I was taking a moment to reflect on some earlier posts and I got stuck on one Leadership 101 and got to thinking I should expand a bit. I wrote the initial post after I had returned from my last deployment and re-entered the professional world. I saw people put in ‘management’ positions that had no idea how to manage people. They managed spreadsheets and emails but not their direct reports. Managers are responsible for many things. From adhering and implementing corporate policy all the way to measuring specific metrics on their group to show growth/revenue. But what many managers seem to forget is the human factor in all of this. That’s where being a leader comes in. If you lead the people in your group well, the other pieces fall into place fairly easily. It should NEVER be perceived a burden to manage the people that work for you. (Which is what I saw.) It should be seen as a challenge and a privileged.
I have been back for about 3 years now and have since moved around a little professionally. I’ve had the honor of experiencing great managers, true leaders to their people and experienced some not so great ones. Is this a matter of opinion? Sure, I guess, but when all of your staff can’t wait for you to get hit by a bus, is it their problem or the managers? I guess your answer to that question will place you in one of my two buckets.
Now I know that people hate hearing about my military experience but I find myself deeply rooted in the lessons I learned growing through the ranks. From my lowly days as a Private E-1 to my time getting my Sergeant stripes overseas I took my responsibilities seriously. Again, I was not going to be nominated for NCO of the year or anything, but I did my duty of following orders and then learning to give them to the best of my ability. The Army has a great history of producing outstanding leaders and I had the opportunity to work for some of the great ones. Being a leader for a combat unit is really not different from leading a group of professionals in an office when you boil it down.
Maybe it’s a flaw to have extremely high standards of my leaders/managers. But I have high standards for myself and think the people above me should have the same. Maybe that will be my undoing, but then again it’s probably not a place I want to work if thats the case.
Leaders should first and foremost lead from example. How can you expect your teams to give 100% when they look at you and see you playing video games, watching YouTube or doing nothing most of the day? (That’s a rhetorical question.)
It is a frame of mind that needs to adopted to insure success. Too often I saw managers that acted like dictators barking orders to get things done, or worse gave all of the staff a sense of insecurity by implying they would not have jobs soon. The fact is you will either have a mutiny on your hands or worse show up to work on Monday and get a list of emails with letters of resignations. The idea behind being a manager is to retain your stars, not let them fall to the ground.
If you have members of your staff that deserve harsh treatment, let them go. If you can’t correct their behavior without acting like Hitler, then they are doing nothing but sucking up resources and wasting the company money therefore they should just be fired. If your entire staff deserves this, then you need to take about 10 steps back and see what the real problem is. I’ve never been to keen to ‘cleaning house’ because the fact is that if this needs to be done then the managers are to blame and not the employees. But too often ‘cleaning house’ is the case because managers have too much pride to admit they failed and they blame it on everyone around them.
In a work environment your job as a leader is to coach, measure and provide feedback to your staff. The ‘work’ will get done if these steps are taken. I was at a company that was setting itself up for failure but the front line managers led their people the right way and they continued to achieve dramatic results despite the building falling apart around them and they found a way to keep a smile on their face during the process.
I guess I could go on with this topic for a while, but as I said I got stuck on the initial post and did some reflection. Look around you, are your managers really leading their people or merely standing on the sidelines waiting to point fingers when the game ends? If your in a leadership position and the chips are down, suck it up and start leading. Your people are looking up to you for the example.