Job descriptions, performance reviews, incentive schemes, recognition programmes are often box ticking activities in organizations, which often lead nowhere. Overviewing these various systems and their execution may make the managers feel like they are earning their keep, but are they really contributing all that much to the required outcomes. Counting what the heads do and getting those heads to think are different challenges and the latter necessitates cultivating people. Cultivating people is the "new black" for managers, as they must move up and into leadership.
So what is the difference between being a manager and a leader? Leadership is all about creating environments that influence others to achieve the group goals, because people will willingly support a world they create. Management is the creation, implementation and monitoring of processes. People will willingly comply with a process that helps them succeed.
Moving forward means designating the next level of achievement. In a busy life, with a deluge of emails every day, spiced up with endless dreary meetings, we can sometimes forget what is the point to all of this, as we are totally consumed with activity. We need to set the vision for the team of where we want to be and what is the next level for us. It must be concrete, clear and well communicated. I ran across one the other day: "delivering extraordinary customer experiences". Rather ambiguous – you could be delivering extraordinarily bad experiences to your customers! A bit more clarity needed back at HQ by the look of that one. It raises the point though, that clarity in the communication is key, if you want to get people behind your direction. Don’t kid yourself, semantics matter.
So where possible, get buy in to the vision, such that it is a shared process. This may be difficult when "The Vision" is lofting down from on high, but there are always sub-visions for the work group, that can take it to a further concrete stage or which further clarify the main message for the reality facing the team.
With a successfully shared vision, the troops cease seeing their role as robotic task completion and switch to results completion. How about down at your shop – is there a shared vision (or shared sub-vision), are the team focused on painting by numbers or on producing a group triumph, do they know what the designation is for the next level?
We ask people to step up, but that also asks them to take on risks of the new or the different. The outcomes must be totally defined and clear, and the team must buy into achieving them in order to step out of their current mode and take on the risks of the unknown. "There be dragons" is a strong gravitational pull away from innovation or anything shiny and new. It must be countered by you.
"Leadership" begins to include "self-leadership" when we have buy in and clarity, because it allows the team to be more self-directed, handling their available resources without the need for micro-management. We can all quote the buzz words such as "empowerment," "empowered behavior" etc., but actually realizing it is another matter.
The poor communication skills of those in charge is often the breakdown point. The "Vision Statement" penned by the CEO goes up on the wall in a nice frame, on expensive paper, safely protected behind glass and there for all to completely ignore from now on. It has to live. If your people can’t quote the vision on demand, from memory, you are not even on the first rung to having a real vision. It is not a one-shot pronouncement and move on affair. It always amazes me, how often to you have to keep telling the team the same thing, for it to really permeate. It just points up the fact we are competing with a whole bunch of "other stuff", for the real estate of cluttered minds.
When you ask senior executives to identify the most significant personal characteristic needed by management, they will dutifully trot out "the ability to work with people". Take a look at the expense line in your P&L – people are a huge component. Yet, so many leaders are woeful communicators. They are often promoted into position of accountability, on the basis they count. They are insular, brainy technical experts, they are CFOs who can’t grow but can watch the bottom line like a legend, they are the idiosyncratic salesperson who does it "my way", but can’t teach it to anyone else.
We need to teach these smart people how to be "people smart" – it is a different attitude and skill set. The executive decisions get carried out by people, but how much time does your leadership team spend building your people, as opposed to issuing directives, giving orders, providing technical guidance etc.? These activities are all about the "how" and zero on the "why"?
Time to start work on some personal leadership, strongly communicating the "why" and getting the team to create a shared vision of your organization’s better and brighter future.