For many Americans career progression is as important to them as the air they breathe. When we’re at a point in our careers where we’re looking for the next best thing or a new challenge often times it means taking into consideration a management role.
To be successful in management, or leadership for that matter, it requires a completely different set of skills which are typically very different than the skills which were needed to be successful in a staff level role. When we are a staff employee, meaning we don’t have any direct reports, our focus is to ensure we do the best individual job possible. Regardless if we’re a part of a team or not, when we’re a staff employee we really have one main concern – make sure our butts are protected by doing a great job.
Being in a management role is very different. While it’s important the manager does a good job, she is also responsible for a number of direct reports and therefore is responsible for their contributions as well.
The transition to management can either be a dream come true or a living nightmare. Regardless of which camp you may be in it’s important to consider two things before you make the decision to throw your hat in the ring for the next management opportunity:
What the statistic above from HBR and Gallup tells us is that it’s incredibly tough to make a good decision on who will be successful in a leadership role. While the decision to hire or promote someone into a management role ultimate rests with the company, what happens thereafter is largely attributed to the individual in the role. Let’s make no mistake about it, a move from staff level to management can be an incredibly rewarding opportunity but to be successful in the new venture you need to know beforehand if you’ve got the foundation for what it takes to be successful leading others.
Before you consider a career in management think about how you deal with these five foundational leadership questions:
1.Do You Genuinely Care About Other People?
I’m going to take a hard stance here and simply say if you don’t care about others and aren’t willing to put others before yourself you’ll never be truly successful in leadership. I choose the word ‘never’ because you may see some success early on however in the long run a lack of genuine care for the people will always bring about challenges which are near impossible to overcome. The best leaders out there, regardless of their titles or the size of the company they work for, view leadership as an act of service and truly care about the wellbeing of their employees. “Leaders eat last.” – Simon Sinek
2.How will you handle ‘The Technician Syndrome’?
This is particularly important for people in a technical capacity to consider. The word ‘technician’ refers to a person who is in an individual contributor role focusing on hands-on work. When you make a transition into management you are stepping away from some or most of your daily technical hands on duties. There are some exceptions to this, for example if you work for a start-up or small company and are a ‘working executive’, however most of the time management roles focus their time and energy on their people and a strategy for getting work done. People who have technical backgrounds tend to struggle with this change as often times their original passion which has guided them to this point in their career was focused on being hands-on in their role, creating, building or testing things. (a Mechanical Engineer that designs new products)
3.Are You An Influencer or a Dictator?
What is your natural working style when you are in situations where you are working with others? Do you have a tendency to listen, support and coach or are you the type that would rather just tell people what to do? Successful leaders do more listening than they do talking. They understand the importance of giving their people an opportunity to contribute ideas, take risks, do things their own way, etc. Managers that don’t do this have a hard time motivating their employees as they view their employees as workers who are to be told what to do, when to do and how to do their work.
4.Can You Delegate?
Can you give someone else an opportunity to take on a project or work? Are you able to allow someone else the chance to take the spot light and recognition? Do you trust others to get the job done? These are all important questions which tie into delegation. Successful leaders delegate frequently because they know firsthand that it isn’t wise or feasible for them to do everything. Delegation also has a unique outcome which communicates trust and ownership to your employees whereas not delegating sends the exact opposite signal.
5.Are You Willing to be a Shrink?
It’s not the prettiest part of the job but a consideration nonetheless. A very real part of management is dealing with people problems, like a shrink would, and working constantly in conflict resolution. This aspect of the job often sends people screaming for the hills as dealing with people problems can be challenging and often viewed as a waste of time in the corporate world. Successful leaders view the people interaction part of the job as an opportunity for improving themselves and their employees while further developing a deeper relationship. They look forward to the moments to learn from, listen, coach and guide their employees. They do this because they genuinely care about the welfare of their employees both at work and home.
If you’re considering going into management take the time to think about how you show up with these five foundational leadership questions. What’s important to consider is that if you don’t have these intangible skills now can you develop them over time? The answer is most definitely yes, it’ll just take time, patience and a willingness to always be learning.
Leaders aren't born, they're created! While some people have natural traits and characteristics that aid in their ability to work with others, leading successfully is a skill that can only come with experience and training.
Leadership, an art form in itself, is incredibly difficult to master, even after years upon years of experience.
Good news! There is a way to speed up your leadership learning curve and do so successfully. With all the training, seminars, books, coaches/ mentors and leadership philosophies – where the heck do you even begin? The best advice I’ve been given is to keep it simple. Actually, what was really shared with me was an incredible scientific methodology called KISS, ‘keep it simple stupid’.
Keeping it simple means you’re much more likely to successfully understand, implement and retain the things you learn. As it relates to leadership, SQR1 developed a philosophy and way of leading, called STEP Leadership, which focuses on keeping things simple while removing all the scientific data and tough to understand language which often plagues leadership development, philosophies and training.
Focusing on the things you can control, STEP Leadership teaches leaders how to successfully lead any team or company through four easy to understand areas of focus:
For the full article click here...
“He’s a micro manager!” Ever heard those words before? Perhaps you’ve said them yourself about someone else. It’s a damning label to give to someone, but is it accurate? Maybe it’s time we rethink how we use this phrase…
The term micro manager has turned into a phrase all too commonly used incorrectly in today’s business world. As a result, we have a battalion of leaders out there that are scared to performance manage their people because they don’t want to be labeled as a micro manager. As a result, everyone involved suffers: the employee, the leader, the surrounding employees, the company and even the customer.
Performance management (or micro managing as some of us are fond of calling it) is a crucial part to successfully running any business, operation or department. When it’s done correctly it establishes a level of expectation and excellence that goes from the front line employee all the way to the customer.
Fact #1 - Leaders who are engaged, focusing on their employees strengths while providing communication and feedback on their performance have employees that are 67% more likely to produce more with better results, stay with the company longer and are more engaged themselves. (courtesy of Gallop’s 2015 report on U.S. workforce engagement)
So what’s the difference between being a micro manager and a leader who can successfully performance manage?
What if I told you the difference is NOTHING!
They are one in the same. It’s just a matter of how we as leaders go about it. For the full article click here.
In early November 2015 I wrote an article on the four reasons why Millennials will change us for the better, professionally, in the years to come. Since then I’ve had several opportunities to discuss that article as well as Millennials in general. Thanks to the help of a close friend (a Millennial) who offered some perspective on the topic I’ve managed to come to a conclusion on why Millennials and past generation’s leaders experience challenge. My conclusion: few people that are non-Millennials actually understand what drives Millennials and how to harness that knowledge to successfully coexist.
I was able to reach this conclusion as a result of three sets of experiences:
1) I’ve been lucky enough to manage Millennials closing in on 10 years and have experienced firsthand what they like, dislike and just straight up won’t deal with. Some of these experiences were successes and others, well not so much. One thing is for certain all the experiences have been great learning lessons, especially those in which I made mistakes.
2) I’ve read dozens of articles, books and blogs from reputable sources that speak in one regard or another to the change, challenge and complexity of managing new generations entering the workforce, in particular the Millennial generation. These resources often times talk about the differences between the Millennials and other generations which provides insight and perspective.
3) From an age perspective I fall on a weird time continuum where I don’t exactly belong to either generation, Gen-X or Millennials 100% as my date of birth falls on the cusp of when Gen-X ends and Millennials begin. As a result I have been told that I have a unique set of characteristics which are a combination of the two generations: an old school work ethic with a new school approach to business and leadership.
While my conclusion on the Millennials and reasons supporting it aren’t entirely scientific I do believe it gives me a unique approach in dealing with and understanding Millennials which is the reason for this article.
In prior articles I’ve shared that good leadership is an art form, one which is incredibly difficult to master. In the old days leading was mostly done by fear, with a command and conquer, take no prisoners attitude. Millennials are teaching us lots of new things, one of the biggest being that authoritarian leadership isn’t the only way, or best way for that matter, to successfully get things done at the office.
Millennials are changing the way we go about business as entire industries are changing their marketing strategies and how companies present themselves, in an attempt to adjust to the Millennial juggernaut. Leadership is also changing as a result of the Millennials, the change is slow but we’re seeing change nonetheless. Perhaps you’ve witnessed it, or read one of the thousands of articles or books on the Millennial subject, as a result you know that traditional management styles are failing to produce the same results with the young professionals of today.
The reason why the authoritarian leadership style struggles to successfully work with the Millennial generations goes back to my conclusion. So let’s dive into the mind of the Millennial to better understand how they operate (as I dare to grossly stereotype an entire generation – this will be fun):
To continue diving into the Millennial mind click here for the full article.
“If you want something done right you have to do it yourself.”Have you ever heard someone say that before? Perhaps you’ve said it yourself. I’m a bit embarrassed to say that I’ve said it on several occasions each time not realizing the impact my words and actions had on the people around me, including myself.
When I think of the concept of leadership the words that come to mind which best describe someone who possesses great leadership abilities are words like servitude, guidance and influence. Delegation, which certainly falls within those words, is a powerful action a leader can take to empower the people around them while also alleviating workloads from their plate.
Harvard Business Review refers to delegation as a critical skill for leadership. HBR also shared insight from Jeffrey Pfeffer, the Thomas D. Dee II Professor of Organizational Behavior at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, who said:
“Your most important task as a leader is to teach people how to think and ask the right questions so that the world doesn’t go to hell if you take a day off.”
A recently published study indicated that 78% of employees in major corporations think that their bosses routinely do work that could be effectively delegated. The research also revealed that 66% of managers said that they would like to increase their use of delegation as a time management and personnel development tool.
When I first saw these statistics I was a bit confused. How can that be? More than ¾ of employees feel their bosses need to delegate more, whereas almost the same number of people who are considered the ‘boss’ realize that delegation is important and they need to do more of it. Both parties involved, the employee and leader, recognize the importance of delegation, yet it isn’t happening, or to the degree that is needed within the workplace.
Rather than spending time focusing on why delegation isn’t happening in the workplace I figured it would be better to focus on what can be done to improve it. (If you’re interested learning more about why leaders struggle with delegation I suggest reading this article as it provides a comprehensive overview of the root cause of delegation issues)
Improve your delegation efforts by following these three steps:
Breakdown Your Responsibilities
Spend 15 minutes listing out all of your responsibilities over the course of a typical day or week. Do you have projects that are ongoing or initiatives coming up soon? List out each activity or item and give it a rating based on the following scale:
1 – Vital to company, high profile importance AND time sensitive (within the next week),
2 – Vital to company, but not time sensitive (doesn’t occur in the next week),
3 – Important to the company but verging on a ‘nice-to-have’
4 – Not important to company or divisional/ department performance
Now that you have rated your responsibilities you’ll want to start by getting rid of anything you labeled as a ‘4’. Don’t delegate this work, don’t put it on the backburner. If it isn’t important you shouldn’t be spending time on it. Anything you labeled as a ‘2’ or ‘3’ are activities that are prime opportunities to delegate to coworkers, peers or direct reports. Responsibilities you listed as ‘1’ should stay with you. Caution – it's common for people to think everything they do falls into the ultra-important category of a ‘1’ activity. This isn’t the case. You’ll need to be self-policing in this area and honest with yourself as to what is a ‘1’ versus really being a ‘2 or 3’.
Ask For Help
First say to yourself, “I’m being unrealistic. I can’t do this all on my own. There are people around me who would love an opportunity to help.” Once you’ve had your moment of self reflection start assessing your surrounding team as well as the other teams or parts of your company. Pick out three to four people who have the potential to take on stretch assignments or additional work and speak with them about it.
Tell them why you are seeking their help at which point you will then ask if they are interested. Remember – delegation isn’t throwing work on people and saying “I’ll see you when it’s done.” You are going to have to help the person get ramped up and be there to support them as the work kicks off. This may require more of your time in the beginning than you would like but the benefits that will come in the end far outweigh the time spent during the ramp up.
Praise Effort, Not Just The Results
Once you get the hang of delegating you may find yourself saying, “I can’t believe I didn’t do this earlier.” Now that you have removed work from yourself and are giving others an opportunity it’s important you are paying attention to the people doing the work, not just the work itself. All too often we focus on the end result, completely ignoring the effort and process that got us to completion.
If you want people to continue helping you with future projects and work its important you focus on the effort they are putting in and praising that time. At the end of the day those people are helping make your job and life easier so it’s important you show them appreciation for that and do so often. People who feel like their time and work is valued will work effectively and diligently without you asking them to do so while producing the best results.
“No person will make a great business who wants to do it all himself or get all the credit.” – Andrew Carnagie
About the Author
Serving over a decade in the technical services industry in Orange County, CA, Travis Smith has developed a talent for assessing technical talent and overseeing technical projects. His other areas of specialty include: leadership development, business development, resource planning and creative solutioning.