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Set your managers up to win
November 11, 2013 | By Neil Ducoff | 1 Comment
Mastering the skills, disciplines and nuances of leadership is a lifelong journey of personal discovery, learning from tough lessons and savoring hard-fought wins. For the owner, entrepreneur and company leader, it’s about having the tenacity to test your limits of determination and commitment to grow a company into something truly extraordinary. Perhaps the single best word to describe leadership is “driven.”
Leadership moves at a relentless pace and managers, when called upon, are expected to rise to the challenge and execute the work of the company. Even with the best intentions, it’s not uncommon for managers to find themselves in over their heads. Too often, managers find themselves on the front lines with goals to achieve, projects to implement, teams to lead … and lacking essential tools in their management toolbox.
Just as fearless leaders are a work in progress, so are managers. Here are my six no-compromise strategies to ensure that your managers are confident and set up to win:
- Accountability is not a “title”: The most misunderstood and perplexing duty of leadership is how to hold people accountable. Inexperienced managers expect their “title” to give them the command and authority over others to get work done. The title of manager does not transform anyone into an effective leader that is respected or even taken seriously. Attempts to hold people accountable with the fear of consequences or command and control tactics feeds toxic cultures. Accountability is rooted in purpose, pride, vision, clarified expectations and shared values. The title of manager means nothing if the holder doesn’t know how to wear and use it.
- Empowerment is an outcome: Management is about achieving the right outcomes. If the right outcomes are not happening, the systems are poorly designed or missing. You lead people – you manage systems. Managers that attempt to manage people frustrate themselves and those they lead. No one likes to be managed. No one is inspired or empowered by a micromanager. Give people a reason and the knowledge to do extraordinary work, and then get out of their way.
- Leading means letting go: Managers that cannot let go become the system. Productivity, efficiency and quality falter without their physical presence. No one takes initiative or innovates because the manager’s tentacles are imbedded into every nook and cranny of the company. The inability to let go is stifling and exhausting. Likewise, letting go and not paying attention is dangerous too. Effective managers oversee, monitor, encourage and support those they lead. They educate and train. They set and maintain standards. They lead by example. They are comfortable letting go because they trust their systems and prepare their people to use them.
- Coaching trumps confrontation: Confrontational situations are inevitable in management. There may be a thousand reasons that lead to confrontation and almost all have to do with avoidance and procrastination. In most cases, confrontational situations evolve over time. For the observant manager, a person’s thinking and behavior provide ample clues to performance, reliability and trust issues. There’s a reason performance reviews are done at least quarterly. There’s a reason that one-on-one’s help employees achieve their full potential. Management is truly more about coaching to prevent or avoid confrontation. Coaching and growing people are the real work of management. Coach more and you’ll find that those confrontational situations will be far and few between.
- Numbers measure performance: Numbers tell the truth about performance, efficiency and quality. Managers must understand the numbers that work creates. Managers must own the portions of the Balance Sheet and Profit and Loss Statement their work has an impact on. Managers must educate and share performance numbers with those they lead. Most importantly, however, managers must avoid making work all about the numbers because numbers are potent tools that can motivate and inspire or de-motivate and demoralize. Numbers are a way of keeping score – not a hammer to beat people with.
- It’s about believing: If you don’t believe in people, you don’t belong in management. The heart of a manager must be compassionate, courageous and have an outstretched hand to help others grow. The mind of a manager must be focused, observant and guided by integrity. It’s never about entitlement, preferential treatment or allowing double standards to infect the company culture. A manager must be willing to own what didn’t go right on his or her watch. Most of all, a manager must share the wins and successes with those he or she leads.
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