Consider this scenario: You as a business leader (in title) find yourself waist-deep in the quicksand of administering yearly employee goal-setting, reviewing discipline forms and handling complaints of inconsistencies in staff performance. One cold winter morning, you sit in your office and think to yourself, “This wasn’t what I expected.” Tasks such as these frustrate you and make you feel like you’re managing more than leading—and you suspect your superiors also feel similarly based on the overwhelming number of managerial tasks they handle day in and day out. You start to experience the sinking feeling that the quicksand of “managing” will swallow you faster than you can dig yourself out—and there is no one around to throw you a rope.

Managing Versus Leading – Know the Differences

In our work with organizations of all sizes and scopes, we often find that leaders are overwhelmed by management tasks. Compounding the problem, they may confuse the two “buckets,” and consequently, mistakenly believe they’re leading, when in reality, they are managing on too granular a level. This impacts not only their satisfaction but the overall health and vitality of the organization.

The corporate world is full of great books about how some of our most innovative ideas came to life and how our most influential leaders rose to power. We’ve all heard of Dale Carnegie, Simon Sinek, Patrick Lencioni, Stephen Covey, Jim Collins and more…SO. MANY. MORE. These writers have all pioneered influential concepts that are valuable to individual and team success.

But…sitting at your desk on that cold, winter morning wondering if you have enough time to (1) fill out all the discipline forms that are racking up, (2) meet with three employees about their goals before the deadline and (3) subsequently coaching a team of high school swimmers later that afternoon is overwhelming, to say the least. In this example, there seems to be no time carved in for reading four leadership books and putting a plan together to minimize requirements and maximize innovation.

What to do?

Moving Toward Leadership – Three First Steps

Many leaders are gifted with the ability to rely on their intuition and gut to guide decisions about how to effectively lead. Yet, even people who are not gifted with those natural instincts can still be developed into successful leaders. It takes the right training in the correct order—and equally important, organizational commitment. If you’ve read books about leadership in the past, or even received formal leadership training, you still may be missing some key foundational tools that are necessary for creating a high-performing team.

First things first. If you aren’t sure about the difference between management and leadership tasks, I’ve included some notable examples of each below:

 Management Tasks:

  • Scheduling work
  • Delegating tasks/giving orders and instructions
  • Coordinating collective efforts and resources
  • Guiding and evaluating progress
  • Monitoring budgets
  • Using analytical data to forecast trends
  • Appealing to rational thinking

Leadership Tasks

  • Building teams
  • Providing focus and feedback on performance
  • Motivating staff
  • Acting as an interface between the team and the outside world
  • Explaining goals, plan and roles
  • Inspiring people
  • Creating a shared vision
  • Monitoring feelings and morale
  • Creating a ‘culture’ and a positive team feeling
  • Providing development opportunities
  • Unleashing potential
  • Appealing to people’s emotions

All great leaders do the following three things in order to effectively build fulfilled, committed and engaged teams that consistently achieve their goals.

  1. Create a foundation which consists of a mission, vision, core values and behaviors.
  2. Clearly articulate roles, expectations and a hierarchy of responsibilities.
  3. Develop a strategy for maintaining consistency on the team which includes diagnosing where potential behavioral discrepancies may cause conflict.

These steps are based on a tool that HR professionals like myself often leverage called The Waterline Model which uses a series of behavioral inputs to identify individual and team behaviors, and then diagnose team inconsistencies and dysfunctions. Coupled with supporting team-building and leadership development activities, team trust and accountability can be forged—or if needed, rebuilt.

As a leader, if you fail to set this foundation for your team, you will find yourself hiding behind rules, procedures and requirements, thus creating more work for yourself and less engagement from your staff. Moreover, employees may likely leave the organization, since they essentially will be adrift without knowledge of how the organization functions, what values guide its operation, and how they are expected to function within it.

All this is not to say that management tasks should be avoided, or delegated elsewhere. Leaders in every organization must handle certain management responsibilities, and that’s not likely to change anytime soon. The real goal for you and other leaders in your organization should be to transition your focus from primarily management to primarily leadership. Doing so provides the foundation of guiding behaviors and norms that build engagement and enable everyone – yourself included – to work meaningfully, efficiently and productively.

Skoda Minotti’s Human Resources (HR) Services Group specializes in helping organizations optimize their most important asset—people. We do this by helping you:

  • Improve employee engagement by creating training & development programs
  • Increase employee engagement through development and deployment of organizational culture initiatives
  • Engage new hires by developing new hire orientation programs
  • Enhance leadership skills with leadership training programs

If you have questions about leadership training or other human resources issues, please contact Jennifer Comella at 440-449-6800 or jcomella@skodaminotti.com.

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