Tag Archives: leadership

How Does That Happen?

“So, what’s the solution?” Arnie was puzzled. “I pressed hard, we made our numbers. I lost seven good people in three months. Five technicians and two direct reports.”

“Let’s start with that,” I said.

“Start with what?” Arnie asked.

“Direct reports. Most managers think they are managers so people can report to them. That is not the purpose of a manager. Your role, as a manager, is to bring value to the problem solving and decision making of your team members.”

Arnie pushed his glasses up. “Okay. I’ll bite. I even believe you. But how?”

“Remember, we talked about a shift? A shift in management behavior to get a different result?”

Arnie nodded, “Yes, a shift.”

“Here’s the shift. Do you bring value to a person’s problem solving and decision making by telling them what to do?”

Arnie looked crossways at me.

“Look,” I said. “I come in here to talk with you, as a manager. I really don’t know that much about how things get done around here, so do I tell you what to do, as a manager?”

“Not really,” Arnie replied.

“But, would you say, I bring value to your problem solving and decision making?”

“Well, yes. I mean, sometimes, you piss me off, but, yes, you bring value.”

“So, how does that happen? I don’t tell you what to do, yet, I bring value. How does that happen?”

“Well, you ask me questions.” Arnie stopped. “You ask me questions.”

Grooved Behaviors

To be more effective managers, we cannot change our entire psychological makeup. We are who we are. But we can engage in more effective behaviors, shifts in our behaviors. Arnie was hell bent on accountability. Two managers and five production people lost to turnover, he was finally looking inward.

“As a manager, what can you shift to be more effective?” I asked. “I know you are under a lot of pressure and that you want to maintain a high level of accountability. What can you shift?”

“We are under pressure, and that’s why accountability is so important to me. When one of my team members makes a mistake, it’s a reflection on me,” Arnie explained.

“It’s more than a reflection,” I replied. “As the manager, I hold you accountable for the output of your team. They make a mistake, it’s on you.”

“That’s why I am so hard on them about their mistakes,” he defended.

“I understand, and how has that been working?”

Now, Arnie had to step back. His head was nodding. “You’re right. It seems the harder I press, the more mistakes get made, or the person ends up quitting.”

“Understand, Arnie, that you are under pressure,” I reminded. “And when we are under pressure, we fall into old behavior patterns, comfortable, grooved behaviors, even if they were not successful in the past.”

Leader or Manager? Argument Continues

From the Ask Tom mailbag – from a new subscriber in Brazil.

Your blog is fantastic! I´d like to know, what´s your opinion about the difference between managers and leaders?

I usually avoid this discussion. It’s an important question, but usually draws all kinds of fire that is counter-productive. Let’s see if I can make a go of it without getting my underwear wrapped around the axle.

A manager is a role, an organizational role, with specific authority and accountability. A manager is that person, in the organization, who is held accountable for the output of other people. It is a very specific role in an organization designed to accomplish work.

Leadership is a necessary trait of an effective manager.

We often, in casual conversation refer to leadership roles, but in that sense, it carries only vague (generic) accountability and authority. And leadership, as a trait, may be found in other roles outside the role of a manager. In addition to managerial leadership, there is also political leadership, parental leadership, spiritual leadership, scientific leadership, academic leadership. These are all roles in groups organized for purposes other than work.

So, a manager is a very specific role, with defined accountability and authority, in an organization whose purpose is work. Leadership is a necessary trait.

Referring to a leadership role, a leader has undefined accountability and authority and may exist in many types of groups, organized for different purposes.

Culture Fit as Part of a Role Description

Yesterday, I got a question from a participant in our Hiring Talent online program. In the Field Work assignment to create a Role Description (according to a specific template), the question came up.

I wasn’t sure about including the culture/values piece, as it is not something I typically see in role descriptions, however I felt strongly in doing so, as I think this is something that really lives in our organization, provides a compass for how decisions are made, how people interact, and is why we are able to attract and retain top talent.

Just curious – is the culture/value piece something you are seeing companies incorporate more and more into their role descriptions?

The culture/values piece is rare to find in a role description, but think about this.

What is culture? It is that unwritten set of rules, intentional or not, that governs the way we behave as a group. It governs the way we work together.

Here are the four criteria I interview for –
1. Capability for the level of work in the role (Time Span)
2. Skill (Technical knowledge and practiced performance)
3. Interest, passion (Value for the work)
4. Reasonable behavior (Habits, absence of an extreme negative temperament, -T)

The elements you describe in the Role Description, related to culture/values have a distinct place in the interview process. Where I can ask questions related to values, specifically value for the work we do, I am looking for interest or passion. Where I can ask questions related to habits, reasonable behavior, I am looking for fit with our culture.

These elements, interest, passion and culture fit are as critical to success as capability and skills. I look forward to seeing the questions generated by this Key Result Area in the Role Description.

If you would like more information about our online program Hiring Talent, let me know. I am gathering the next group to start on March 19, 2012.