then expected to fend for themselves. It’s almost as if people think leadership just happens.

Make no mistake about this absolute fact…leaders are not born, they are trained. The training can take on different forms but absent some type of training it is exceptionally rare for Authentic Leadership to emerge. 

That makes for a difficult leadership experience, for both the leader and those they try to lead. 

I wish I could tell you that every company that promotes someone to a leadership position also provides them with the training to succeed as a leader. Unfortunately very few actually do. So be aware that just as it is in much of life, if success as a leader is meant to be then it’s likely up to you to make it happen.

So find yourself a leadership development program to enroll in. Maybe even more important, find yourself a leadership mentor. Someone you trust and admire as a leader and ask them to show you how they do it. 

If you’ve chosen the right person will be thrilled to invest their time to share their insights with you. 

One last point. I don’t want anyone to think that I’m diminishing the importance of solid management within every organization. Poor management is in fact the cause of many business failures. If you’re a great manager then your impact on an organization can be substantial. You are vital to the success of any organization. 

It’s important to understand however that being a great manager does not make you a great leader anymore than being a great leader makes you a great manager. Some people are blessed with both skillsets. Many are not and it’s incumbent upon you to know the difference. 

Questions of Leadership

People in leadership positions tell others what to do. Authentic Leaders ask others how they can help them do it. 

When I’m trying to determine someone’s leadership ability that’s one of the first things I watch for. Are they telling or are they asking. Authentic Leaders seldom wonder what’s going on in the lives of the people they lead. They seldom guess about why their people make the decisions they make. They don’t assume they know what motivates their people. They don’t need to assume because they have asked.

If you’re in a leadership position when was the last time you asked each of the people you lead how you can help them remain consistently motivated? When was the last time you asked them how their job or position was treating them. When was the last time you asked them about their goals or objectives…and not only professional goals but personal goals as well? When was the last time you asked them what you or the company could do to ensure they never feel the need to look elsewhere for employment? 

When was the last time you asked them specifically if they were certain that they were having an impact on the organization? When was the last time you asked them how you could help them be more effective? When was the last time you asked them how you could honor them? When was the last time you asked them anything at all? 

Here’s a question that many people in leadership positions would never think of asking. It’s also a question that Authentic Leaders ask fairly often. “How am I doing as a leader?” 

I’ll never ask someone in a leadership position how they are doing as a leader. It’s hard for any of us to see ourselves in the same way as others see us. So when I want to know how about the effectiveness of a particular leader I ask the people they lead. 

If you’ve established trust with the people you lead they will provide you with an honest answer. If you haven’t established trust with them then you’re not an effective leader. Sorry to be so direct and unequivocal with that but it’s a fact. You cannot lead people who do not trust you. 

I often hear from people in leadership positions that they don’t have time to ask these kinds of questions. Funny thing is I never hear that from Authentic Leaders. It’s not that Authentic Leaders have more time, it’s that they have their priorities in the proper order. They know that their own success is dependent upon the people they lead succeeding. 

They also know it is far easier to help them succeed if they invest the time to really know them. So they ask more and tell less.