Managing People

The first thing to keep in mind when managing people is that if you’re doing it then you’re doing it wrong. You’re doing it wrong because you shouldn’t be doing it at all. People will not and can not be managed. 

You manage stuff, stuff without feelings, stuff without opinions, stuff that does not have the ability to think for itself, stuff that doesn’t have emotions. People ain’t stuff! 

With all due respect to some very smart people who say the difference between managing and leading is just semantics I’m sorry to tell them that they are seriously seriously wrong. It’s not a difference of opinion, it’s not just “how you look at it,” and it’s most certainly not merely semantics. The difference between managing and leading is as great as the difference between night and day.

Some people, very very few but some, have the aptitude to both manage and lead. Many people are placed in positions where both skill sets are required and those people struggle mightily. They struggle because the mindset of a manager is so vastly different than the mindset of a leader. 

Managers have subordinates while leaders have followers. Managers seek to control while leaders seek to influence. Managers work with solid data while leaders revel in the abstract. 

Managers use their tenacity to get the job done while leaders are using their imaginations to determine what the job should be. Managers are required to focus on today while leaders are looking ahead to tomorrow and beyond. 

A manager’s thinking typically focuses on how to get the most out of the workers they have. A leader’s thinking is typically focused on how to help their people grow, both professionally and personally. 

A manager “spends time on employees” to ensure requirements are met. A leader “invests time with people” to ensure that their people have the opportunity to excel. 

I throughly dislike the term “human capital” that is so often used by Human Resource professionals. There is nothing actually wrong with the words, it is the mindset that goes with them. The mindset is one of managing people and managing people is truly impossible. The mindset of managing people is actually the cause of most of an organization’s “people problems.”

Those two words should never be next to one another. We manage capital and we lead people. When they two words are used together the capital word “wins” and the people word is either minimized or forgotten altogether. That’s the genesis of many many personnel issues.

For those of you who still think managing and leading are one and the same I’d like you give a motivational talk to your inventory or budget right now and see how they respond. 

If that sounds crazy to you then you get my point…it really is crazy to talk to stuff but it’s no more crazy than trying to manage human beings. You can’t lead things and you can’t manage people because leading and managing are not interchangeable.

Authentic Leaders understand the difference between managing and leading and never try to substitute one for the other. Do you?

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.

 

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.

The Difference Between Managing and Leading

I’ve written about this topic before and since old habits are hard to break I feel a need to continuing writing about it. 

I had the opportunity to spend some time with a long-time friend recently. He is the former CFO of a Fortune 1000 company and the former CEO of a Fortune 500 company. As the conversation often does it turned to various leadership topics. 

He mentioned how the difference between managing and leading was really just a “mirage” and that in fact, there was no difference at all. At first I thought he must be pulling my leg, then I thought he must just be trying to provoke me. Then I finally realized why it was a good idea that he retired when he did.

Believing that managing and leading are one in the same is very, very out-dated thinking. You manage “stuff.” You lead people.

Stuff includes facilities, processes, inventory, capital equipment, and financial matters to name a few. You apply rules and regulations to stuff. If you’re doing something to improve your infrastructure or balance sheet that is most likely managing. 

Only when you’re doing something to improve your people is it truly leading. New computers for your business is NOT leadership. New software is NOT leadership. New vehicles for the sales team is NOT the same as leading your sales team. 

Investing yourself in the future success of the PEOPLE in your organization is leading. People require guidelines, structure, vision, and accountability to succeed. People need someone to care about them as people, not as “human capital.” People need to know they matter to an organization and that what they do makes a difference. They don’t need more rules, policies, and regulations.

Every organization needs both managers and leaders. Sometimes those two very different skill sets can belong to the same person. It should however never be assumed that because someone is a skilled manager that they are or will become a skilled leader. 

It should also never be assumed that because someone is a highly skilled and respected leader that they are automatically a skilled manager.  

Here’s why I believe that it is so important to understand that there is clear difference between these two skills sets: when both skill sets are not present within an organization then the growth of the organization is limited.  

Good organizations understand the difference between managing and leading. Growing organizations will not sacrifice one for the other. Great organizations work strategically to build both. 

Which kind of organization is yours? 

Managing or Leading?

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This is a post I originally wrote for the LeadChange Blog. For some reason I’ve had this discussion several times this week and I thought it was worth another look!

If you’re doing it for your business, it’s managing. If you’re doing it for your people, it’s leading.

We would be hard pressed today to find many people complaining about being “over-led.” We would not however have to look very far to discover groups of people feeling as if they are “over-managed” on a daily basis. It seems amazing to me that after decades of discussion about the difference between managing and leading most companies today remain over-managed and under-led.

Much has been written regarding the differences between managing and leading. There is still an ever-shrinking minority that would say there is no difference, that it is just all semantics. Most successful people however, followers and leaders alike, would say that without a doubt there is indeed a difference.

What is the difference? Let’s begin by explaining what leadership is not. It is not about a great personality or striking charisma. While a great personality and a bit of charisma can certainly help a leader’s cause, they are not absolute requirements for a leader. Leadership is also not a replacement for management. Both leadership and management are essential for success and that is even truer in difficult business environments. Finally, leadership is not a set of intangible skills that are hard to describe. Leadership skills are every bit as tangible as those of the most successful managers.

Managing is about coping with the current. Good managers use processes and control systems to make certain things “run” as designed. Managers follow the plan.

Leadership is about creating the “should-be.” The should-be comes straight out of vision casting and an insatiable desire to be better. Great leaders know that good enough never really is and they know that without a doubt; good is the certain enemy of great. Leaders develop the plan.

Managing is about helping good people do well. Managers “assign” tasks to achieve planned for results. Managers spend time with their people to ensure the tasks are accomplished. Managers organize their people according to the task in the hope that they succeed.

Leadership is about helping good people become great. Leaders “delegate” tasks to help their people grow. Leaders invest time with their people to enable them to excel and surpass the requirements of the task. Leaders align their people according to their strengths to ensure that they succeed.Well-managed people and organizations can survive in tough times. Well-led people and organizations can thrive in tough times. Good organizations have people that excel as managers and people that excel as leaders. Great organizations have people that excel as managers and leaders.

True success as a leader is only possible when we realize that what makes us a good manager will not make us a great leader. The most successful people have developed themselves in both areas.

Have you?