As a manager, your job is to get things done. But as a leader, your mission now becomes to get things done through other people. And many times, what that really means is that you have to be a facilitator – someone who removes obstacles, levels the path, greases the wheels – who ensures that your people have the tools they need to achieve their results. But even your involvement as a facilitator can vary. Imagine a continuum where one end is a lifeboat, and the other is a lighthouse.
If you’re at the lifeboat end of the continuum, you might visualize yourself as someone who lets your employees sail on their own, navigating their own way from port to port, but you’re close by to step in if there is a crisis. When things go wrong, you’re right there to rapidly swoop in to save the situation, and you’re gratefully lauded by those who were otherwise drowning.
But if you see yourself at the lighthouse end of the continuum, the image is different. Now, you’re a beacon, a guiding light that shines brightly, illuminating the path for your people to get from harbour to harbour. Your role is not so much to search and rescue, but rather to stand firm in the storm, offering hope and resilience to those trying to get to shore. Sometimes it’s through advice, and sometimes it’s just by being a positive role model.
So which type of facilitator is better?
#$&*&@# happens! Well-laid plans don’t always turn out exactly the way you’d anticipated. A sale that was one signature away from being finalized falls apart at the last minute. One missed detail takes a project down the wrong path and it then costs a significant amount to bring it back on track. The leadership journey is fraught with unexpected challenges and unknown landmines, and sometimes even the smallest misstep by a leader can result in financial and reputational loss. The reality is that despite your best efforts, mistakes happen.
It’s how you respond
to the mistakes that will matter
Some mistakes will be small, ones that you can simply shrug off as minor bumps in the road. But others will be large, ones that affect major company objectives, directly impact profitability, or put important relationships in jeopardy. It’s how you respond to these large slip-ups that will determine whether you’re a leader or a manager. In my column in today’s The Globe and Mail, I lay out the three essential actions that separate the leaders from the managers, the three steps you have to take in order to successfully move past these blunders.
All decisions carry risk and therefore come with potential obstacles that can sometimes derail progress. But when bad stuff happens, what do you think separates the leaders from the managers? I’ve given you the three necessary actions from my perspective, but I’d love to hear about your experiences and points of view. Please share your thoughts by commenting below.
I’ve blogged previously about the differences between management and leadership, most notably the Amazon situation I wrote about a couple of years ago, not just on the blog, but also in a piece for The Globe and Mail. The reality is that almost all leaders go through stressful periods when they struggle with being a leader vs a manager; when it’s simpler (and perhaps critical) to concentrate on tasks rather than to invest in the building and nurturing of high-performing employees. The irony is that such a situation usually spirals downwards – employees get frustrated and make errors, patience dwindles and tempers fray, team members become less engaged, and the leader feels trapped and exasperated.
What are the clues a leader should watch for?
Unfortunately, the only way out of this deteriorating pattern is for a leader to recognize the signs and act decisively to break the cycle. But how is one to know what to watch for? Well, that’s exactly what I address in my latest column in The Globe and Mail which published this morning on page B11 of their print edition. In it, I offer five things to watch for, each one a clue that you are sliding backwards from people-oriented leadership to task-oriented management. You can read the online version here:
So … are you guilty? In times of crisis, it’s easy to focus on getting things done (management) and lose sight of getting remarkable things done through people (leadership). What do you do to avoid falling into this trap? I would love to hear about your experiences. The Globe has temporarily turned off commenting on articles on their website while they resolve some technology issues, so you can’t comment directly there. But share your thoughts right here on the blog. Please add your perspectives below.
Sometimes, The Globe puts my columns behind their paywall. If that happens and you are unable to access the article directly through the link above, we have archived a pdf version at this link:
Last month, The Globe & Mail asked me to write a piece for their Weekend Commentary & Analysis section about Amazon’s controversial and (some say) “toxic” corporate culture. I blogged about the article soon after it was published in What vs how – Amazon lost sight of the difference. But this topic continues to dominate the news, and is of such great importance and relevance to leaders everywhere that I felt that it deserved to be brought up one more time today.
First some background. The tumult started on August 15 when the New York Times published a lengthy story about Amazon’s “bruising” work culture where only the fittest survive, and the rest are discarded as collateral damage along the way. Continue reading
The Globe & Mail asked me to write a piece for their Weekend Commentary & Analysis section, a regular feature in the weekend paper where subject matter experts are asked to provide insights into the top news stories of the past week. Here is a link to this story that ran in Saturday’s print and online editions. For me the fundamental issue in the case of Amazon’s toxic work environment came down to what vs how.
Interested in your thoughts as well. What went wrong at Amazon? Or is there anything wrong? Please share your thoughts directly on The Globe‘s site or add your comments to our blog right here by adding your response below.
Ironically, I wrote a piece for The Globe back in October last year that addressed this very same issue from a slightly different perspective. Why are so many managers useless as leaders? had over 30,000 views and 24,000 direct shares in just the first three days online so this topic clearly struck a chord with many back then as well.
Update as of October 6: This article has officially “gone viral”. To date, it has garnered over 30,000 views, over 24,000 “direct” shares, and comments and re-tweets numbering in the hundreds if not thousands. Clearly it struck a chord with many people – I am obviously aware that this is an issue that concerns many; this is why I strive to start a dialogue on this subject in the first place. But I am still always taken aback (and very gratified) when one of my columns gets such an overwhelming reaction. Thank you everyone for taking the time to participate in the conversation — the more we talk about topics such as these, the more likely we are to create workplaces that are positive and productive.
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My newest column in The Globe & Mail‘s Leadership Lab series just launched into cyberspace this morning!
addresses the unfortunate fact that there are a great number of people in managerial and supervisory positions in organizations who really have no business being in charge of people. It’s a topic that comes up often in my leadership development practice so I suspect it may have crossed your mind once or twice as well 🙂
I am always gratified when my columns in The Globe stimulate conversations both online and around water coolers in organizations across the country. It means that the topic is on people’s minds, and more dialogue always leads to greater understanding. Every time we talk about a difficult subject, we take a giant steps closer to more positive and productive workplaces!
As always, I want to hear what you think! The column should take you no more than a few minutes to read; I hope you’ll find it relevant and thought-provoking. Add your viewpoint to The Globe‘s website, or if you wish, drop me an email or send me a tweet (@mergespeaks). And please help me get the word out … pass the link along to your staff and colleagues. I’d love their perspectives as well! And if you happen not to agree with me, please join in the discussion. Dissenting viewpoints are what move us forward!
I’m looking forward to hearing from you. Here is a direct link to the article in case you need to cut and paste it elsewhere: http://tgam.ca/EF10
I often get calls or e-mails from regular blog readers giving me examples and/or seeking my perspective on situations they are observing or are facing in their workplaces. With their permission, I often share those situations with all of you if I think there is an opportunity for discussion and for all of us to learn. In fact, one situation happened just last week: The piss-off factor. Short-sighted stupid actions by people in management.
So here’s another one — about a few days ago I got a call from a reader who is very frustrated with a situation in her workplace. She works for a very large company and had been hearing rumours for several weeks that she was going to be transferred into another job. Apparently she has some specialized skills that are needed in this new role. Only one problem, she didn’t really want the new job. Continue reading
The great folks at PDNet and CGA Canada have invited me to deliver a live webinar “Essentials of Exceptional Leadership” later this week on Thursday May 23, 2013 at 9 AM Pacific Daylight Time. If you’ve never attended a live webcast before, it’s a great way to get focused relevant learning right at your desk. Using just your desktop or laptop computer, you’ll be able to view and hear the webcast. Priced at just $99, it’s a steal of a deal! Plus, a recorded version of the webcast will be available to all participants for one year SO DON’T DELAY! To register, or get more information, go to http://bit.ly/163d2m1. Continue reading
Rell DeShaw is a manager in Canada’s federal public service and she pens a regular blog titled “Letter to a new manager”. I had the pleasure of meeting her at the National Managers’ Community Development Forum in Winnipeg last month, and she blogged about my presentation a few weeks later. Here’s a link:
I’ve asked Rell if she’ll guest here on the Turning Managers Into Leaders blog, and she has very graciously agreed! You’ll hear from her shortly, in fact coming up on July 5.
If you’ve spent any time with me (via this blog, my newsletter, or in person), you know that the overriding message I give to people in organizations is that there is a significant difference between managers and leaders: management is what you do, leadership is how to do it. In fact, the foundation of my entire professional practice is based on turning managers into leaders!
My friend and professional colleague Mike Kerr, the Humor at Work guy, recently filmed a very funny spoof of the Mac vs. PC commercials, in which he illustrated the difference between managers and leaders.
See, the manager on the left just doesn’t get it – he thinks it’s all about the what – so he invents the Smile-o-Matic. The leader on the right though knows that it’s about the how. It isn’t good enough to just make people smile, they have to smile because they want to. So the leader on the right focuses on creating a positive and productive work environment, he focuses on the how, in order to give his people reasons to smile. Not that tough, right? So then why do so many managers miss the boat?
By the way, if you just happen to be one of the few people who has never seen a Mac vs. PC commercial before, below are two of my all-time favourites. I just love Mr. Bean!